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‘Whatever’ is a good ministry response, college students told

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (BP)–“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It was a logical question to pose to the more than 2,000 Southern Baptist college students attending Student Week ’97 conferences in Lake Junaluska, N.C., and Glorieta, N.M., between Aug. 9-15. But the emerging adults were challenged to think about more than just whether they’ll become a doctor, lawyer or banker; they were encouraged to begin exploring ways they can serve Christ, whatever their career path.
The theme for the conferences, sponsored by the Baptist Sunday School Board’s national student ministry, was “Whatever!”, a word often used by young people as either a flippant or agreeable response. The Student Week theme, however, was tied to scripture: “Let every detail in our lives — words, actions, whatever — be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way (Colossians 3:17).”
For some, “whatever” is a cry of openness or anticipation, Doug Dortch, pastor of First Baptist Church of Tallahassee, Fla., said during the opening worship service at the Lake Junaluska conference. “But sometimes the cry of ‘whatever’ is a cry of emptiness.
“You are part of the first generation that is not optimistic about your future; you believe it is going to be worse for you than your parents,” Dortch said. “But in our better moments, we know there is something more. God cares for your generation. Life is worth living, many verses in the Word of God tell us that.”
Dortch acknowledged most college students are at a stage in life “where you’re looking for a little focus, clamoring for a little guidance and direction. … God will call you to a place where your joy in life, your passion, intersects with human need.”
Serving God, Dortch said, won’t come without a price.
He told the story of pulling into a gas station, in a hurry, only to find cars lined up by every set of pumps. Then he noticed one set of pumps off to the side with no cars. He hurriedly drove his car over, only then noticing a sign that read, “Full Service.”
“Nobody was there because nobody wants full service anymore. Why? It’s too costly. It’s true in life; and it’s true in faith, too. … But Jesus isn’t calling us to partial service. He’s not talking about self service. He’s talking about full service, doing whatever it takes, sacrificing ourselves for others and sharing the love of Christ.”
At Junaluska, the students heard from adults representing a variety of career paths, including:
— Annemarie Dugan, a television news anchor from Johnson City, Tenn.
“God gives us these perfect little gifts of opportunities called crises,” Dugan said. “It’s an opportunity to show someone a glimpse of your faith in action.”
She told the story of how she almost missed an opportunity to minister to a broken, non-Christian co-worker “because I couldn’t get past the sin in his life. … I’ve had to ask myself, ‘How many times, Lord, have I failed you? How many times have I turned my back on you because I couldn’t get past someone else’s sin?”
Dugan told students it is her prayer they “will be the voice of Christ, so that people will run to him instead of away from him.”
— Jack Little, director of church and community services for the Charleston (S.C.) Baptist Association. He said 56 people were involved in summer missions this year through “Charleston Outreach,” which ministers to people in all walks of life from sailors and surfers to migrant workers and inner city children.
“God works through folks like you to help change our community,” Little told the students. “Whatever it is God calls you to do, remember, missions is a lifestyle.”
— Frank Murphy, a full-time professional artist and part-time director of the Baptist Student Union at Floyd Community College in Rome, Ga. During his presentation to students, Murphy did a sketch of the “praying hands,” explaining our hands represent our gifts in action for God. He urged students to “use those gifts unselfishly to do God’s work.”
— David Howard, a former student minister and now a full-time potter in Gatlinburg, Tenn. While making pots and a pitcher during a service, he recounted the story of how the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah learned about hope through a visit to a potter’s house. “God can transform your life like the potter transforms clay into something of value,” Howard said. He urged to students to remember whatever God calls them to do, “you are a vessel that is meant to be used.”
— Keith Naylor, a musician and founder of Zaccheus Ministries in Atlanta. Through self-composed songs, dry humor and a vulnerable testimony, Naylor shared with students about the “incomparable love and grace of God.”
He urged them not to label non-Christians, but to build relationships with them and love them as Christ does.
“God calls you to be the servant of all and to serve people without agendas,” he said. “My definition of evangelism is getting so close to an individual that they can touch Jesus in you.”
— Robert Pepper, a Southern Baptist medical missionary to the West African nation of Guinea.
One of the reasons he chose the medical profession, Pepper said, was that he believed saving someone’s life was the best thing a person could do for another human being.
He told the students he went through four years of college without accepting Christ, despite the efforts of his three Christian roommates. However, during his third year of medical school, he began dealing with the real life tragedies of the patients he encountered.
“In a way, science was my God, so I didn’t have anything to tell these people, no way to really help.”
Eventually, he was invited to and became involved in a Southern Baptist church, heard the gospel and accepted Christ.
“I’ve learned that the greatest thing you can do for another person is to tell them about Jesus Christ, not save their life. Everyone is going to die sometime, but eternal life is exactly that; it lasts forever.”

    About the Author

  • Chip Alford