As many of you know, just before Christmas, the founder and first Campus Minister of RUF, Mark Lowrey, was called home to be with the Lord. This past year, we’ve had many opportunities to reflect on God’s faithfulness to RUF during our 50th anniversary. Time and again, we’ve been filled with gratitude that God called Mark to minister to college students.
Mark ran the race set before him with passion, endurance, and commitment to share the Good News, and we praise God for the countless lives he has impacted through this vision for campus ministry.
In 1973, Mark founded the first RUF at the University of Southern Mississippi. Throughout the early 70s and during his years as a student at Reformed Theological Seminary, he spent time discussing ideas about campus ministry with Jimmy Turner, James “Bebo” Elkin, Ford Williams, and others. Jimmy, who planted the RUF at Ole Miss and passed away earlier in 2023, recalled, “Mark was the initiator…and he was the main one bringing up ideas. The vision really came clearly to him because of his great gifts of administration.”
That vision has endured for 50 years: a Reformed, biblically-based campus ministry led by ordained ministers and connected to the church. As Mark himself put it in 2022, “When I started, that was my desire… we were going to impact the church — we were going to impact the world — with the Gospel. And people were going to understand who Christ was, and they were going to come to him, and they were going to be part of his church. And that’s what it was about. That was the bottom line: to help them become like Christ.”
Mark became the first RUF National Coordinator in 1982, after spending a large part of the late 1970s working with the PCA to approve the mission, vision, and guiding principles for RUF campus ministries. In the 80s, RUF ministries were planted throughout the southeast, and Mark and his family moved to Atlanta to help oversee this growth.
In 1995, Mark transitioned from his role as National Coordinator to serve in a variety of roles with Great Commission Publications, a ministry of the PCA and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that produces curriculum and resources for children and high schoolers.
We are so thankful for how God used Mark, his vision, and his gifts to establish and grow RUF during the first part of its history, and for the encouragement he has provided ever since.
Over the past few weeks, numerous people whose lives were impacted by Mark have shared their memories and reflections about his life and legacy.
“Mark’s love for the Bible and the Church and his commitment to bringing both to campus have impacted thousands of students over the decades, including me, my wife, and my children. The Philosophy of Ministry that we still use today grew out of his vision and heart for college students, whether covenant children or those who’d never heard of Jesus. I am so grateful to serve in the ministry that grew out of Mark’s obedience to the Lord’s calling 50 years ago.” – Will W. Huss, Jr, RUF National Coordinator
“I really got to know Mark as a friend and mentor when I became the National Coordinator for RUF in 1999. He was very kind to speak with me on the phone, meet me for lunch, or talk in the office in Atlanta. His helpfulness continued for many years, and he gave me such great biblical support, encouragement, and advice.
“Mark’s numerous fingerprints on RUF remain, including his vision for staff training and his ability to exegete a demographic or culture. These are crucial to the continued success of RUF. His years of service laid the foundation for one of the largest denominationally-based campus ministries. He cast the vision for a Christ-centered ministry on the college campus that would build the Church, and I pray that the legacy of his love for the Gospel will carry on.” – Rod Mays, National Coordinator Emeritus
“His visits on campus produced some of the most clarifying insights which always made me think anew about how and why I was doing ministry. He was a great teacher as well, who used repetition patiently with this hardhead – a father in ministry who lovingly came along side me over and over to refocus me on and encourage me in the Word again and again.” — Billy Joseph, established RUF at the University of Alabama, 1980 – 2002
“Many former Campus Ministers owe a debt of gratitude to Mark, and also to Priscilla, Leonard, and Elizabeth. He shepherded Campus Ministers and loved us much more than for the ways we might impact the campus. He taught us how to spiritually diagnose and disciple students: loving a new student as Jesus loves us, and asking two questions. First, what is this person’s relationship to the cross? And secondly, what is this person’s relationship to the church? I’ve never seen a man more consistently conscious of the centrality of the church in the life of the believer than Mark Lowrey.
“Mark was both a shepherd and a strategist. The giftedness that Mark had as a strategist is that he was a visionary in that he could see the completed, perfected form and he knew how to lay the road, give it curbs, and build it step by step by step to reach that complete form.” — Chris Yates, established RUF at Texas A&M, 1987-1998
Mark is survived by his wife, Priscilla, and two children, Leonard and Elizabeth. Congregations in Atlanta and Hattiesburg gathered in January to remember and celebrate Mark’s life. Read Mark’s full obituary here.
In 2022, we had the opportunity to sit down with Mark as he reflected on the past 50 years and his dreams for RUF when it began. We hope his words are an encouragement to you and look forward to sharing more from our conversation with Mark in the coming weeks.