DALLAS (BP)–Several thousand college students and young professionals attending the opening night of Elevate 2004 were challenged not only on how to impact their world as Christians, but also on their own understanding of Christ’s suffering through a special preview screening of the Mel Gibson film “The Passion of The Christ.”
The Jan. 22-24 conference at the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano is sponsored by the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board to help adults ages 18-29 clarify God’s call on their lives. Speakers include leaders from entertainment, politics and other key areas of influence in society. The second Elevate conference is planned Feb. 19-21 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center.
In the opening address of the conference, NAMB President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord challenged conference participants to view their Christian witness as an adventure, “going out of your comfort zone, not knowing the outcome.”
“From one end of this room to the other,” Reccord said, “God is saying, ‘I want you to have the adventure of your life. And if you want the adventure of your life, here’s what happens: You give away your life to me, and I will give a mission to you that will allow you to change your world.'”
Reccord cited the account of the call of God on the life of the prophet Jeremiah and his reluctance to accept it because of his age.
“But God said, ‘Don’t say you’re too young, Jeremiah, because I your God am with you; I will touch your mouth and put my words on your lips. Whatever I say to speak, you do. And I will be with you whatever you go to do,'” Reccord said. “Now that’s an adventure. The God who said that to Jeremiah is the same God who says it to you.”
Reccord detailed the process that has become a key message of NAMB over the past year: “Answer the Call, tell His story, and change your world.”
“If you answer His call with all your heart, if you tell His story with all your heart, here’s the bottom line,” Reccord said. “You will inevitably change your world.”
Following up on the broad challenge was practical advice from author and political analyst Hugh Hewitt on the essentials of making a difference for Christ on a large scale. Hewitt served on the staff of former Presidents Nixon and Reagan and most recently authored the book, “In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence Your World.”
One essential, Hewitt said, is that Christians take the time and effort to understand not only the biblical basis of their faith but also how it has influenced the world since the time of Christ. With that understanding, individuals are much more likely to gain respect for what they say about Christ’s influence on their own lives, he said.
“You’ve got to know your history,” Hewitt said. “Especially you’ve got to know the five stories that make up the story of why we are here in this building today: the history of the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, the English and the Arabs.”
On the practical side, Hewitt said, post-graduate education is important for anyone seeking to have influence on a national scale.
“In the Christian community there has been a strain of people that tend to look down at credentials,” he said. “The world values certain pieces of paper more than others, and if you want to rise in the world you need to possess those credentials.”
Along the same lines, Hewitt said it is important that young adults get experience working in the power centers of the nation — particularly New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. It’s also important to maintain a disciplined habit of following a daily personal quiet time with God with a review of the nation’s most influential newspapers over the Internet.
“It doesn’t take long, but it makes you uniquely positioned to speak the language the country is speaking — and to have influence on individuals on any subject,” Hewitt said.
The evening concluded with a full preview screening of “The Passion of The Christ,” which graphically portrays the final hours of Jesus’ life.
At the film’s conclusion, Reccord talked with the audience about their relationship with the Christ depicted in the film and led in the sinner’s prayer. Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrays Christ, then appeared briefly to thank the audience for their attendance, and Reccord led in prayer that the film would lead to thousands of evangelistic conversations and opportunities when it premieres in late February.
After the screening, several viewers said that while the film is graphic in its depiction of Christ’s suffering, it helped them appreciate the depth of His love for them.
“At first I didn’t want to watch … but then I let myself watch it and witness it, because this is what Christ really went through. And I didn’t want to avoid it,” Melissa Ostrum of San Marcos, Texas, said.
“The second thing is that Christ considered it joy to go through that for us, and in the Bible He tells us we’re not going to go through anything that He didn’t first already endure,” she added. “And He considered it joy because it was worth it. We should consider it joy when we endure pain, suffering and persecution, because that’s going to bring forth the patience, the fruits of the Spirit.”
Editors’ Note: Baptist Press will carry additional stories from Elevate on Monday, Jan. 26. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TAKING A LOOK and ELEVATED. For information on using The Passion in outreach, resources are available on the Web from LifeWay Christian Resources at www.lifeway.com/passion.