End of Year Update (& look ahead)

The pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor once said: “There are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” Perhaps no one should presume at the outset to be doing a “great work,” yet I can say with confidence that in 2023 The South Carolina Study Center went from being an impossible to a difficult work. It is a stage that we gladly embrace and for which we thank God. It is also a stage into which I’d like to invite you to be a part. To that end, I want to offer some highlights from our launch this fall, then communicate where we stand heading into 2024.

SC Study Center

Highlights from 2023

  • If you are still curious or confused about the mission of a Christian study center, an article published recently in World magazine gives a concise summary, and mentions The SC Study Center. Check it out: https://wng.org/opinions/investing-in-the-christian-mind-1700481405
  • We had three events this fall, with a total of around 125 people in attendance. Students, professors, pastors, and Christians from the community were present to hear about Christianity and the modern university, natural law, and the particularly modern problem of divine absence. Each talk was unique and stimulating in its own way, and engaged the topics with substance.
  • We opened the study center for daily use on Nov 1st, and students as well as professors have come in every day. They consistently express curiosity about our mission, shock at the beauty of our house, and gratitude for an additional space to meet, study, and find like-minded community. Several different groups are scheduled to use our space regularly next spring.
  • We have a theological reading group meeting at the study center every Saturday, with three additional groups set to begin in the spring. This fall we read C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, Leslie Newbigin’s Foolishness to the Greeks, and are now making our way through Augustine’s Confessions. These groups are not big or flashy, yet the spiritual formation and intellectual community they provide are at the heart of our mission. This is the slow, steady work of investing in the Christian mind that we pray produces the next generation of Christian teachers and leaders.
  • Dr. Derek Thomas, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, is retiring at the end of year. He has graciously decided to donate his entire library of over 8,000 books to the study center. This will be a great asset for us in the years to come.

Hear from some students:

  • “Living out an authentic Christian life as a student in a predominantly secular institution is becoming increasingly difficult. Often, demands and standards are placed upon my peers and I which seem designed to force us to separate our faith from our educational pursuits. The SC Study Center has been a welcome divergence from this. From insightful lectures, to engaging conversations, to just having a welcoming space to study, I could not speak more highly of how much I’ve enjoyed the SC Study Center.” ~ John David ‘JD’ Jacobus, University of South Carolina School of Law, 2024
  • “I find the SC Study Center a great place to escape distractions and put myself in the right mindset. The atmosphere there is perfect for studying, meeting fellow Christian students, or taking a second to relax and drink some coffee. It goes beyond meeting my academic needs, however, by providing me with a relational network of intelligent Christians to grow in my faith.” ~ John Mann, Junior Accounting Major
SC Study Center

Looking Ahead to 2024

Recently, I received some wise advice: “The biggest obstacle you face is not a lack of people willing to help the study center, but that most people don’t know what you really need.” In light of this counsel, I want to make it clear what The South Carolina Study Center needs for the coming year.

  • Like most start-ups, we need financial support to sustain our ministry. In particular, we need $7500 to finish renovating the upstairs of our house, and $67,000 to be able to operate effectively next year (primarily to cover staff, building expenses, and hospitality/events). We have two rooms upstairs that are empty and in need of paint, fixtures, rugs, and furniture. These rooms will be set up as study spaces for students, professors, and pastors in Columbia. We constantly have people asking about these rooms due to their strategic location next to campus and to our recently acquired library. It would be great to have them ready for use in the spring.
  • End of the year newsletters are often centered around finances. While funds are a pressing need, I have found that desperate appeals that seek to arouse guilt or a begrudging sense of obligation are unproductive in the long term. Instead, I want to make a few simple observations:
    • Everyone knows you tend to get more of what you subsidize. The reason there are so many activists, ideologues, and morally vacuous leaders in places of cultural power is due in large part to the simple fact that they are well-funded. Christians who want to see more substance, more wisdom, and more courage from those who shape students and future leaders must be willing to invest in institutions who can form and produce these kinds of people.
    • But why, among hundreds of organizations, should you support a Christian study center? Christian author Andy Crouch offers a compelling answer: “…the most effective presence of Christians within secular institutions happens when Christians find a way to create lasting patterns of presence, which is to say mini-institutions. The least effective way to be Christian in a secular environment is as an individual who passes through and metaphorically hands out little tracts, witnessing, and then is gone. You have to make a multigenerational commitment to Christian presence.”
    • This is the kind of place The South Carolina Study Center desires to be. Would you consider helping us? You can make a one time donation, or subscribe to a monthly gift by clicking on the button below. You can also make a check out to The South Carolina Study Center and send it to 1711 Pendleton St Columbia, SC 29201.
    • Communications/Student Engagement: We are constantly thinking through the best way, as well as new ways, to engage students at USC and communicate clearly the purpose of our organization. It would be great to have someone skilled at media & graphic design who would be willing to help us a bit next year. Let us know if you can help in this area or know of someone who can.
    • USC Alumni Engagement: A crucial element of our long-term sustainability is the ability to make USC Alumni aware of what we are doing. If you have a way to introduce us further into this network of people, please let us know. A good start might be to send them the aforementioned article: https://wng.org/opinions/investing-in-the-christian-mind-1700481405

This fall we also added USC Alumni Jacob Joseph to our team, and are excited about possibly expanding his role next year. Be on the lookout for an email before the end of the year detailing our full schedule for the spring.

Many of you have supported us, prayed for us, and been involved in various ways this fall. Thank you!

In Christ,