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New birth, sense of call, rededications sparked by student missions conference

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Students at the “MPACT” Missions Conference didn’t just come to Fort Worth, Texas, to hear about missions; they came to do missions. And at least one youngster is grateful they did.

Part of the annual conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary involved going into the community to conduct sports clinics, help with apartment and homeless ministries and perform “random acts of kindness,” a ministry that presents the gospel by first “randomly” meeting a need of the person being reached.

Elise Jeffries, a freshman from Oklahoma Baptist University, went with other students to Cornerstone Ministries, which works with homeless people in Fort Worth. As she prepared to pass out flyers for an upcoming picnic for children in the neighborhood, she encountered Marana, a fifth-grader, on a swing.

“I asked her if I could tell her the best story in the whole world,” Jeffries recounted.

After the child agreed, Jeffries presented the gospel using a bracelet with five different colored beads, each representing a Bible verse sharing God’s truth.

As soon as Jeffries finished the presentation, she asked Marana if she would like to accept the gift of Jesus Christ. Marana said she would.

“She understood [the gospel] so well and realized she needed it,” said Jeffries, who explained to Marana the importance of “really meaning it” when accepting the gift.

“Afterwards, she knew she was going to heaven,” Jeffries recounted. Marana also promised Jeffries she would share Christ with her little brother, Fidel, when she got home.

As a result of the conference, Jeffries said she feels a new energy for sharing Christ.

“God has really burdened my heart for people,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of fear about it, but this weekend he reaffirmed more and more that it is completely in his power.”

Jeffries was not alone. Thirteen other students at the Feb. 25-27 conference surrendered to missions, and 10 rededicated themselves to the ministry Christ had called them to do.

In addition to hands-on experience, the 181 students, from high school, college and seminary, learned about missions through a number of messages and encounter groups.

Charles Lyons, pastor of Armitage Baptist Church in Chicago, stressed the importance of Christians reaching the inner cities in mission work, which he noted is an often-forgotten aspect of ministry.

“Reaching the cities is not a way, it is the New Testament strategy,” Lyons asserted, noting Jesus and the apostle Paul both ministered in cities. “What happens in the inner city influences the entire city.”

The major issues facing society today, such as pornography, drugs, gangs and school violence, were prevalent primarily in the inner city a generation ago, but now they are everywhere, Lyons noted.

A main hindrance in effective ministry in the city or mission field is cross-cultural barriers, he said.

“The greatest cultural gap there is is the gap between heaven and earth. God bridges that gap,” he said, reminding students God will also bridge gaps for those who minister in his name.

“When you take any authority you have, any insight and knowledge, any ability you have and give it away, you build a bridge of relationship. You build a bridge of trust and on the bridge of trust you drive the truck of truth,” he said.

It is no longer necessary to leave the United States to do world missions, Lyons said, because “God has moved masses of people … to our doorstep.”

Instead of developing new strategies to reach the people God is bringing, Christians need to look to his Word for the method Jesus used, Lyons said.

“It is not up to us to devise new strategies,” the pastor continued. “Christ models cross-cultural ministry. He has lived it before us.” Christ studied the needs of those he served, Lyons said, adding, “There are needs all around us, and we can meet them.”

As Christians meet needs, they should also model the love of Christ, Lyons said, because “those being ministered to are waiting to see the power and life of Jesus for real in somebody’s life.”

Neal McClendon, a youth motivational speaker from Sugarland, Texas, spoke to the students about seeking God and looking for his call on their lives.

“Before there is a call to ministry, there is a call to God,” McClendon said. “Before you set yourself apart to do missions overseas or in the states or wherever, before you do anything, you need to set yourself apart and consecrate yourself to God.”

God’s call is too big for Christians to handle on their own, and they must rely on him, giving him the glory, McClendon said.

He encouraged the students to focus on God, not God’s children, as they looked for God’s call on their lives. By keeping a God-centered focus, McClendon said, they can more easily recognize God’s will and purpose.

“God is calling out [Christians] into this world and he’s not going lose anybody he has called,” McClendon said. “It is not an issue of, Is the work going to be done if I don’t go do it? But the issue is, Are you going to be obedient or are you going to be disobedient?”

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  • Robyn Little