Two weeks ago we got acquainted a bit with Dan Cruver, an old friend to Heritage and our new Director of College Ministries. Part 1 gave us a basic introduction; read on for some helpful influences and curiosities about our new partner in ministry.
We left off on the topic of ministry to college students, so let’s pick up there. How can we be praying for Heritage’s ministry to college students in this coming semester?
Specifically pray that each of them would grow to know and enjoy the love of God in Christ more deeply through our corporate body.
We’ve been blessed with many college students who call Heritage home for a season. How can our broader church steward our position in a region with so many universities?
The college years represent a season of life in which young people are largely separated from all the influences which have shaped and formed them up until now. Whether they have grown up in a Christian home or not, college students find themselves within a time of change where different areas of study are explored and new ways of thinking and living are considered. The internal and external pressures students face in these years are significant and far-reaching. Separated from home, each student is seeking to establish his own identity and place in this world, formulating beliefs, relationships, and patterns of living that will determine, in large measure, the trajectory of the rest of his or her life.
A university-rich city like ours provides the church with the strategic opportunity to move into this life-changing season of life in order to equip students with a biblical view of God, the church, and the world. Since it is the church that God has commissioned with the responsibility to hold forth the Gospel and its solution to the world’s problems, the church must be there for students during this critically important season of life. If we faithfully steward our God-given position in this region with so many universities, we will further advance God’s kingdom in the world as students leave to pursue their particular vocations.
What’s your favorite book of the Bible and why?
If I had to pick just one, it would probably be the book of Hebrews, if only because of its unrelenting focus upon the high priestly ministry and intercession of Jesus. In life’s hardest seasons, I find myself running to the books of Hebrews and the Psalms (Hebrews quotes the Psalter throughout); and when I run to the Psalms, I see Jesus as the one through whom the songs, prayers, cries, and praises of the various psalmists are sanctified unto me in my deep distress.
What three books have had the most impact on your life, besides the Bible?
Tell us about the most influential sermon you’ve heard.
It was a sermon on the baptism and temptation of Jesus (Matt. 3-4) by Dr. Michael P.V. Barrett, and I listened to it via a cassette tape (remember those??) back in 1996. I can still remember how I felt when I heard Barrett say, “Jesus not only died in your place, he also believed in your place” (i.e., Jesus defeated the devil’s temptations by believing God’s Word for us and in our place). Barrett’s stress upon the vicarious faith of Jesus in that sermon is why it’s the most influential sermon I’ve ever heard. Since I grew up doubting whether or not my faith was genuine enough or sincere enough, in that one sentence, Jesus became exponentially bigger in my eyes than he ever was before. It’s almost as if I felt my doubts fall off my shoulders as I heard Barrett speak those words.
How do you like to spend your down time? Any hobbies?
I enjoy basketball, and since my two boys enjoy it as well, I love shooting hoops with them in our cul-de-sac. If you hang around at our home for any length of time, you may see me stop anywhere in our home and perform a pull-up jumper, without having anything in my hands, I might add! Having been born in Indiana, basketball’s in my blood.
Another one of my hobbies is all-things J.R.R. Tolkien. Unbelievably, 9 years ago I was the one person out of the 7 billion on earth to see if @JRRTolkien was available on Twitter. It was, so I grabbed it. I use my @JRRTolkien Twitter account to post quotations from all of his writings. I’ve always tried to use that Twitter account as curator of joy and goodness, which is hard to find on social media these days. With over 117,000 followers, I view my Tolkien hobby as an opportunity to be a steward of redemptive-themes in our fallen world.
Okay, now a few left fielders: What is the dumbest thing you did as a kid?
Talking two other kids into seeing if it really was possible to “knock someone out.” My working hypothesis was if you hit someone over the head with a two-by-four, you would knock them out (i.e., go to sleep) without them feeling any pain. Of course, I was able to talk those two kids into being the active participants as I was the scientific observer. Needless to say, it didn’t work. The kid who received the two-by-four to the back of the head did not “go to sleep,” he did feel a lot of pain, and I learned soon after that what I talked those two kids into doing was extremely dumb and terribly dangerous!
Any odd talents that we should know about up front?
I can walk like a zombie.
Oh, going back to basketball, I can also (or at least I could) make three-quarter court shots while lying on my back. I once made three of those shots in a row to win several pizzas.
What’s your favorite animal, and why?
Grasshoppers are my favorite in the animal kingdom. They’re a great source of protein.
Let’s not end on that note. How can we pray for you specifically, and for your family?
As we continue to transition into the Heritage family, please pray that we “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints [here at Heritage] what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18-19).
What has God told us to do when we come together? What kind of worship is worthy of “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God,” to whom belongs all “honor and glory forever and ever” 1 Tim. 1:17)?
In Sunday’s sermon, “Elders as Bible Men,” we explored what we call, the Regulative Principle. The Regulative Principle is a commitment to allow the Bible to both fill and form our worship. It entails a basic trust in God’s means for his own worship.
What are God’s means for his own worship?
For example, Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13, “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” We have other such commands concerning singing (Col. 3:16), and praying (Acts 2:42). Where’s the command about instruments? What about stained glass? High ceilings? Ornate woodwork? What about video bumpers for the sermon? The harder we search, the more we find that worship under the new covenant is surprisingly and profoundly and freeingly simple. The kind of external detail our Lord required for his old covenant people, Israel, has gone internal for us, a spiritual house, a people who offer ourselves as spiritual sacrifices (1 Pet. 2:4–5; Ro. 12:1–2).
Practically speaking, what does this mean? This means we make sure the big rocks of the reading and preaching and singing of God’s Word stay big in our imaginations and in our gatherings. And it means we pursue simplicity and exercise restraint with respect to almost anything else that we do in our gatherings, especially where we have a tendency to obsess a bit too much. Again, we are trusting God’s means for God’s worship. It means we’re really excited about the things the Bible says for us to do, becuase that’s how God works, and we can remain relaxed about the rest.
If you’d like to reflect more on this subject, two articles and two books come to mind. In his article, “The Freedom of the Regulative Principle,” Kevin DeYoung writes offers of five ways in which this principle brings about freedom in our worship. Then, in his piece, “Music–Gift or God?,” Bob Kauflin addresses the question of music specifically and offers us five ways in can make music into a god. Here they are:
We choose to attend a church or a meeting based on the music rather than the preaching of the gospel and God’s word.
We can’t worship in song apart from a particular song, style, leader, or sound.
We think music leads us into or brings God’s presence.
Poor musical performance leads us to sin against other band members or the musicians leading us.
A love for music has replaced a love for the things of God.
Music is a gift from God, but it must be enjoyed and employed to the glory of God. Because of the time and place in which we live, we have a super-abundance of creative musical and artistic possibilities for our worship. These and other trends force us to ask, what regulates our worship?
It’s not an exact science, but this princple offers us a framework for approaching this important question.
To the church at Philippi, Paul wrote, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil. 1:3–5).
Partnerships change over time. Here at Heritage we’ve received and sent missionaries, and we’ve trained and launched pastors to lead churches. Over a stretch of forty years, it adds up. Sometimes, we get to receive a partner back for ministry right here.
We’re all pleased to welcome Dan Cruver back to Heritage as our Director of College Ministries, along with his wife, Melissa, and Hannah, Isaiah, and Noah.
To some, the Cruvers are seasoned friends, and to others new faces altogether.
To help all of us warmly welcome this family into our church family once again, here’s the first of a two-part interview with Dan. Enjoy!
First things first, tell us how Melissa and the kids are doing?
Melissa is entering her twelfth year of teaching in the education department at North Greenville University (and she loves it there). Hannah is a senior marketing major at NGU and is already thinking about what’s next after college. Isaiah is entering his junior year and Noah his freshman year at Travelers Rest High School.
Melissa and I were married at Heritage in 1992. Pastor Jim Conley did our pre-marital counseling and officiated our wedding. And Heritage was the first church that Hannah, Isaiah, and Noah were a part of. So, in a very real sense (especially for Melissa and me), coming back to Heritage feels like a return home. There will certainly be an adjustment period for our kids, but they’ve all been loved on by HBC already. We’re grateful to be back with the HBC family.
You and the family are new to Heritage, but not really new at all. What’s the backstory on your relationship to our church?
Melissa and I met at Heritage in June of 1991 through what was then called the College & Career Ministry. We began dating in July, got engaged in December, and were married in April. So, Heritage played a verysignificant role from the very first time I entered its doors. In the summer of 1992, just a couple months after our wedding, Melissa and I became youth sponsors under the ministry of Danny Brooks. We served as youth sponsors for the two years I was in graduate school.
After teaching high school Bible for seven years, the Lord led us back to Heritage to serve as Pastor of Youth and Families. I served in that capacity for three years, after which the Lord provided me with the opportunity to teach in the Bible department of Clarks Summit University. During all these years, Melissa’s parents, Joe and Marilyn Elmer, were (and continue to be) members of Heritage. So, in a sense, Heritage was always a part of us.
Let’s back up and learn about your conversion. How did God save you?
I really do not know when I first believed. God was very gracious to put me in a Christian home where the gospel was regularly presented to me from as early as I can remember. Although I do not know exactly when I was born again, I do remember a number of times when the light of the gospel shined into my heart in such a way that it “felt” like a conversion each time. What I do know is that by God’s grace alone my hope is in Jesus, whose vicarious life, death, and resurrection have secured my eternal salvation.
You were pastoring here but then not pastoring. What happened in the years since? Specifically, tell us about Together for Adoption.
For the last 11 years, I’ve led Together for Adoption, which is a non-profit that exists to provide theological resources for the evangelical orphan care, foster care, and adoption movement. The primary mechanism for providing those resources has been our annual Together for Adoption National Conference, which brings together speakers who have theological expertise and speakers with expertise in some aspect of orphan care, foster care, adoption, orphan prevention, and family reunification. In addition to the annual conference, we’ve held regional conferences in the U.S. as well as several international conferences (Australia, Haiti, South Africa, Ethiopia, Canada, and Nicaragua). Together for Adoption’s conferences have served anywhere from 175 people to 1,000, depending on the year. (By the way, Heritage’s youth ministry volunteered at our first ever conference. Abe Stratton, who was the youth pastor back then, and everyone who volunteered were a huge help in getting our first conference off the ground.)
Tell us a bit about you and Melissa. How did you meet and how long have you been married? Then tell us about how you complement and strengthen one another.
Melissa and I first met at Larry Lemon’s home. It was a Sunday evening college and career gathering. She and I probably talked a good hour or so. I was immediately smitten. We’ve now been married for 26 years.
As far as how we complement and strengthen one another, I’m more introvert than extrovert, and Melissa’s more extrovert than introvert. So, I really benefit from Melissa’s strength in social settings, and she benefits from my strength of internal processing. Together, we draw each other into experiences to which as individuals we are not naturally inclined.
Melissa works over at North Greenville University. What is her job there?
Melissa has an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instructional Development and has taught in NGU’s College of Education for 11 years now. She’s a very gifted educator and well-loved by NGU students.
You have a beautiful family. Tell us a bit about each of your children.
Hannah is our oldest. She’s 21 and a senior marketing major at North Greenville University. In God’s kind providence, as an 8-year old, she got to know Sally Lloyd-Jones (author of The Jesus Storybook Bible) via email. Hannah would write really creative short stories, email them to Sally, and Sally would provide wonderful feedback. Sally quickly recognized Hannah’s creative writing ability and was very kind to help nurture and develop it. Hannah’s now taking that love of good storytelling to the world of marketing. We’re very eager to see how God uses her love of storytelling in the years to come.
Isaiah is a rising junior in high school. Unlike I was at his age, he’s both a good athlete and a good student. Like me, Isaiah is also a basketball junkie. We are both big fans of the Warriors’ Steph Curry and his shooting genius. Isaiah hopes to play basketball for the varsity team at Travelers Rest High School this year. Also, if you ever find yourself eating at Sidewall Pizza in Travelers Rest on a Saturday, make sure you say “hi” to him. Isaiah has been a faithful server there for a couple of years now.
Noah will be a freshman at Travelers Rest High this year. He’s played tenor saxophone for the past 3 years at Northwest Middle and plans on playing in TR’s band this year. Noah is also an excellent student and loves basketball. So, his goal this coming school year is to play both freshmen basketball and the saxophone in his first year of high school. And, if you ever have any questions about Marvel or DC Comics, make Noah your go-to guy. Noah has forgotten more about that area of knowledge than I have ever known.
You’ve called Travelers Rest home for a number of years, and I know you’re there intentionally. Tell us about that.
When we moved to Travelers Rest in 2007, our hope and goal, if the Lord allowed, was to live in the home we just purchased for the next 30-50 years. And from the start, we were committed to living our Christian faith “in the open” before our neighbors in how we conducted ourselves and interacted with them. We would look for gospel-conversations and enter into them if at all possible. But we also had (and have) a long-haul perspective. If we live in the same house across multiple decades and our neighbors see our lives lived Christianly before them, there will come a day when they face trial and heartache and, Lord willing, will ask us a reason for the hope that lies within us. That continues to be our mindset, even though Heritage is now our church family.
Also, in an effort to become more involved in the daily life of residents of Travelers Rest, I earned my certification as a personal trainer and began working part-time at the YMCA in TR two years ago.
I hear you have some history with a number of the College Ministry sponsors. Give us the bullet-point summary of those intersections.
Greg and Cynthia Fox. We served with them as youth sponsors from 1992 to 1994. We’re all exactly the same now as we were then, except for the gray hair and aching joints.
Lee and Annette Hendsbee. When I was Pastor of Youth and Families at Heritage in the early 2000s, the Hendsbees led Sigma. So, we had the privilege of serving HBC’s youth together with them. We loved the Hendsbees back then like everyone at Heritage does now.
Lewis and Sarah Carl. I taught Sarah at Bob Jones Academy when she was a freshman and junior. Sarah’s most vivid memory of me is (supposedly) beating me at foosball on her senior trip at the WILDS. And Lewis was a college roommate with one of my all-time best friends.
Caleb and Lynelle McQuaid. As with Greg and Cynthia Fox, we served with Caleb’s parents as youth sponsors from 1992 to 1994. And, as a result, were there to see Caleb take his first steps, literally.
Carolyn Sandy. Carolyn was in the youth group when I served as Heritage’s youth pastor back in the “olden days.” Now that I’m Director of College Ministries, Carolyn has to put up with me again.
Allen and Karen Vaillencourt. Allen and my youngest brother, Dave, were in each other’s weddings, and I officiated Dave’s. As a result, Allen may or may not have any embarrassing stories about something that happened to me as I officiated my brother’s wedding ceremony.
Dave and Katie Gerdt. So, since we are just now intersecting with the Gerdts, they do not know what they are in for!
Okay, one last question: what excites you the most about ministry to college students?
They are in that season of life where they are making some of the biggest decisions they will ever make. It’s also a season in which they wrestle with some of life’s most important issues. So, I’m excited to walk alongside them and speak God’s Good News into those decisions and issues.
It is helpful to think of our growth in godliness as growth. Things that grow take time, and things that grow usually take a measure of work. That’s why Paul says writes to Timothy, “train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).
How exactly do we train ourselves for godliness? We explored this a bit in last week’s sermon, from 1 Timothy 4:6–12, “Elders as Examples of Godliness.” If godliness is the growth in likeness to God, then training ourselves for godliness must mean long exposure to God through his Word, in prayer, etc. As Charles Spurgeon put it, “Nearness to God brings likeness to God. The more you see God the more of God will be seen in you.”
“Hear his voice. Have his ear. Belong to his body.” That’s the three-part breakdown of David’s book. That third one intersects with Paul’s purpose in exhorting Timothy to, “set an example for the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12). One way to grow in godliness is to get around those who have been pursuing it for a long time.
As we pursue godliness together, let’s remember this: like many things that grow, godliness is worth it, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).