East Texas Baptist University hosted the fourth annual Calling Conference on Wednesday, September 26 for ETBU students exploring vocational ministry. The half-day conference equipped students with an in-depth understanding of specific callings by providing opportunities to hear from and dialogue with experienced ministry professionals.
“I find it rewarding and meaningful to participate in God’s Kingdom work through the next generation,” ETBU Director of Ministry Guidance Jeremy Greer shared. “I hope students were encouraged by their peers and the conference leaders, who are also pursuing God’s calling in their lives. To know that you are not alone, but a part of a larger group of people, who share this common experience of God’s calling can be so uplifting. I pray that students were challenged to give themselves over entirely to the calling God has placed on them.”
As a featured guest for the Calling Conference, Dr. Jeter Basden presented during the opening session and Academics breakout session. He is a Professor Emeritus of Religion and retired Director of Ministry Guidance at Baylor University. Teaching from Ephesians 4:11-12, Dr. Basden focused on calling.
“God calls all Christians to live as followers of Christ – God’s general call. God calls some individuals to vocational ministry – God’s particular call. The distinguishing quality is the equipping role,” Dr. Basden said. “God does the calling. To discern God's call, several factors should be considered. Among the factors are biblical examples, a developing spiritual life, personal desires, gifts and abilities, counsel of others, circumstances, feelings, and willingness. One should pray, expressing willingness to follow God in whatever God's will is. God promises to guide.”
First Baptist Church-Tyler Senior Pastor Pike Wisener led the chapel service and Pastoral Ministry breakout session. He has ministered at FBC-Tyler since 2011 and previously served as the Associate Pastor of Teaching at Park Cities Baptist in Dallas for over 14 years. Wisener earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from Florida State University and graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He challenged students to trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they discern a call to ministry.
“I believe the only way to embrace and fulfill our calling is to seek the Lord and walk with Him daily, relying on the Holy Spirit to develop and mature us for our God-given assignment,” Wisener expressed. “My prayer is that you, students, will be encouraged and inspired to pursue your unique calling in Christ, while grappling and preparing for the unique difficulties you will face in a life dedicated to the service of our Lord and His Church.”
Other Calling Conference breakout sessions were led by Tallowood Baptist Church-Houston Children’s Education Minister Lisa Keeling, Hub Urban Ministries Founder and Director Cassie Hammett, ETBU Assistant Professor of Worship Chris Smith, and First Baptist Church-Tyler Minister to Students Casey Cockrell.
“God took all of the mess of my life, all of the brokenness of who I was, every season I’ve ever walked through and purposed it – not just for my future, but for the countless broken people in the world,” Hammett said. “My brokenness served as a catalyst that was necessary for others to find Christ. I learned quickly that ministry had little to do with me; I am just a vessel that He has chosen to work through.”
In addition to breakout sessions, the conference speakers participated in a discussion-oriented panel. Students were given the opportunity to ask questions, and many expressed that they gained confidence in their future vocational callings as a result.
“The Panel Discussion made a significant impact on me,” ETBU senior and Religion major Daniel Crosslin commented. “The most influential quote was, ‘Ministry is being, not doing.’ This mindset suggests that we should focus our time building relationships. Overall, the conference confirmed my calling to vocational ministry as I reflected on my convictions and giftedness. I am pursuing children’s ministry with a concentration on pre-teens, and my true desire for this age group is that they apply all they’re learning and rise to be leaders of the faith.”