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Sisters, friends are born again at seminary’s youth meetings

NEW ORLEANS (BP)– Following the leader should not be a game played in the spiritual realm, five teenagers at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary discovered in April at Campus Youth Challenge events.
Two sisters and three other friends, all children of seminary students or staff members, were confronted this spring with the realization that what they had thought were personal salvation experiences years earlier actually were not.
Campus Youth Challenge, a ministry started in 1992 specifically for teens living on the New Orleans Seminary campus, provides opportunities to enjoy fellowship, praise and worship, Bible studies, games and other activities every Thursday evening.
This spring CYC director Mickey Little brought up the topic of depression and its various forms and included a discussion about certainty of salvation.
For 16-year-old Daniel Bene, hearing and experiencing Little’s compassion for the teens, together with hearing a seminary chapel message in April presented by Fred Luter, was all he needed to realize he wanted to be certain he was right with God.
One phrase from Luter, pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, had stuck with Bene: “It’s too soon to quit.”
When the topic of assurance of salvation was raised again that night during the CYC meeting, he realized he originally prayed to receive Christ as a child because other family members were doing so. “I just felt like it was something I was supposed to do,” he said.
But his decision to receive Christ that Thursday night was different because he really wanted it on his own, he said. Bene is the son of Alton and Patricia Bene, native New Orleanians and staff members at New Orleans Seminary led to Christ in 1979 by a former NOBTS employee witnessing one afternoon in the neighborhood near the seminary and who later discipled the couple. Alton has been the seminary’s plumber since 1989; Patricia is a secretary of the radio station.
Sisters Melanie and Ashley Winn also had previous experiences of praying for salvation. Right before they moved to the seminary in 1995 for their father, Allen Winn, to begin his seminary training, they attended a Vacation Bible School event in their hometown of Brunswick, Ga. During the VBS, Melanie said she became afraid she would have to live with the devil if she did not pray. Ashley said she was just doing what she saw her big sister do.
The sisters said they knew they had not truly received God’s gift of salvation at that time and had thought about it frequently over the years. But because they had been baptized, they rationalized they had done what they needed do to be born again.
Ashley said her doubts continued to bother her until this spring when she could not put off any longer knowing for certain she had forgiveness.
She and her sister prayed together to receive Christ at an April CYC meeting and made their decision public during the Easter Sunday service at their church. They were baptized the following week.
Hoping other teens would be challenged to make the same decision, Ashley said, “You can’t assume that (people are) Christians just because they’re your friends and they act good.”
Other teens who prayed to receive Christ in April were Bach Dang and Matt Conley, both children of seminary students.
Little expressed a deep concern for other children of seminary students, both at NOBTS and at other seminaries, who have similar unresolved spiritual concerns. With their parents on the verge of going into full-time ministry, righting past wrongs will be even harder for them once they live in the spotlight of being the minister’s children.
Bene and the Winns agreed that coming forward when family and friends had assumed they were Christians was not an easy thing to do.
However, “I realized God is the one who’s looking at me more than my friends, so I really didn’t need to be afraid,” Bene said.

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