Study of Minor Prophets equips college men to lead, share faith

JOPLIN – The Minor Prophets isn’t a typical selection of focus for a Bible study, much less among college students. Yet this “often overlooked corner of Scripture” is exactly what Campus Missionary Jon Smith of Missouri Southern State University chose for his BSU men to study last semester.

As if studying the Minor Prophets wasn’t difficult enough, the study came with a catch: each guy would have to lead at least one week, choosing a prophet, studying it, and presenting their findings to the rest of the group.

Joseph Courter and Rafe Darter were two of the young men who participated in—and took a turn leading—the study. Aside from being part of the same campus ministry and never having led a Bible study before, the two couldn’t be more different. Courter is a freshman mathematics major from Versailles, who grew up a pastor’s kid in an MBC church. Rafe Darter is a junior digital forensics major from Mt. Vernon, who came to know Jesus just a year ago. But for both, the study was profound in how it shaped their view of Scripture and prepared them to share their faith.

Rafe Darter

Despite growing up in the church, Courter admits that he’d hardly read the Minor Prophets. “It just seemed like a bunch of ancient people being very mad about their circumstances,” he says. “The only one you usually think of is Jonah; that’s just because of the big fish story.”  Willing to learn something new, he dove right in and led two weeks of the study, one on Obadiah and the other Hosea.

As they went through the study, Courter was astounded by the connection between the Minor Prophets and Jesus, what he calls “parallelism to Christ.” He saw the same narrative playing out on repeat in Israel’s history as it does in our modern-day world: humans mess up and experience the consequences while God provides a way to restoration. While his initial view of the Minor Prophets was bleak, he came to see that the prophets always give hope, and that hope points to Christ.

“There are new perspectives from every book of the Bible…you can parse out the details and share Jesus,” he says. “Each Minor Prophet has its own parallels to Jesus; each one gives a new perspective on the gospel.”

When Darter first heard about the topic of the Bible study, he didn’t even know what the Minor Prophets were. At that point, having only been a believer for a little over six months, he was new to the practice of studying the Bible. Smith told him, “This is the part of the Bible that is hardly ever preached. People reference a few verses here and there, but they may go a while not even knowing what these twelve books are.”

At the beginning, the Minor Prophets felt like unknown territory to Darter. But as they studied, he began to realize “it’s all relatable even to today.” He led the study over Haggai. “These Israelites had come back from exile,” he explains. “God wanted them to build back the temple. First they built back their houses, then started building onto their houses more and more and disregarding the temple. That relates to today. We want to build our own kingdom, what we’ve got going. We often forget who keeps us alive. You go a day or two and you’re so caught up in everything in the world and forget about Christ. But that should be the main thing.”

That message hit home for Darter, as it connects closely to his own story of coming to Christ. He’d gone to church as a kid starting in 2nd grade, but over time, sports consumed his life and he drifted from church. With his sights set on playing college football, Darter blew out his knee during his senior year of high school, a tragedy which led him down a dark spiral. He managed to come back from the injury and showed up to play football at Missouri Southern, where he blew out his other knee. His dreams shattered. “It’s all I ever knew or did. I was completely broken about the whole thing…everything I wanted to do was now gone.”

That place of brokenness led Darter to respond to his grandma’s invitation to go to church with her at Forest Park in Joplin. He went to the “older person service” where it was him and a couple hundred 60+ year-olds. The setting didn’t matter; God began to speak to him that week, and with his plans in shambles, Darter was ready to listen. He picked up the Bible and began reading it for long periods of time.

One Saturday morning, he went to Springfield for his usual weekend of partying, “football culture” as he calls it. “The next morning was the emptiest I’d ever felt. I was done with this and wanted to follow Christ. It’s been life changing, something I will never regret.”

Darter had seen firsthand what happens when humans put energy into earthly kingdoms built on the shifting sand of worldly things. And he’s seen firsthand what a difference it makes to be filled with the things of God, to pursue something eternal. As a new believer exploring the Bible for the first time, he saw in the Minor Prophets that same message woven into a book written thousands of years ago.

Courter’s journey with the Lord, though quite different than Darter’s, hasn’t always been smooth sailing. After painful circumstances in their church left his dad unexpectedly unemployed at the beginning of high school, Courter found himself having to dig deep into his trust of the Lord. “I really had to look inside and confirm that God will take care of us no matter the circumstance,” he says.

Joseph Courter

Coming to college brought a new set of challenges as he encountered the pressures of different worldviews on campus. Being a part of the BSU has helped him stay grounded in the Lord rather than getting swept away by the hollow and deceptive philosophies of the world. The Minor Prophets shaped his ability to see how God’s light can penetrate every facet and angle of darkness.

“The minor prophets are encouraging because they always give a hint of hope even in darkest of circumstances,” he says. “Even though the Israelites or their enemies did something horrible, God still cared enough to give hope and give mercy through those dark times. It’s comforting to know that even though I may mess up or go through a dark time, God is still there to give His mercy and love and strength through the Holy Spirit. Minor Prophets give beautiful symbolism to that idea.”

Since the study ended, Darter had the opportunity to lead four Bible studies at a youth retreat with high schoolers. His first objective was to impress on them that truth is nothing but God’s Word, no matter what professors or scientists or media tell them. His second was use his story as an opportunity to encourage them to stay in church and connected to the Lord because, he says, “it’s not worth it to do what I did.”

With the Minor Prophets under their belts, Courter and Darter have gained greater confidence to study the Word and share their faith on their campus. “If you can digest a Minor Prophet…there’s a lot more you can digest,” Courter says with a chuckle. He is asking the Holy Spirit to give him opportunities and the courage “to speak up and give light to somebody that might be in the darkness.”

“People are more open now to Christ than they have been in a long time,” says Darter. “People are questioning what truth is. It’s a perfect opportunity for us to be looking for any and every chance to open up and share our testimonies, to tell them of Christ.”


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