InterVarsity alumni - Marlene Nathan

Gordon Govier
April 13, 2009

Marlene Nathan attended Case Western Reserve University to prepare for a career in social work. But her involvement with InterVarsity was better preparation for what she’s doing now, leading women’s ministry at the world’s largest Vineyard Church.

Marlene Nathan came to Christ through the ministry of Young Life in high school. “I was encouraged by my Young Life leader to look for college fellowship,” she recalled. “I remember it was the first week of school. I went to the InterVarsity meeting, and I was in.”

Marlene also met her future husband, Rich, the first week of school. They married after their sophomore year. They both served on the chapter leadership team, and Rich was chapter president for a year. As the only married couple in the chapter, they frequently hosted gatherings in their home.

Rich began to prepare for pastoral ministry, switching from pre-med to theological studies. A pastor suggested that they transfer to Bible school, but they decided to stay at Case Western. “Part of what it means to be salt and light is to remain actively connected to the world in which God put us,” Marlene said. “And I think that came from InterVarsity.”

Their InterVarsity leadership training and experience gave them good ministry tools, along with the pre-seminary classes at Case Western. A lot of the InterVarsity students in those days hung out at the Logos bookstore, operated by a retired pastor, where there were plenty of theological books and people to discuss them with. In addition their faculty adviser and their InterVarsity staff worker challenged them to rigorous discipleship. “It was all of these things together that gave us a solid foundation,” Marlene said. “It set us on a path that showed us what it means to be a Christian.”

But after graduation, for some reason, seminary didn’t seem like the right next step. Rich instead took the LSAT test, did well, and decided to go to law school. He attended and then taught at Ohio State University. In Columbus, at the encouragement of friends, Rich and Marlene also began attending a small start-up church which incorporated many of the values they had learned through InterVarsity.

In 1987 Rich finally answered the call to pastoral ministry and became senior pastor of the church they had been attending. Now affiliated with The Vineyard USA, this church hosts about 7,000 worshipers every Sunday and is the largest church in the Vineyard fellowship. Marlene ended her career as a social worker and also joined the staff as director of the Vineyard Church of Columbus Women’s Ministry.

Through more than 30 years of marriage, Rich and Marlene have remained close to InterVarsity. While teaching at OSU law school Rich served as the InterVarsity chapter’s faculty adviser. They even recruited a staff member for InterVarsity. At their encouragement Dick Pope joined InterVarsity staff and worked with Ohio State students for several years, starting in the mid-1980s.

“We greatly appreciate InterVarsity’s ministry, and we’re passionate about the same things that InterVarsity is passionate about: women in ministry, social justice, diversity,” Marlene said. “Following Jesus affects every aspect of our life. That’s always been with us. We’ve tried to live a very responsible lifestyle, to give our money away and be involved in social action.”

To re-engage with InterVarsity in a new way, Rich and Marlene both attended InterVarsity’s Following Christ conference which was held last December in Chicago. “The conference was wonderfully refreshing,” she said.

Rich and Marlene were powerfully shaped for ministry by InterVarsity and are now influencing thousands of lives for the gospel in Columbus, Ohio.