An era is ending for Oklahoma Baptist Collegiate Ministries, but BCMs will continue to make an impact on state college campuses.
John Strappazon, collegiate ministries specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), stepped down Jan. 21 after serving more than eight years to pursue other ministry opportunities, including speaking, writing and consulting.
Cris Lowery, BGCO emerging generations specialist, will provide interim state leadership for the 36 BCMs at Oklahoma colleges and universities. He comes on board to steer a valuable ministry that Strappazon leaves in a solid position, according to Randy Adams, BGCO Church Outreach Team leader.
“I think BCM is in very good shape,” said Adams. “One of the things that John did was bring some great directors to our already great core of BCM directors. I also commend John in the focus he brought on evangelism to the college campuses.”
Strappazon came to the BGCO in May 2004, replacing Bob Lee, who had served 33 years helping to establish and develop Oklahoma BCMs. Adams said Strappazon’s success in building on Lee’s efforts is admirable.
“When John came, it was his task to give Oklahoma BCMs a new vision, and he has done that,” Adams said. “He built on a strong foundation that Bob built.”
Strappazon came to the BGCO from one of the largest collegiate ministries in the country, which he established at Lubbock, Texas, First. He also served at BCMs at the University of New Mexico and University of Oklahoma (OU).
Baptist Collegiate Ministries continue to be a leading priority for Oklahoma Baptists. Adams said the BGCO commits approximately $2 million annually of state Cooperative Program giving to it.
“BCM is the largest single Cooperative Program ministry in the BGCO,” he said. “It is the biggest thing we do. The reason for that is college students are at their last, best opportunity to reach them for Christ, helping them make decisions of what their life is going to be. They are open to discipleship, more often, during those years, but they are also open to God speaking to them about missions, ministry, career and marriage, so being able to work with people at that stage of life is really crucial.”
Adams also shared that Oklahoma colleges and universities have produced about 625 International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries. Virtually all of these schools have a BCM ministry, and they are among the national leaders in fielding IMB missionaries.
“The number one non-Baptist school for the IMB is OU,” Adams said. “Number one overall is Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), followed by four other Baptist schools, and then OU ranks sixth. The reason for (OU’s high ranking), I think, is BCM, and all of the state BCMs have IMB missionaries come from their ministries.”
Lowery is well-known to Oklahomans, having spent many years on several church staffs. He has been on the BGCO staff for more than 10 years.
Lowery initiated the first See You at the Pole rallies in Oklahoma. He also has been involved in leading Super Summer camps at OBU, as well as one of the key leaders in summer camps at Falls Creek.
Taking on his current role of emerging generations specialist, Lowery has focused on ministering to young adults, ages 18-34. He has taught on young adult characteristics and how to reach young adults for Christ. His two books, Unlabeled and Unlabeled 2, explore young adult outreach.
In this position, Lowery has gotten to know the state BCM directors. Adams said the directors have responded positively to Lowery taking on this interim role.
“Cris is going to visit every campus ministry,” said Adams. “He has 23 scheduled right now, and he will visit them all by the end of March, with the goal of walking the campuses with the directors, listening to them about their ministry needs and issues and meeting the directors’ families. He will invest personally in getting to know our directors.”
Strappazon’s leadership will be missed, as his influence on many college campuses has shown great results in reaching college students for Christ and helping them make major life decisions. BCM will maintain to be a priority for the BGCO, as leadership is aware of how effective they are toward furthering the work for Christ.
“I see Oklahoma Baptists making an impact that’s incalculable on Oklahoma and the world through BCM,” said Adams. “The numbers we can track tell us the impact is large, but how large we don’t know. Each week, it would be safe to say, several thousands of college students are ministered to or are a part of BCM.”