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Pt. 1 The Harvest is Plentiful: First Month of Ministry at RUF Belhaven

Blog Entry on Feb 24, 2014

Editors' note: The following post from Rev. Seth Starkey is part of a  blog series in conjunction with 2014 Mission Conference at FPC Jackson. 

2014 is off to the races for the Starkey family. This has been, without a doubt, the craziest 2 months of our lives. I arrived in Jackson on Monday, December 30 with all (well, nearly all) of my earthly possessions but without my pregnant wife and 17-month-old son. Oh and I almost forgot that I moved here to take ownership of a house not ready to move in and the uncertainty of not knowing where I would lay my head until it was ready. This is where my relationship with First Presbyterian Church, Jackson truly begins. Two deacons (and their lovely wives) from your church made sure that I had a place to stay for over 2 weeks along with making sure all of my cares, needs, and even wants were fulfilled. Needless to say, my first impression of the congregation of First Pres. was overwhelming positive. The kindness certainly doesn’t end there. From the warm reception following my installation service to the meals brought to our home for 6 days while we were awaiting the delivery of our refrigerator, you all have shown us the warmest of welcomes and the sincerest reception we could’ve ever hoped for. First Pres. is already beginning to feel like home for us and for that we are truly grateful! 

RUF at Belhaven University is off to an incredible start in 2014. I arrived on campus to find a group that had been well cared for in the absence of a campus minister last semester by loving, capable interns and student leaders. Mary Hope Bray and Davis Morgan did (are doing) a yeoman’s job on that campus keeping everyone focused on “reaching students for Christ and equipping them to serve.” This momentum is even beginning to reach areas of campus that are bigger than RUF. We are finding more and more students in attendance each week and several of them are new faces. It is a choice blessing from God that I have been able to arrive on campus with such ease. The sincerity and depth of relationship I already have with interns and students was unexpected at this point in the semester. I was honestly prepared to be on the receiving end of cold shoulders for the first semester if not the first year. Needless to say, that this hasn’t happen is further confirmation for so many of us involved with RUF at Belhaven that God really is at work. You know, it is so hard for us to actually believe God is at work. The busyness of life and the doubt within our hearts leaves us viewing this powerful statement as a cliché all to often. 

We are going through the 10 commandments this semester in large group, which has been extremely beneficial to me as the teacher, and I’m hoping/praying also to the students. Doing a topic so familiar to us actually leaves us realizing how little we know of God and His Gospel as it applies to areas of law keeping and obedience. It is proving to be a healthy exercise to allow the Holy Spirit to shine a spotlight on our own hearts and show us afresh just how far we are from being able to obtain the status of law keeper. This, in turn, is the perfect vehicle to drive us sprinting to the Cross of Jesus Christ as we trust and hope in The Lawgiver and Law Keeper of His people. The 10 commandments equally confront the antinomian and the Pharisee as it provides an immovable, absolute standard of righteousness. To help us keep The Law properly situated in the context of redemption we are also going through Matthew 5-7 as our Scripture reading each large group to give us the perspective of Jesus as to how the law relates to Him and us. It’s always helpful to show an audience how cohesive the Old and New Testaments are at pronouncing and announcing the unified story that Christ saves sinners. 

My only experience in ministry up until this point has been in the local church. I was the Assistant Minister at The Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC for the past 4-½ years and while I ministered to college students there, it wasn’t in the context of RUF. I arrived here in January anxiously anticipating what it would be like to do ministry under the tried and tested philosophy of ministry RUF has always employed on the college campus. My preliminary conclusions on how RUF does ministry is a solid two thumps up. I am grateful to God for the privilege of joining a long line of men who have gone before me and made RUF the effective tool for ministry that it is today. Men like Jimmy Turner, Bebo Elkin, Billy Joseph/Dempsey, and Les Newsom truly belong in the hall of fame of men who have trusted God unreservedly and given of themselves totally for His Kingdom and the role RUF plays in it. 

I trust that you all will continue to pray for RUF at large, but especially in the city of Jackson and the state of Mississippi. Ben Shaw, Elbert McGowan, Jeff Jordan, Brian Sorgenfrei, Seth Still, and Jason Sterling are faithful men who are laboring tirelessly even as you read this making sure the students on their respective campuses are both hearing and seeing the Gospel clearly proclaimed. On behalf of all of these men and on behalf of RUF let me thank First Presbyterian Church for its vital and irreplaceable relationship to RUF. We love you and are grateful beyond word for your prayers and financial support. 

Peace be to the brethren, 

Rev. Seth Starkey

Campus Minister 

@Belhaven RUF

Seth was born and raised in Greenville, SC. He graduated from Newberry College in 2007 and 10 weeks later began his studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. During seminary he became the ministerial intern at Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC and continued in that role until his graduation from RTS in 2010. Following graduation, he was ordained as the Assistant Minister at Second Presbyterian. Seth is married to the former Laura Lee Patterson from Knoxville, TN. She graduated from UT Knoxville in 2005. They have a son, Sam, and are expecting baby #2. The Starkeys are thankful for the great privilege of impacting the lives of college students through the ministry of RUF.