By Marilyn Stewart
SANTA FE, N.M. — For the 1700 students at Collegiate Week, Glorieta, the challenge to impact the world for Christ came with a reminder that theirs is a generation that longs to be connected.
Fred “Chip” Luter III, pastor of the Sulphur Springs campus of Idlewild Baptist Church, Fla., told the students gathered for the opening evening worship that reconciliation in Christ unites them though they come from varied ethnic, socio-economic, and geographic backgrounds.
“You come here and immediately you have something in common,” Luter said. Reminding the students that reconciliation is the demonstration of what Christ accomplished in salvation, he said, “That connects us all in this room. We get to be ambassadors for Christ.”
Tony Merida, founding pastor of Imago Dei Church, Raleigh, N.C., and co-general editor of the forthcoming Christ-Center Exposition commentary series by B&H Publishing, and Vance Pitman, senior pastor of Hope Church, Las Vegas, also spoke during the evening worship services.
Merida, co-author of the book “Orphanology,” drew a theology of adoption from scripture to underscore that Christians are adopted into God’s family and that salvation cannot be earned. Using his own experience as an adoptive father, Merida said salvation is not based on performance; the church is a community; and adoption by God should illicit adoration and spur believers on to do missions.
Merida challenged the students to live out the Gospel by living for others.
“The Gospel makes us others-oriented. It makes us cross-oriented,” Merida said. “The more I meditate on the cross, the more I have love for others.”
Breakout sessions included topics such as “Sharing Jesus with Muslims and Hindus;” “Dealing with Doubt;” “Understanding and Responding to the New Atheism;” “Same Sex Attraction and Holiness in an Age of Gender Confusion;” “Apologetics and Art;” and others.
More than $12,000 was collected to assist collegiate ministries in emerging regions, areas outside the “Bible belt,” setting a new record for the annual offering.
Arliss Dickerson, campus ministry consultant for LifeWay, said some ministries focus on bringing incoming freshmen to the conference. The goal is to help new students establish spiritual priorities at the start of the their college careers.
“It really is starting them off in a strong way in terms of their relationship with the Lord,” Dickerson said. “That is significant.”
Blake Newsom, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary assistant professor of expository preaching, addressed the biblical concept of manhood in a session for men only. Newsom said that in a culture that glorifies Caitlin Jenner, a man who identifies as a woman, the distinction between men and women has been erased.
“There’s not very much affirmation out there for men to be empowered to be the men that God created them to be,” Newsom said.
Newsom said he believed the session encouraged the students and provided clarity on the issue. Secular culture is bombarding young adults with the wrong messages and the church must address the issue, Newsom said.
“God has given me a heart for this generation coming up,” Newsom said. “This generation is being advertised to and sold on things in a way no other generation has.”
As the culture continues to shift away from Christian values, collegiate ministry leaders face challenging situations, Dickerson said. The collegiate conference provides leaders needed support, Dickerson said.
“A lot of these folks work by themselves,” Dickerson said. “Many serve in areas where Baptist work is not large, so for them it’s a huge encouragement to be together with those who share the same commitment. You hear the word ‘family’ here, a lot.”
Dickerson said the biblical term “ambassadors for Christ” resonates with college students. Many students find the word “witness” to be intimidating but that ambassador fits with how they relate to others.
Special breakout sessions for leaders focused on plans for discipleship, tools for building collegiate ministries, and support resources for leadership, and other topics.
Steve Masters, Louisiana State University BCM director, said one benefit of the week is the amount of interpersonal time students have with others. Though technology may cut into time together, students have the same desire for personal relationships as other generations, Masters said.
Masters, a 35-year veteran of college ministry, said, like earlier generations, students need to be reached with the Gospel and need to grow in the faith. Forty-eight came with the LSU group.
“Spending quality time with other believers is crucial,” Masters said.
In the final worship service, Merida challenged the students to live boldly for Christ and to reflect the Gospel in their lives.
“When you become a Christian, you see the world differently,” Merida said. “Becoming a Christian is an explosion. It changes your worldview. It gives you new affections.”