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Student Week leaders: Belief doesn’t always equal behavior

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–The sign outside the door reads “Tough Questions … and How to Answer Them.” Inside, more than 200 students pack the room and the discussion heats up.

“Why is drinking wrong?” one student asks. “Jesus drank in the Bible — drinking in moderation should be OK.”

Jane Blythe, associate for students from the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, leads the discussion. She responds with a question. “You guys in college, do you make more of an impact in your witness by drinking or not drinking?”

One young man stands up. “When we go to frat parties on our campus, those of us in BCM [Baptist Collegiate Ministries] drink water. The other guys tell us all the time how cool they think we are because we still hang out with them and don’t ‘dawg’ them for drinking.”

Still another student offers a challenge. “I wouldn’t even have the chance to witness to some of my friends if I didn’t share a beer with them sometimes. That’s what Martin Luther did, isn’t it?”

During Student Week, Aug. 2-7 at LifeWay Glorieta (N.M.) Conference Center, more than 3,000 college students from around the country faced tough questions — from sharing one’s faith to understanding and living out Christian convictions. Sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, the week’s theme of “Belief = Behavior” was intended to give students’ faith a wakeup call through challenging workshops and inspiring sessions led by speakers that included Greg Pinkner, Tim Elmore and Voddie Baucham.

Kristen Toussaint, a senior from the University of New England in North Berwick, Maine, felt challenged early in the week. “I tell God I need Him all the time, but you don’t see it in my behavior and my life. I asked God, ‘Why is that?’ After listening to Greg, I discovered the answer — God wasn’t Lord of my life.”

Toussaint received Christ at age 11 when a friend invited her to Vacation Bible School but said she hasn’t always been “sold out” in her faith.

“I’ve really learned this week that there’s this plate of knowledge and blessings in front of me, and I haven’t made the full effort that I could,” she said. She’s made a commitment to memorize one Scripture verse a week. “I’m praying this will be an amazing year. I’m ready.”


Several of the workshops focused on other belief systems such as relativism, Islam, New Age and atheism. Students — particularly those attending public universities — frequently talked about how classmates challenged their beliefs.

Mason Davis, a sophomore at New Mexico State, has studied Mormonism, Buddhism and Catholic doctrine.

“I hit a crisis in my own life when I was put in a position to question what I believe,” he said. “I mean, why am I right and they’re wrong? But I’m finding the answers.”

“There’s a trap we have fallen into,” Voddie Baucham noted in one of his sessions. “We live in this age of experience. We say there’s value in reading the Bible ‘because it worked for me.’ But if we use that logic, then we have to believe a Muslim who says the Koran works for him. We are growing weaker in our understanding of the Bible and our ability to defend it.”

Everything is accepted as true in an age of relativism. Students are being challenged to know exactly what they believe and how to share their beliefs with their non-Christian friends. The responsibility is difficult for many.

“It’s hard on a college campus because everyone is so open-minded,” Hal Whitacre, a junior at New Mexico State, said. “It’s difficult to argue with someone who accepts everything, but isn’t willing to accept Christianity, because [they believe] it’s too exclusive.”

Even the idea of who Jesus is can result in different viewpoints. While most of the opposition agrees that Jesus did exist, the majority recognizes him as a good man or prophet. What Jesus is to a Christian may be completely different to someone else. That’s pluralism.

Baucham, assessing that kind of thinking, told the students speaking tongue-in-cheek, “Imagine that you leave this conference, you go back home and you tell your friends about this great speaker, Voddie Baucham. To which they respond, ‘Oh yeah, Voddie Baucham — that little white guy from Mississippi.”

Baucham is African American and a former football player at Rice University.

“Now, you have two options — you can either say, ‘That’s somebody else,’ or ‘That’s your interpretation,'” Baucham said as the crowd chuckled.

“What’s not funny is that people will say that about Jesus, and we say, ‘That’s your interpretation,’ but Jesus is not up for interpretation. The question is not ‘who Jesus is to me’ but ‘who Jesus is — period.'”


“The experience I’ve had this week has almost been like coming out of a prison camp,” said Bryan Haakerson, a senior at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. It was his first time at Student Week, and for Haakerson who has grown up in the predominantly Mormon state his entire life, it has meant freedom. “Living in Utah where there’s such a domineering religion — the reality is you just don’t talk about your faith.”

Afshin Ziafat knows just how difficult it can be. Born into a devout Muslim family, Ziafat was disowned by his father after becoming a Christian in his senior year of high school. Now an interfaith associate with the North American Mission Board, he stresses the importance of personal evangelism on the college campus.

“You cannot separate you being saved from you being sent [to share Jesus with others],” Ziafat told a class of students as he related the parable of the blind man who is healed by Christ. “You can’t divorce the two.

“God has called all of us to open our mouths — and we’re not doing it enough,” Ziafat said. The importance of one-to-one evangelism is evident. More than 85 percent of Christians accepted Christ because of a personal witness, Ziafat said.

The challenge really goes to the heart of the student and whether knowledge of the Bible is sought after and lived out, he said, echoing the emphasis by almost all of the speakers that students must think about what they say they believe — and how that belief is lived out in the process.

“I think that we sometimes give students the do’s and don’ts, but we don’t give them the whys,” Blythe said. “They have to come to their own conclusions and their own convictions, but we need to provide the tools and the resources that will make them think.”

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  • Sara Horn