On March 20, the Wheaton College community received an email from the President’s Office saying that yet another transition will be occurring in the Chaplain’s Office. Clayton Keenon, who has served as ministry associate for discipleship and graduate chapel for five years, will be leaving Wheaton at the end of the semester to begin his work as teaching pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Ill.
Keenon did not think he would be leaving Wheaton when first contacted by senior pastor Jim Nicodem. However, after visiting to speak one Sunday and taking a retreat day to pray about the offer, Keenon felt that he should consider the position as teaching pastor. Keenon said, “If you had asked me what I would like to do if I had a church job, he (Nicodem) spelled out basically exactly what I had always imagined.” Eric Rojas, an Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, said that Keenon’s “teaching gift (and) desire to make God’s Word come alive and help people understand it and apply it to their lives” was a “perfect fit” for the ministry.
During his time at Wheaton, Keenon has played a key role in developing graduate school chapel. Prior to Keenon serving as ministry associate for graduate chapel, the graduate chapel program did not have a consistent time to meet or a specific structure to operate under. Now, graduate students take time from their studies to join together and worship together as one united community each Wednesday morning. Keenon is passionate about the graduate students and has sought to embrace the diversity of the student body by scheduling speakers from across the globe and all walks of life to speak at graduate chapel. As an MA student in the history of Christianity program, Allison Brown has been impressed by how said that she has enjoyed the chance to hear the “rich stories and … journeys of faith” of many international students at the school.
Keenon also played a huge role in the continued development of Discipleship Small Groups. DSG small groups resident advisor Elizabeth Studebaker said that through Keenon’s work with DSG, she has had the chance to see “the way he cares for students, invests in their lives and reminds them consistently of God’s care for them.” Keenon’s vision for DSG is that each group would be a safe place where “the reality of someone’s life — who they really are, the things that they really struggle with, what their real sins are — encounters the truth of what Jesus has done.”
In all his areas of involvement, Keenon has demonstrated a deep passion for sharing the love of God. Chaplain Dave McDowell said, “Not only has he been able to articulate a clear message of God’s love and mercy, but he has also been able to flesh that out in his relationships and responsibilities.” In the graduate school, many students have had the chance to get to know Keenon on a personal level. One student, Nathan Chase, spoke to Keenon’s character and said that he has always trusted that “Keenon feared God more than man” and continually set the “focus as Christ at the center.”
For Keenon, it will be incredibly hard to leave Wheaton, which is home to the church that he has attended his whole life and the school and relationships that he has poured immeasurable amounts of hard work and time into. His current responsibilities will be divided as the Chaplain’s Office is currently seeking someone to oversee the DSG ministry and another to serve as part-time chaplain for graduate school.
At the end of any small group, chapel or student meeting, Keenon often ends with a blessing. This is the blessing that he hopes to leaves every student on campus with, so that they may “rest because of what Jesus has done.”
“Remember this,” Keenon said, “God loves you more than you could ever imagine. God loves you with a love that has no beginning and no ending. It is a love you don’t have to earn and you could never lose. It doesn’t matter if you feel like a success or a failure. God loves you.
It doesn’t matter if you feel alone or surrounded by friends. God loves you. It doesn’t matter if you are righteous or guilty. God loves you. God loves you enough to send Jesus to live for you and die for you and be raised for you, and even right now Jesus is before the Father speaking words of love on your behalf, and he will return to renew you and all of creation because he loves you. This is the most true thing about you: You are loved by God. Before anything else can be said about you, this must be said: God loves you and that will never change. So don’t forget it.”