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Speakers exhort collegians to elevate their lives for God

MOORE, Okla. (BP)–College students were encouraged to make their dream as big as the God who gave it to them during an Elevate conference sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

More than 800 students attended the two-day conference to help them discover their calling in life and give them a start toward living it out where they are right now.

Seven speakers talked about life-changing truths of knowing God’s plan, partnering with Him, how God equips and provides for mission, how to carry out His mission one step at a time and how answering God’s call brings His pleasure and changes the world.

A second Elevate 2005 Conference will be held Oct 14-15 at Auburn, Ala., with a similar lineup of speakers and musical groups, including Big Daddy Weave, By the Tree and Steve Fee. Registration information is available at www.elevate2005.com.

At the Oklahoma conference, Darren Patrick, founding pastor of the Journey Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in St. Louis, told the students they have a calling from God that is specific for them, but to understand that calling they have to understand what God has called them out of.

“We have a terrible theology today,” Patrick said. “We’re looking for God as if He’s lost. He’s not lost; we are. Christianity is not spelled d-o; it’s not what we do. It’s spelled d-o-n-e; it’s what Christ has done.”

It’s not that people have bad desires, but that they have average desires for something good, which become more important than God.

“Things like school, jobs, happy kids, sex are all good things,” Patrick said, “but if you make them the most important things, they are addictive, consuming and become the top priorities in your life. Your identity is wrapped up in them, and when they fail, you fail.”

David Nassar, who had to flee Iran as a boy and now has his own fulltime ministry, said everything in his life has purpose only if it is through Jesus Christ.

“As amazing as my wife is, I’m not guaranteed she’s going to be there for me tomorrow,” he noted. “If I bank my life on her and she’s gone, I don’t have a life.”

Recounting the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, Nasser said Jesus met the people at the point of their need.

“Jesus didn’t need the fish and bread, but He decided to use it so the little boy with the lunch and the disciples could be a part of a miracle,” he said. “When people come to our church, we should give them the best we have because it mimics the grace of God. That’s relevancy.”

Nasser told the students their generation is addicted to cool and relevant, and thus they want to make sure their church is cool and relevant.

“You want to see biblical relevancy?” he asked. “These people were hungry and their need was met. Relevancy is ministry. Jesus said He was the Bread of Life. When He met the woman at the well seeking water, He told her He was the living water. Jesus is about meeting people where they are.”

John Kilner, president and CEO of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Bannockburn, Ill., said God “calls each of us to be a part of something bigger than we are, and that’s called the Great Commission.

“That doesn’t mean it’s easy,” Kilner said. “It’s hard to follow Christ in a culture that has largely rejected Him. But no one has to go it alone.”

Kilner talked about challenges in genetic intervention, artificial organs, cybernetics, artificial intelligence and stem cell research that affect today’s generation.

“Much good can come from these technologies, but they can also be used for evil,” he said. “We are to do good, but not evil that good may result. We need wisdom, and God has it for us.”

Author Margaret Feinberg, who wrote “Twentysomething: Surviving and Thriving in the Real World,” said in doing interviews for the book she found the greatest challenge for young people today is loneliness.

“They are hungry for relationships,” she said. “That’s not about knowing 100 people, but knowing someone who really cares.”

Even though this generation is on the move and people are in and out of their lives, Feinberg said students can be on mission now.

“I started a Bible study when I was in college in North Carolina,” she said. “I still keep in touch with those girls today. Being on mission is opening our eyes to people around us, being Jesus to them.”

Victorya Rogers, an Oklahoma-based missionary to Hollywood, said there is a lot of glamour in Hollywood, but also a lot of backstabbing and ugly people.

“So many people have an attitude that they are owed something, and servanthood is lost,” Rogers said.

She encouraged the students to be great wherever God puts them because “you are a missionary there, and you can be either a good one or a bad one.”

John Strappazon, campus ministry specialist for the Oklahoma convention, told the gathering that God has a race for them to run, one not given in the form of a Rand-McNally map, but one that unfolds like a scroll of time as they work with Him and trust His directions.

Speaking from Hebrews 12:1-3, Strappazon said everyone’s race is the same in that it is run by faith, and everyone’s race is unique because of their backgrounds, experiences, gifts and abilities.

“And everyone’s race calls for endurance because the course is long with unexpected hills, turns and valleys,” he added. “Our race is best run with our wills in neutral. We have to want His race, His purpose before He will reveal it. He doesn’t show it and then we decide whether or not to do it.”

Strappazon noted that the race becomes clearer as “we run and move forward.”

Everyone’s race has one more thing in common,” he pointed out. “All are run for His, not our, glory.”

TV and movie star Kirk Cameron told the students his burning passion is winning people to Jesus.

The former star of the TV series “Growing Pains” and now of the “Left Behind” movie series said there are three ways to get on fire for God.

“We have to have faith, a love for God and compassion,” he said. “When we pray, we have to believe in God and His promises to us. The amount of belief will determine the amount of joy, which will translate into overflowing energy to go out and share what you know.”

Reading from the 15th chapter of Romans, Cameron said the Apostle Paul wasn’t discouraged because he loved God.

“He understood the cross, God’s supreme definition of love,” Cameron stated. “And perfect love will cast out fear of sharing the Gospel.”

Cameron said he believes there are three reasons people don’t witness — “we don’t believe we have the right to interfere in their lives, we don’t have time, and these people are strangers.”

“Are you living in a Christian bubble?” Cameron asked. “Make it a point to make friends with the lost. Ten out of 10 people die. No one wants to die. Speak to people’s conscious about the day God will pull out their sin, and how they can be forgiven and live forever.”

Sometimes, Cameron said, he sings to his six children.

“One of the songs is ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ but I don’t want to be a little light. I want to be a towering inferno for God.”

The final speaker, Randy Singer, who replaced NAMB President Robert E. Reccord, who was unable to attend because of work in the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast, said every Christian has a story to tell.

“Christ didn’t preach three-point sermons but told stories that left people scratching their heads,” Singer said. “When you tell a story, you speak to the heart. God still speaks in stories — the story people see in your life.”

Singer told the students God created them with a passion, and when they pursue that passion, they can change the world.

“God who created the universe has a plan for you to reach your campus,” Singer said. “He created a plan for your life that you can complete better than anyone in the world.”

Singer encouraged the students to dream big, multiply that dream by thousands, then dream even bigger.

“Don’t let your dream get beaten down by the drudgeries of life,” he said.

Singer explained to the students that they know how to worship and how to serve, but where they are weak is explaining the transforming power of Christianity.

“What we have is the only true religion,” he emphasized. “The way you show that to people is to go back to the resurrection and challenge anyone to show you another religion where the founder was dead and came back to life.

“If you aren’t ready to defend your faith, we’ll lose this country,” he concluded.

In addition to the main speakers, students were able to attend breakout sessions on such subjects as searching for a mate; entertainment and the arts; balancing life and work; searching for a job; and ministry and missions.

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  • Dana Williamson