VP of Office of Spiritual Development encourages students to seek the Lord

Growing in the knowledge of the love of God is how Josh Rutledge, vice president of the Office of Spiritual Development (OSD), has been leading by example and stewarding
Liberty University’s mission of sending out the next generation of Christians to build up and serve the church.

Rutledge grew up in a Christian family and has been a believer ever since he was young. After he received his bachelor’s degree and got married, Rutledge desired to enter magazine publishing but felt convicted about his career aspirations. He explained that he went through a “spiritual crisis” after college and felt that the Lord was redirecting the entire course of his life.

During this time, Rutledge and his wife were living in Birmingham, Alabama. As Rutledge was determining where he should go next after college, he felt that the Lord was prompting him to “read (the Bible), not just to understand it, but read it to obey it.”

Reading God’s word with a posture of renewed obedience, Rutledge felt compelled to enter the ministry.

“It was through obedience to Matthew 25 that then God clarified the path
moving forward. That had a tremendous impact just in my own life,” Rutledge said.

From that point on, Rutledge got involved in serving the homeless and the incarcerated through nonprofit organizations focused on those specific demographics. He admitted that working with the people from the inner city of Birmingham strengthened his faith and truly brought God’s word to life.

Photo by KJ Jugar

In January of 2015, Rutledge moved to Lynchburg and began working at Liberty University. While he felt excited to begin working at Liberty, Rutledge never expected to be in the position that he holds today.

Rutledge explained that he wanted to be a part of an organization that worked to encourage and equip the next generation of believers as they pursued their future careers. He believes that Liberty is much more than just an academic institution because it inspires students to be the very hands and feet of Jesus that extend beyond the campus’ grounds.

“That’s what Liberty has the capacity to be able to do. … We’re sending these gifts into churches, and it’s the gifts of people who go out and go, ‘I know that I am not here to be served as much as to serve,’” Rutledge said.

Throughout his time serving as vice president of OSD, Rutledge has been managing the six departments within OSD, which all work toward the common goal of furthering the student body’s spiritual development. Both Convocation and Campus Community are two ways that the LU Stages department helps to encourage students in their spiritual journeys. 

Two of the primary aspects for creating the Convocation schedule are prayer and the use of surveys to gauge student interest. According to Rutledge, the most important factor to consider when finding a Convocation speaker is if they will help further Liberty’s mission of training Champions for Christ.

As for determining Campus Community’s sermon series, Rutledge and Chancellor Jonathan Falwell routinely meet to discuss what they believe the student body would most benefit from learning for that semester or year. In fall 2022, Campus Community’s theme was based on the topic of  “Odd Faith” and helped students understand the basic tenets of the Christian faith. 

While the fall semester themes for Campus Community tend to be more topical in nature, focusing on broader topics, the spring tends to be more exegetical, zeroing in on a specific book of Scripture and teaching through it verse-by-verse.

“The spring narrowed down more fully into the series ‘Now, Love’ because it came out of, ‘Alright, if that is who Jesus is, then what now of you and me,’” Rutledge said.

Maddie Kent

Rutledge hopes that students will be able to apply what they have learned from the current Campus Community series, “Now, Love,” and feel prepared enough to employ a Christlike love to the people around them.

Although there are about 85 employees who work full-time within OSD, Rutledge acknowledged that most of the day-to-day ministry to the student body is at the peer level through Community Group Leaders and Resident Shepherds.

In order to effectively reach and minister to each person on campus, Rutledge explained that the students serving students is essential to account for everyone.

“The best memories that I have of 10 years of working here are less about who spoke in a Convo or a big event. … The memories that really stick out are the one’s where I’ve gotten the chance to experience what happens when a student embodies the mission of this place and actually believes it enough to go live it,” Rutledge said.

Last year, Rutledge traveled to Birmingham, England and visited a nonprofit center that works to help the homeless population and provide drug and rehabilitation centers.

While working with the nonprofit, Rutledge met a Liberty graduate who studied theatre for her bachelor’s degree. Now, the alumna student uses her creative talents to perform in a community theater for the nonprofit organization. Rutledge was inspired by the student’s joy for the Lord and her humble obedience to the Lord’s call on her life.

“Liberty students are the heroes of this place; they really are, because they also are not outliers,” Rutledge said. “There are so many students here that I get the chance to meet with or interact with just on a quick basis, who I go, ‘what a gift.’”

Rutledge believes that the students have the potential to transform the world around them by simply integrating the Bible into their lives and allowing the Lord to use them for the ministry.

“The future of the church is not nearly as dire as people like to imagine if it looks anything like some of the students … (who have) such a hunger and desire to know God and pursue him,” Rutledge said.

Davis is the feature editor for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on X

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