Caitlin Jones grew up in a nurturing home and church but her love for the Bible and for the Church have grown more than she ever would have imagined during her years at the Campbell University Divinity School.
From the time she became a Christian at 9 years of age, she was told by her family and her church that God loved her and had a place for her, a call on her life. Throughout her elementary and middle school years, she had opportunities to develop and use her giftedness in speaking and leadership and she delved into the Bible to represent it the best way she could.
In her college years, however, she ran into some roadblocks when her understanding of God’s love and call appeared to be limited by fellow students. Originally, she found herself arguing about her understanding of the Bible but realized that the best way to make a difference would be not through arguments or heated discussions but through “living into my call and representing Christ with integrity.”
She joined a group called “Samford Sunday,” which provided an opportunity for students to preach in local churches around Alabama. During her entire four years on campus, she was never asked to preach through this organization. She quietly participated in the events, making friendships and sharing her call to minister through those relationships. A year after she graduated, women were allowed to preach. Three years later, a woman led the organization.
After graduation, she checked out Campbell Divinity School and others but was struck by the difference in focus. While others asked about her GPA and her intended areas of research, Campbell professors asked her what “made my heart beat faster. Professors felt like highly-respected teammates who were in this with you, and I knew that I wanted on that team.”
Much of the knowledge and understanding that Jones has gained through the last three years has been centered on faith formation, the history and value of the organized church, and the eternal truths of the Bible. She recalls one professor saying after giving his opinion about a portion of scripture, “You don’t have to believe this. Your job is to seek the Truth for yourselves.”
“The lessons I learned in these classrooms would affect the hearts and souls of all I touched through my ministry,” she recalls. She saw that “school wasn’t just school anymore, but spiritual formation as well.”
Jones is in awe about church fathers and mothers who literally gave their lives for what they believed. “I was humbled by their belief and their boldness.” After the first semester, she says she felt “rich beyond belief.” She not only had Jesus, but “I had an identity. I had a history. I had a people.”
In her second year at Campbell, Jones would be given a tremendous national honor but through that opportunity be tested beyond anything that she had ever experienced. She would be one of 20 students from across the United States who would be given an opportunity to do theological research in Europe. Little did she know that at the end of that grant process, she would feel overwhelmed by the burden she carries with what her part is in shaping the future of the Church in a world that has strayed so far from orthodox Christian beliefs.
Where does she go from Buies Creek? She says that it is important to know who we are in Christ and what we want our Church to be in a future context. “I desire to do this work as I continue to work out my own faith, journeying toward a greater understanding of the kingdom of God through the leading of the spirit and the greater body and tradition of the Church.
“I’d love to be a part of creating a sustainable church culture that won’t bend to the latest trend or shy away from healthy change,” she continues. “I’d like to help the Church figure out how to be courageous, and charitable, in claiming the specificity of Christ in a world that wants us to all just be the same.”
Jones is a member of Lafayette Baptist Church, Fayetteville, and has served as a ministry intern at Yates Baptist Church, Durham. — Irma Duke