FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The sounding of a shofar called youth ministers, volunteer youth workers and young people to worship at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual Youth Ministry Lab April 4-5. A shofar is a ram’s horn similar to the type used in Solomon’s temple.
The 775 participants at this year’s event vowed to consecrate themselves before the Lord as they worshiped in the seminary’s Truett Auditorium, decorated to resemble the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Presentations and worship sessions revolved around a theme of consecration from Joshua 3:5: “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”
The theme of consecration was emphasized throughout the weekend, most notably in the times of corporate worship led by Timber and in breakout sessions led by James Darby and Richard Ross.
Members of The Company, Southwestern’s drama group, emphasized the need for consecration by reenacting a scene from the Book of Joshua along with contemporary scenes depicting sins common to youth and their ministers.
Youth Ministry Lab is a conference organized and run entirely by students and faculty members of the seminary’s educational ministries school, and is intended to provide insight into current trends in youth and student ministry.
Wes Black and Richard Ross, both youth and student ministry professors at Southwestern and faculty advisers at the conference, said God continues to show favor to the Youth Ministry Lab.
“This powerful weekend continues to impact churches, student ministries and missions. In addition, it brings to our campus teenagers, college students and youth leaders who soon will be making choices concerning their education for ministry vocations,” Black said.
Black and Ross reported a 23 percent increase in registration over last year’s conference. More than 50 of the 300 teenagers present reported that they sensed a call to vocational ministry during the event. Thirty-five participants engaged in intense training for an international mission trip, and others took part in specialized training sessions on youth ministry among the Hispanic, black and Asian communities.
Matt Chandler, the conference’s featured speaker, called participants to focus their attention on the might and majesty of God as seen in Isaiah 6. Speaking about the climate of unrest and uncertainty in the world, especially in the light of the war in Iraq and the outbreak of the SARS virus in Southeast Asia, Chandler said he saw “a lack of confidence in the might and the sovereignty of God.”
“God is alive. … He is eternal and He has never, biblically or historically, gotten elderly or weak,” Chandler said. “He has not lost an ounce of His power, an ounce of His authority, and not a bit of His eternal significance. He is God, the living, mighty, powerful God.”
Chandler encouraged those in attendance to take the opportunity to dwell upon and acknowledge the glory of God in the present because, he said, God’s glory will be fully displayed in the future when worship will no longer be optional.
“God will not force knees to bow. He will show Himself and that will be enough,” Chandler said.
Forty-four speakers addressed 82 topics at this year’s conference. In one session, James Darby, pastor of First Baptist Church of Blue Springs, Miss., led a session exploring the meaning of consecration.
“How many of us are really here this weekend to see God?” the 1997 Southwestern graduate asked. “If God gets all over you this weekend, can you handle it?”
Darby used Jonathan Cannon, a 14-year-old student from First Baptist Church in Troy, Texas, as an object lesson. After calling the teenager to the stage, he asked Cannon what he hoped to accomplish by coming to the conference. Cannon said that he wanted to become a leader in his church, youth group and school.
Cannon also said God had convicted him throughout the course of the weekend, and that he left with a new understanding about the importance of consecration. “I think He’s really telling me to get serious. I haven’t really been serious before, and that’s the main thing,” Cannon said.
Attendance at Southwestern’s Youth Ministry Lab has risen for the past four years. In 2000, 350 youth ministers, volunteer youth workers and youth attended the conference. In 2001 that number rose to 425 and last year to 630.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CALL TO FOCUS, CHALLANGING THE YOUNG, CALL OF CONSECRATION and JAMES DARBY.