November 4, 2016
East Texas Baptist University supported their mission to prepare graduates to be Christian servant leaders in their lives and through their professions at the second-annual Calling Conference on Oct. 26.
The conference began with a chapel service aimed at helping all students realize the opportunity to pursue God's calling in their lives no matter their major or future career. The keynote speaker Dr. Sam Dennis, Senior Pastor of Parkway Hills Baptist Church in Plano, advised students of their role in changing the world around them and their call to share the love of God and the truth of the gospel.
"God is really beginning to move in this school," Dennis observed, "and if God chooses to change the world from Marshall, Texas, He can do that." Throughout the chapel message, Dennis reminded students of their opportunity to fulfill their calling to share the gospel at a real point and place in time, beginning right where they are now as students at East Texas Baptist University.
For students considering God's call to vocational church-related ministry, the conference continued with a panel discussion and breakout sessions to help them clarify God's calling on their lives. Dr. Jeremy Greer, Assistant Professor of Religion notes that "While students may clearly sense [God's calling], they often find that the exact direction initially remains shrouded. We believe God can use the Calling Conference to clear the fog for many students so that they can begin to move from sensing God's call to pursuing it."
Through conversation with local ministers around tables, a panel discussion, and breakout sessions covering specific ministry areas, students had the opportunity to hear practical advice from experienced ministry leaders.
"In our conversations with students, we focused on how God uses experience and education in the process of calling. Each of the ministry leaders at the calling conference definitely could model and speak to both of those areas in their guidance to students." said Dr. Thomas Sanders, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and experienced children and youth ministry leader.
"I learned more about being in children's ministry that I can begin to apply now," part-time Children's Minister of First Baptist Church Marshall and ETBU junior Rebecca Wolff said. "The conference provided me with a handful of helpful tools and connections for when I need knowledge or support."
For some students, discerning God's call can be accompanied by doubt and hesitation. Dr. Dennis encouraged those students that God can use "crooked sticks to make straight lines. All you have to do is allow Him to do so." BGCT Children's Ministry Specialist, Diane Lane concurred reminding them that they need only to "make sure [their] journey is dependent on God."
"It was amazing to see how God worked through [the conference leaders'] lives to get them to where they are now," ETBU sophomore Conner Guthrie said. "I attended the conference because, lately, I have been feeling a little bit of doubt about my abilities to be a minister. I learned a lot at the conference, but the most important thing for me was seeing ministers that have been working for years sometimes still feel doubt. Knowing that others face those feelings gave me encouragement."