By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
JOHNSON CITY — Cole Rogers needed a job and a place to stay. Jonathan Chapman had an open position and an empty room.
It was a perfect fit. Symmetrical and symbiotic.
“I had been praying about it and praying for the right person to come along,” said Chapman, the BCM director at ETSU. “So, it was great when God really lined everything up for us. Cole was searching for something, and I was searching for something.”
The search ended for both parties when they got together for a conversation this past summer. At the time, Chapman was looking for an associate, and Rogers, a 2014 graduate of MTSU, was seeking a ministry-based position.
“In the meeting with Jonathan, it seemed like he had a need, and I was able to really just step in,” said Rogers. “For what God has gifted me with, I felt like I fit (Jonathan’s) need. Gratefully, it was a yearning that I had.”
Interestingly, when Rogers and Chapman first got together last summer, they weren’t even planning to discuss anything related to the open position at ETSU.
Instead, the meeting was simply an opportunity for Rogers to chat with Chapman about the duties of a BCM. The meeting had been arranged by Chad Mize, the young adults minister at Forest Hills Baptist Church, Nashville, where Rogers was attending and working with the youth.
“Chad (Mize) called me up and said he had this guy, Cole Rogers, and he just wanted him to get some advice,” said Chapman. “I thought I was just meeting with a guy that recently graduated to tell him about seminary and ministry.”
But it wasn’t long into the conversation that things started to click. Simply put, God was in the details, and the meeting turned into an impromptu job interview.
“When we began to see where the conversation was leading, I began to ask Cole, ‘Hey, what are you doing now?’ ”
As the two continued to talk, Chapman realized he had found his man. And Rogers realized he was headed to ETSU.
Running away from the call
Rogers’ path to the new job has been a winding journey. When he first felt a call into the ministry, he initially resisted, taking a Jonah-type approach to what the Lord was telling him to do.
“After getting my undergrad in 2014, I actually went into graduate school into the MBA program at MTSU,” he said, adding that he also took a job in Murfreesboro. “I was looking for a place of financial security and some of those things. I just wasn’t submitting to God.”
But the Lord was in the process of changing Rogers’ heart, he said.
“I soon realized, about a couple months into that, that I was running from the Lord in my call to ministry,” he said.
Luckily for Rogers, he didn’t have to spend three days in the belly of a fish before making a couple of life-changing decisions. “I just ended up quitting my job, dropped out of school and moved back home with my parents in Nashville.”
Rogers soon landed an internship at Forest Hills Baptist Church, working with the youth, and enrolled in seminary at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for online classes.
“It was incredibly encouraging to watch Cole pray through the Lord’s calling on his life, take obedient steps towards understanding that calling and ultimately putting everything towards obeying what God has shown him he wanted him to do,” said Mize.
“Seeing a young adult diligently pursue the Lord and humbly put everything at his feet has been an awesome experience. It is reminder of why God has called me to be a part of ministry to young adults.”
Finding his place, literally and figuratively
Although he enjoyed working with the youth ministry, Rogers felt God’s calling was for him to work with college students.
“I contacted my pastor who I’d been talking with, off and on, about just really feeling called to college ministry,” Rogers said. “He provided a lot of wisdom and a lot of help. Over the summer, he set up meetings with campus pastors.”
Rogers met with Ben Maddox, the BCM director at Tennessee Tech, and then met with Chapman at ETSU. Little did Rogers know what an impact that meeting would have on his life.
“I was really just going to get some wisdom,” said Rogers, “and just try to figure out what exactly a calling to college ministry looked like while you’re in seminary also.”
But after the conversation with Chapman, the details fell into place, including finding a place for Rogers to live. The BCM building at ETSU has two bedrooms, and Rogers was able to move in.
Chapman said the entire scenario — and the manner in which the story unfolded — has been awesome to watch.
“God is amazing,” he said. “He is definitely mysterious and works in His time.”
Chapman said Mize played a pivotal role in putting the wheels in motion.
“I think one of the cool things about this whole story (is that you have) a young adult pastor at Forest Hills Baptist Church taking an interest in one of (his) guys … and helping him connect to leaders here in Tennessee,” said Chapman. “When we talk about cooperative ministry in Tennessee Baptist life, (this is) just an incredible story right here in and of itself.”
Baptist Collegiate Ministry is under the sponsorship of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board in partnership with local Baptist associations across the state.
Forest Hills Baptist has continued to be actively involved in Rogers’ career through prayer and financial support.
Rogers said he has hit the ground running on his job duties at ETSU. He and Chapman have done prayerwalks on campus and have outlined the discipleship model that Chapman is implementing.
“Hopefully we are going to see a lot of people grow in their faith, and get over humps,” Rogers said. “I think it’s just something we’re really, really excited to see.”
Only three years removed from college life himself, Rogers believes he can have an instant connection with the students at ETSU.
“(I’ve recently) been through a lot of things that they probably have gone through,” he said. “Being on the other side of that, I hope to have some wisdom and some encouraging words.”
Chapman said he believes Rogers is well suited to make an impact in the lives of college students — not just this year, but for many years to come.
“I love being able to pour into Cole and teach him about ministry while we’re doing ministry together,” said Chapman. “I think he will make a pretty incredible BCM director one day.”