Early last summer, Reed Mitchell and Justin Theriot knew they had a large opportunity on their hands. Inspired by a Wednesday night message by R.C. Ford at LifePoint’s Stewarts Creek Campus, the two college students decided to put their heads together to figure out how to be more intentional with their faith.
“We had been playing volleyball all summer, in mine or Justin’s yard with neighborhood kids and other friends that we would invite,” Reed said. “Then one Wednesday night, R.C. was speaking about being intentional with whatever you do. What really stood out to me was when he said, ‘When you are hanging out with people who are not Christians, if you are not actively moving towards sharing the gospel with them, or sharing the gospel with them, then you are just wasting time.”
“I remember getting a call from Reed asking me to come over and talk,” said Justin. “One of the first things he said to me was, ‘I just can’t take having all these people over at my house to play volleyball, and knowing that some of them are going to Hell because they don’t know Jesus,’” he said.
“So we started brainstorming about ways to show these people Jesus rather than just telling them about it.” Justin said. “So we decided to not really have a Bible study or small group after our volleyball games, but just a time of fellowship and getting to know each other,” he said. “It started off where 8-10 people would stay, and we would talk…and eventually God would be brought up in conversation. It just turned into this type of ministry where Reed and I could just show love and invest in these students’ lives.”
What started as a ministry to 8-10 people began to grow rapidly. Initially, around 20 people would show for the games, with about half sticking around to talk afterwards. After four weeks, the word began to spread about this “volleyball ministry,” and the numbers grew into the sixties, with 30-40 students from all over Smyrna and Murfreesboro staying to talk about Christ after the games.
“It just started to grow and grow,” Justin said. “We went from having 5-on-5 games of volleyball, to having literally 80 kids show up for volleyball and fellowship afterwards. “We began to have guest speakers come and speak after the games or show Christian movies [on a projection screen].”
“It got to the point where we had too many people for just one person to talk to,” Reed said. “So I began to divide people up into small groups, making balanced groups of believers and non-believers, and just encourage them to talk about Christ and share their testimonies,” he said. “Leaders in those groups really stepped up and really invested in these people.”
“It grew into this weekly event that people were excited about, that was centered on Christ and sharing His love,” he said. “Lives were changed though God working there.”
One life that was changed through God working in this ministry was 18-year-old Joey Zelenak, who was invited to the event by two friends who had been attending regularly throughout the summer.
“My friends Kaitlyn and Kathryn told me about it,” Joey said. “The church thing wasn’t really my scene, but they made this sound fun, so I decided to give it a shot.”
The first night Joey attended, he was one of the students who stayed after the games and participated in the intentional conversations led by Justin, Reed, and the small group leaders.
“Honestly, I stayed because I didn’t have a ride to leave,” Joey recalled with a laugh. “But I was also curious and wanted to see what they had to say. I had never had spiritual conversations before, and I enjoyed it.”
Joey became a regular attendee of the volleyball nights, and was eventually invited to come to church by Justin. After his first Wednesday night at the Stewarts Creek campus, Joey knew that it was the place for him.
“It was very different than any church experience I’d had before,” he said. “The songs were very engaging, which I really liked. I also liked that the message because I could relate to it.”
After his third Wednesday at church, Joey made the decision to follow Christ.
“I just got really pumped about it,” he said. “It just hit me and I knew it was right. I just had this want for more and more knowledge about Christ. I just knew it was right.”
Since becoming a Christ follower, Joey has joined the student worship team at Stewarts Creek, playing electric guitar and leading students in worship every Wednesday night.
After seeing the effects of Reed and Justin’s intentional faith, Joey has developed a similar desire to spread the truth of God’s word among his peers.
“Right now all my friends and people I hang out with are my church family,” he said. “But I promise, when I make new friends, I will be inviting them to church. I will definitely be inviting them.”
Joey was baptized on January 20, 2013. You can watch his baptism video below.