Third generation Yorkie Justus Coppinger will graduate at the end of April with a couple of degrees behind his name, a bachelor’s in vocal performance and another in biblical studies. His plate is full this semester with voice and piano lessons, classes in Old Testament and Greek, running indoor and outdoor track, a church internship in Lincoln, preparing for his senior recital this spring, and… or maybe it really should be AND—planning his summer wedding! Coppinger’s plate has always been full, but we’ll get to that a little later.

On Thursday, he’s going to hit pause on all his YC responsibilities and board a plane to the west coast for an all-expenses paid stay on world renowned Malibu beach. Well, almost. Before you get too jealous, he’ll actually be on the campus of Pepperdine University that overlooks the beach. And instead of soaking in the sun and enjoying the scenic landscape, Justus will be going through an intense two-day coaching/training workshop to enhance future sermons he might give. Sound fun?

​Next Gen Preacher Search (NGPS) is a unique outreach to young Christian students in high schools and colleges across the country who have an interest in preaching and teaching. Designed to encourage and inspire young people towards the ministry of God's word, it is an open invitation for students to submit a 5-minute video of their speaking for review and critique.

At the encouragement of Dr. Terry Seufferlein, professor of Bible and Tom N. Schultz chair for mission studies at York College, Coppinger submitted a sermon clip.

“Justus has a gift for communicating the biblical text in a way that impacts lives,” said Dr. Seufferlein. “He had just completed an assignment for one of my classes in which he gave a quality sermon on the ten lepers cleansed by Jesus and the gratefulness of the one who was a Samaritan. It would be a challenge to condense it down to five minutes, but I told him he should enter it into the Preacher Search competition.”

Coppinger reflected, “My initial thought was, that’s really cool! There’s no way I’ll get it, but I’ll try. It was empowering to me that he thought I had the talent to make it.” The added gesture of the Bible department and York Campus Ministries offering to pay for his flight if he was chosen sealed the deal.

To his surprise, of the hundred-plus entries, Coppinger’s made the cut. He was invited to the weekend workshop, February 11-12, training alongside a team of experienced preachers including Eric Wilson, Mike Cope, and Taylor Walling.

Jeff Walling, who hosts NGPS, wrote, “Congratulations! You have been selected as one of the semi-finalists for the 2022 Next Gen Preacher Search! The choices were tough but our team felt you have a special talent that we want to help you develop.” A few of the critique comments on his video submission were, “Justus I loved your passion. This theme is clearly important to you. Thanks for showing that passion, it really came through in your presentation.” Another comment said, “Well done! 5 minute messages are hard to preach. You honored the text well and applied it.”

At the conclusion of the event, the students will be filmed giving a lesson inside Pepperdine’s Stauffer Chapel, also known as The Little Chapel on the Hill. From these recordings, four will be chosen as finalists who will have the opportunity to present their lessons before over 25,000 Christians at gatherings across the country including venues like the North American Christian Convention and Harbor: Pepperdine Bible Lectures.

Challenge accepted.
Someway, somehow Coppinger knew that as busy as he was going to be in his final semester of his senior year, the opportunity to receive one-on-one coaching from legends in ministry was too good to pass up. After all, what’s new? His plate has always been full. Along with carrying a double major, he has served two years as president of his social club Sigma Tau, hosted Songfest twice and emceed one year, took the stage multiple times in the YC One Acts, played soccer his freshman year, ran cross country the last two and is currently on the indoor track team, served as a junior representative in student government, and is a four-year member of Concert Choir and Celebration Singers… and all while consistently making the Dean’s List with a cumulative GPA of 3.96.

Coppinger decided to add biblical studies as a major after interning a summer with Ricky Pruitt '93, Youth and Family Minister at the Kerrville Church of Christ in Texas. Through Pruitt’s friendship, how he mentored his role to Justus, and the appeal of working with kids, Coppinger decided, “I think I want to pursue doing something like this.”

His junior year went as he hoped, splitting his time between the music and Bible departments, and he signed up with Pruitt for a second summer internship in 2021.

“Serving alongside Justus for two summers was an incredible privilege,” commented Ricky. “His willingness to learn from any situation or conversation magnified his credibility in the eyes of those he served as well as those on staff. He grew immensely in his ability to lead a class through experiences, discussion, Bible exploration, and application. His interpersonal skills allowed him to connect with teens and adults, relating to different generations naturally. He was excellent at forming relationships and using that connection to encourage those around him.”
When asked about the takeaways he gleaned from his internships, Coppinger said, “Ministry takes a lot of patience, particularly with youth ministry and getting to know these kids. It takes a lot of smaller conversations that lead up to some bigger things. I had some really awesome experiences and conversations, but that’s at the end of two summers of getting to know these kids. It wasn’t like come in and change everybody’s lives real quick and head out.”

One of Coppinger’s recognizable gifts is of course singing, whether he’s leading worship on campus, church services, or being part of a praise team. His time at Kerrville was life-changing in that regard.

“I think for the first time I experienced “church” in general on a different level,” he said. “Because I had a role and tried to be as intentional as possible in that role, I remember every Sunday coming away from a church service being so filled myself. Not because I was there to fill myself necessarily, but I think it was because my mindset changed from what is this service going to do for me—to how can I invest, what can I bring this morning.”

Coppinger was asked how he hoped to benefit from the NGPS experience and said that being young, he doesn’t receive a lot of feedback aside from “Good job,” or “Thank you so much for speaking.” He’s very appreciative of that encouragement but is looking forward to growing his gift. “I would like to be able to refine what I do and receive constructive criticism from people who are experts in that field,” he said.
— Justus’ great grandfather Joe K. Alley had a 14-year tenure at York College (1963-1976) serving as a Bible professor, vice president, and interim president at YC. His grandparents John and *Bettye Jo (Alley) Hamm (’69) were at York when it was just a two-year school, and his parents Matthew (’96) and Laura (Hamm ’95) Coppinger were students during the transition to a four-year college. Now he and his fiancé Kelsey Beck (whose parents John ’98 and Nicole (Roitsch ’94) Beck were at YC with Matt and Laura) are students during the transition to York University. Justus said, "Yeah, I know. It's crazy!" --