With his bleached hair and athletic build, sophomore Curtis Duncan looks like he'd be more comfortable surfing than talking about Jesus at school. And he'll admit his nerves are jangled. He's about to share the Gospel in front of 80 of his fellow Mira Mesa High School students.
Curtis has never done anything like this before. But here he is, antsy, pacing back and forth, choking down a piece of pizza before he speaks at the Solid Rock Christian Club's monthly outreach meeting.
"I sort of got chosen, but it was my choice to do it, too," Curtis says with a nervous smile. The club meets Tuesdays during lunch at the San Diego school in Mr. Van Grove's geometry classroom. Today, partially lured by 20 large pizzas and invitations from club members, the room is packed with students who enjoy a frenetic lunch, then look keenly at Curtis.
The Solid Rock Christian Club has been meeting at Mira Mesa for more than 15 years. But in the past year, club leaders say they've seen God work like never before. Mr. Van Grove, the club's sponsor, says he's never seen kids so boldly view their campus as a mission field. The student leaders attribute the growth of their club to God -- and to FiSH. Not the scaly, gilled, swimming kind of fish, but a catchy strategy to help student-run Bible clubs plan meetings.
One of the Solid Rock Club's goals is to provide fellowship for Christians on the 2,400-student public school campus. Stephanie Kiper, the club's co-president, says she's personally benefited from the club because it provides her with spiritual accountability.
"When I was in junior high I really didn't know any Christians," she says. "[At Solid Rock], I met more Christians who helped keep me in check. I am more aware that I'm with other Christians and that I need to get right with God."
The club's mission also includes evangelism, especially as its influence grows and it gets more noticed on campus. Last year's co-president, Dawn Kobierski, recounts that at first the Solid Rock Christian Club was flying under the radar at Mira Mesa. It was so unknown, Dawn says, that people thought it was for rock-climbers. But these days, God's faithfulness has allowed the club to be "a really big witness on campus," says Dawn, a member of First Baptist Church in Mira Mesa. "Other people know who the Christians are now."
Stephanie says she hopes the club can bring God to the campus by drawing students who wouldn't normally come to church. "It's [our goal] to reach out to our school and be a shining light there." Before FiSH, the message of Jesus was never heard, she says. "[FiSH] has helped that message be heard and developed a reason to invite non-Christian friends to come."
In the FiSH strategy, students -- not adults -- always share the Gospel with the club, and club leaders say it's better that way.
"It's stronger if students share their own faith," says Arthur Cachero, co-president of the club with Dawn last year. "It shows students, too, can do it, and that students can live their lives for Christ."
FiSH is an acronym where each letter stands for a theme in a four-week cycle of meetings. F stands for "Focus," a kickoff meeting which helps Christian students get on track with God through student-led prayer and worship. I stands for "Inspiration," a meeting which usually involves a guest speaker like a local youth pastor. S is for "Share" week which entails a student being in charge of the meeting by leading a Bible study or sharing his or her testimony. And finally, H stands for "Hook." "The last week is the big one," Dawn says, "because it's during the Hook meeting that a Christian student shares the Gospel and invites other people to enter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
TELLING HIS STORY
Curtis' nerves didn't get the best of him that day in Mr. Van Grove's classroom. In fact, the sincerity of his presentation communicated vastly more than his uneasiness. His primary theme could be summed up in three words: "God changes lives." Curtis has seen it, experienced it and there he was sharing it. Yeah, his voice shook a bit. And yeah, he stumbled over his words once or twice. But his message was clear.
Before God transformed Curtis' family, things looked bleak. His parents had separated and Curtis was sent to live with his grandparents. But then a neighbor shared Christ with Curtis' dad, which set off an exciting chain of events. Curtis' dad got back together with his mom and both of them became Christians.
"That's just one way of God working in my life," Curtis said proudly, standing at the front of the classroom. "He brought my mom and dad back together. They're more in love now than ever.... God can and will change lives."
Curtis then talked about how his relationship with God has changed his own life. Once a bully, he says he is now known as a person that's almost "too nice." And he's experienced the power and joy of the Holy Spirit at such depths that it's moved him to tears. "It's the first time in my life I've ever cried because I was happy."
As Curtis talked, his friends sat in the classroom's desks and listened. Then he invited them to accept Christ in a way that suited his presentation. He was heartfelt and gentle.
"If there are any who want to receive Christ now, or later, it's better to do it now because tomorrow isn't promised to us," Curtis said as he wrapped up his presentation.
A BIGGER POND
The future of the Solid Rock Christian Club looks bright, Stephanie and the co-president, Charlie Chambers, say. The students are already busting out of Van Grove's classroom, and Charlie says he'd like to see them meet in a larger space. In the coming year, club leaders also hope their outreach can extend beyond the walls of Mira Mesa High School.
"I'd like to get to know all the Christian clubs in the area so we don't just reach the campus but the community," Charlie says.
Stephanie and Charlie say that while the FiSH model has helped the club to grow, the club is thriving because God is at work on their campus.
"Every year you see more and more people in here coming to the knowledge of Jesus," Charlie says. "People who once were afraid to pray in front of other people are now standing up and sharing their faith."