March 5, 2021
East Texas Baptist University celebrated its annual Spiritual Renewal activities on campus with worship services and through prayer and reflection with the extended ETBU family the week of February 15. This year’s theme, “Unite,” was inspired by Paul’s call for unity and restoration with God and one another found in 2 Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
“In the midst of our racial, cultural, and intellectual diversity we believe that unity is found in Christ,” ETBU Dean of Spiritual Life Scott Stevens said. “Our prayer is that students would take a brief pause from their normal campus routines and encounter God in these services in a way that would lead to personal and corporate restoration.”
The schedule for the week highlighted nightly worship services and Chapel services featuring guest speaker Rechab Gray, who currently serves as a church plant resident with Fellowship Church Memphis. While Spiritual Renewal worship was supposed to be led by Jimmy McNeal, worship leader at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, the weather prevented his travel and worship was facilitated by members of the student-led worship team.
“Our guest speaker Rechab Gray connects with young adults by bringing great energy and authenticity to his preaching style along with a desire that everyone comes to know the joy of our Lord through embracing Jesus Christ,” Dr. Stevens added. “Our desire is that these gatherings would spark a greater movement of God on our campus that would spill out into our community.”
Gray earned a degree in Engineering from Temple University in Philadelphia then worked on staff at Epiphany Fellowship in various roles. Because of the inclement winter weather, Gray spoke in Chapel via Zoom, and inspired students to be united through holiness found in Jesus.
“The world would say that the way of having unity, the way of bringing different people from different walks together, is actually by never stepping on one another's toes,” Gray said. “We sometimes bring these ideas into the church, and it causes friction. So we try to figure out why we are not united, and it's because we are not united in this key concept called holiness. Scripture doesn't say simply imitate God, rather it says become imitators of God. It’s not an issue of doing, it’s an issue of becoming.”
During the week prior, the University opened up spiritual renewal to the community and invited everyone to join in this special time of prayer. In spite of the inclement weather and subsequent water loss on the ETBU campus, the University united to face the challenges at hand and focus on the power of prayer and praise.
“Due to the snow, several other students on campus and I filled in as worship leaders,” junior mass communication major Carleigh Walker said. “What made this spiritual renewal so unique is that it was in the middle of a pandemic and a snow storm. As crazy and chaotic as it might seem during times like this, it was such a sweet reminder that God is still sovereign over all. The word that Rechab brought lead to me having many great intentional conversations with my peers. From talking to other students, I know they did the same. It also reminded me how important Christ-centered community is, and how blessed we are as ETBU students to find that community here.”