The Big Picture in Indiana and Ohio
Joe Whitchurch is Ratio Christi’s regional director over the chapters in Indiana and Ohio. In addition, his friendly and outgoing personality made him the perfect choice to be Ratio Christi’s campus operations relations person.
“I’m a big picture guy,” Joe says, and that fact was obvious early in his work with RC. He has a talent for pulling everything together and challenging students to think ‘Christianly’ and in terms of a biblical worldview. He also reaches out to people who are not yet Christians to consider scientific, philosophical, and historical reasons why Jesus is the ground of truth, why the biblical record of Jesus is reliable, and more.
Whitchurch is instrumental with RC’s outreach ministries as well. He helps President Corey Miller pull together “Symposia Christi,” the yearly symposium held at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. He does the local radio spots for the symposium which takes place in the first week of February.
“The theme of Symposia Christi 2017 was 'The Supernatural: Fact or Fiction'," Whitchurch explains, “with an emphasis that miracles are not uncommon in Scripture, and not uncommon in history and in various cultural contexts even today. This was major for us because prevailing idolatries prevent people from accepting the miracle of Christ. People incorrectly assume that Christians believe in all kinds of fancy fairytales. While miracles may seem to defy laws of physics, the understanding that God simply intervenes in his created order is probably a better way to understand them. And God does intervene.”
The three-day outreach was well-attended on campus but was also live-streamed to global audiences reaching from coast-to-coast in North America all the way to Hong Kong, Brazil, Africa, France, the Philippines and more nations. Sessions can still be viewed at the Symposia Christi link above.
Whitchurch, who holds a Master of Arts in Christian Thought: Systematic Theology and Philosophy of Religion, was also a guest on RC-TV’s new weekly broadcast, “Truth Matters” with an episode related to the symposium, “Are Miracles Fact or Fiction?”
“My segment of the program was an introduction to the topic. I talked about the miracles experienced in my own life with my kids, and of course the miracle of miracles – the resurrection of Christ. Our new birth is rooted into the resurrection of Jesus which is permanent and lasting, and is the Kingdom, not just a sign of the Kingdom.”
He actually does quite a bit of radio on cultural and controversial topics, like this one, "Is God A Moral Monster," for Midwest Christian Outreach.
About Joe’s region:
Whitchurch’s leadership in two states is rapidly helping to move RC forward at the university level. The area more than doubled in 2016, and he is catching up with directors all over Indiana and Ohio.
Q: How many chapters are in this region?
A: There are three active chapters in Indiana – Purdue, Purdue Northwest, and Purdue Indianapolis. Discussions on the affiliation process are underway at Anderson University and thoughtfully being considered at Indiana University - Purdue at Fort Wayne (IUPFW). In Ohio we have Ohio University, Wright State, and Ohio State – these are active chapters. We have a new chapter starting at Ashland University and there are good developments at Northern Ohio University.
Q: How do you gain student interest at a university?
A: There are different approaches. Sometimes at bigger schools we can do open air preaching or talks. We have individual conversations with students, who often prove to be relatively clueless about their faith. In their youth groups, many students were used to having speakers come in, but they’re not used to being put “on the spot” and they soon realize they don’t have the answers. They are being exposed to something that inductive Bible teachers and preachers don’t touch.
I want everyone I know to believe Christ is Savior and that believing in him is not an irrational leap of faith but a good, rational choice. Apologetics has been a great vehicle for me to discuss these things with dignity and respect.
It’s a great tool for students. Sometimes they will push back at this being the truth, but we don’t shrivel up – we give the evidence. Many don’t have a cohesive worldview. They voice objections that are all over the place.
Q: How did you get involved with RC?
A: My wife Kim and I both became Christians in our first year of college (read Joe’s testimony at his Bio page). I’ve always believed in apologetics. I worked with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship for 37 years, including over a decade at Purdue with Graduate and Faculty Ministry. Many college ministries get involved in something to work on like “social justice” – my religious background was mainline liberalism. I realized many people are in churches that read the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday, but none of them really believed it. Are they loving God with their mind? They are not. They are trying to protect blind faith from rationality. And that is neither persuasive, attractive, nor biblical.
Over the years at Purdue, we’ve been doing this Symposium with an apologetics niche. Once Corey (an adjunct professor at Purdue) joined the staff of RC, Purdue immediately came on board forming an RC chapter for their campus with two grad student leaders, a faculty advisor, and a constitution. I was already friends with Corey and other apologists. When the opportunity presented itself, I encouraged Corey to take the presidency of RC.
Purdue was getting groups to do presentations on campus as a one-time thing, but we were looking for consistency – keeping something going with apologetics. What we mostly heard was that the students would get more general Bible studies and activities to continue what they learned in high school.
In addition, Christian groups are involved in “church-like” ministries – mostly concerned with who will lead prayer? Who’s doing training in “friendship evangelism”? Who’s putting together the social stuff?
But college students have a lot going on. College is not the time for “church maintenance.” We are on the edge of the “culture destroyers” – denying truth, denying sexual ethics, denying God – a lot of religious but clueless people. I want to advance on this. Of course, we work well with other campus ministries but I want to advance apologetics.
I feel I am at my peak in life, and I want to be a catalyst for the truth in the marketplace of ideas.
Joe’s wife Kim Whitchurch is a former schoolteacher, now a substitute teacher and a regional director for American Heritage Girls. She helps with recruiting and hospitality for RC meetings and does Bible studies for their church.
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