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MBTS: Elliff leads 2-day prayer workshop

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Tom Elliff, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, led a two-day prayer workshop at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, telling two dozen students in attendance that “my desire is that you will walk out of here with a greater effectiveness in your lives when it comes to prayer.”

Elliff, author of the book “A Passion for Prayer: Experiencing Deeper Intimacy with God” who most recently served as a senior vice president at the International Mission Board, used examples from the Gospels in noting three aspects of Jesus’ prayer times that each Christian can emulate.

First, find a time and place to commune with God, Elliff counseled.

“An example from Mark 14:32-36 showed that Jesus had intense and intimate communion with the Father. Jesus fell to His knees and called out to God, calling Him ‘Abba’ or ‘Daddy’ which signified the closeness of their relationship,” Elliff said. “He also brought His greatest needs to the Father.”

Given that most students at seminary are called to serve in ministry, Elliff said it would be ridiculous for those in leadership positions to offer guidance to others when they aren’t first hearing from God.

“If you’re not having a time like this, when are you going to hear from Him?” Elliff asked. “It’s vital to spend time with Him so we can hear His leading.”

Second, a believer’s prayer life also is a time and place of conflict, Elliff said, noting that Luke 22:39-45 records conflict in Jesus’ life, both spiritually and physically. “Jesus began praying so fervently that He sweated blood,” Elliff said. “He also sought the Father’s will in the outcome of the situation. He placed God’s will ahead of His own. In spite of all the conflict in His life, Jesus never lost His composure.

“My advice to you is to keep your conflict confined to your quiet time,” Elliff said. “So the question must be asked, ‘If you don’t have a quiet place and quiet time, where are you going to deal with your conflict?'”

Third, a personal prayer time is where Christians will find conformity to the will of God, Elliff said. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus sought God’s will for His life when He said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Eliff, a former pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., said people in ministry often get so busy doing spiritual things that they neglect their own spirituality.

“You’ll be like a ball in a pinball machine,” he said. “You’ll go as fast and hard as you can until you meet opposition, and then you’ll react to it. This process will keep going until you wind up in a gutter somewhere. You must have some discipline, and the only way to learn about prayer is by implementing prayer. Further, it will be hard to lead a church, organization or family in prayer if you’re not practicing it yourself.”

Many people are looking for an easy way to accomplish the Christian life, Elliff said, but each time Jesus saw that happening among the people of His day, He raised the bar. The crowds got smaller when they realized the work required to follow Him.

“Let’s not use [prayer] as a matter of etiquette but rather to see what happens when it becomes an engine for being effective in prayer,” Elliff said. “There’s a difference between being successful and being effective. Take this effectiveness and share it with your churches, organizations and families so it will make them more effective as well.”

Rodney Harrison, Midwestern’s vice president for institutional effectiveness, said the seminary’s objective in hosting the March 26-27 workshop was “to guide students toward deeper intimacy with God through prayer and provide the tools by which they can establish and intensify the prayer life of the local church. The goal is an increase in the effectiveness of both personal and corporate prayer while facing the demands of ministry.”

CLASS OFFERED FOR UTILIZING VOLUNTEERS — In conjunction with the volunteer group Builders for Christ, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offered a course to students March 12-13 on Utilizing Volunteers in Christian Ministries.

The class was led by Lawrence Corley, director of BFC, which is playing a key role in the construction of a 1,000-seat, 38,935-square-foot chapel complex at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.

Corley shared the wisdom he’s gained in making Builders for Christ a model for successful volunteer mission organizations. BFC, founded in 1981 and based in Birmingham, Ala., is a network of volunteer construction teams who travel every summer to various parts of the United States to build Southern Baptist churches with a goal of helping to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Presently, BFC sends three construction teams to assist in projects each year.

“This class is a first-of-a-kind for Midwestern,” Midwestern President R. Philip Roberts told the two dozen students enrolled in the course which aimed at helping them understand how their ministries can maximize the use of volunteers. Rodney Harrison, the seminary’s vice president for institutional effectiveness, organized the class, which included classroom instruction and a requirement for volunteer service in the chapel construction project.

Corley used the MBTS chapel construction project as a case study for the students, alongside key lessons he has learned in leading Builders for Christ.

“The task of organizing volunteers on a project of this size is complex,” Corley said. “It must be vigorously planned out. When you have over 1,400 volunteers from 60-70 church ministries and from many different denominations, arriving from all over the country, there is a lot of coordination to do. How will you feed them? Where will they stay? These are all the things that must be coordinated before the volunteers arrive.”

Students in the class attended a spring coordination conference March 13 hosted by BFC and Midwestern for some 75 team leaders from the BFC network for ongoing planning of the chapel construction process. Corley noted that one of the most important steps to be accomplished was having the most up-to-date information for the summer schedule for allocation of labor, tools and supplies to optimize the chapel construction efforts each week.

Midwestern is planning to repeat the class this summer as a CCC (computer–campus–computer) course combining online and classroom study plus volunteer service.

More than 250 people, including MBTS trustees, faculty and students, attended the March 3 groundbreaking service for the chapel project.

Bill Dunn Sr., chairman emeritus for general contractor J.E. Dunn Construction, described the project as “a very unique situation for our team — working so closely with a group of volunteers during a construction project. I get nothing but good vibes about how things are going, and we’re looking forward to working with Builders for Christ and the volunteers who will be dedicating their time to the project this summer.”

Corley, of Builders for Christ, noted, “In recruiting volunteers for the construction of your chapel, we projected that we would need more people than I knew. As of now, we’ve had more than 1,300 volunteers commit to be here this summer. This equates to more than 65,000 labor hours. We still need about 300 more friends to reach our goal. With that said, God has been very good to us.”

During the spade ceremony, against the backdrop of heavy construction equipment and project signs, Roberts said, “We believe the Lord is building His house here at Midwestern. He’s doing this from a spiritual perspective and point of view, and also to give us the tools that we need to do the best job we can in preparing men and women to make disciples for Jesus Christ in support of His church all over the world.”

The chapel complex will include an auditorium, welcome center and additional classroom space and also will allow for the consolidation and expansion of the MBTS library.
Based on reports by T. Patrick Hudson and D.J. Castilleja of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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