Conference teaches collegians to defend the gospel’s exclusivity

Communications Staff — March 17, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Focusing on the question “Is Jesus the only way?” more than 1,000 college students converged on Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for a “Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference.”

Students from as far north as Minnesota, as far south as Georgia and as far west as Oklahoma returned to their campuses to minister more effectively in today’s postmodern culture after the weekend event, said Scott Davis, director of admissions at Southern.

The third in a series of annual collegiate conferences at the Louisville, Ky., campus, the Feb. 21-22 sessions featured seminary faculty addressing a potpourri of topics related to the exclusivity of the gospel. Seminar titles ranged from “How Can You Evangelize but Not Antagonize?” to “Who’s Right, Christ or Cults?” to “Is the Doctrine of Hell Necessary?”

For Ken Schmidt, college minister at First Evangelical Free Church of Maplewood, Minn., the conference has become a staple of his college ministry calendar. Two years ago he brought 10 students, a number that increased to 20 last year and 32 for this year’s event.

“For the students, this is the most popular option we have of any of the conferences we go to,” Schmidt said. “There are all kinds of conferences they have a chance to go to, and this is the most popular one. …This is the one they want to go to.”

Speaking of this year’s topic, Schmidt said, “This one is really relevant for us because we’re out on college campuses sharing the gospel. We’re dealing with these issues.”

Schmidt cited solid biblical content combined with immediate relevance as an attraction of the conference, with Davis reporting that other attendees gave similar input. “Many students stated that they thought very seriously about their faith and found encouragement in a world that does not love the things of Christ,” Davis said.

“We have heard many gracious comments about how the Lord seemed to use the conference for equipping collegians for ministry on their campuses and in their churches. That, in addition to the sheer numerical response, indicates to me that the conference was a success.”

Plans for next year’s conference are already in the works, Davis said, with the 2004 “Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference” to be subtitled, “Has God Spoken?” and dealing with such issues as epistemology — how humans come to know what they know, the sufficiency of Scripture and biblical inerrancy.

Workshops on Bible teaching, hermeneutics and interpreting difficult passages of Scripture will supplement keynote addresses by Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Daniel L. Akin, senior vice president for academic administration.

Many churches have already indicated that they plan to attend next year’s collegiate conference, with some even writing it into their yearly budget, Davis said. For a conference that began as a “low-key” recurring event three years ago, he said such progress is a remarkable work of God toward equipping college students for life and ministry.

Among next year’s attendees may very well be Patrick Stewart, pastor of the First Baptist Church of St. Charles, Ill., who has told organizers he wishes he had attended the previous conferences at Southern. “I’ve looked at some of the topics they’ve had, and I‘ve said, ‘How did I miss making that a priority?’” he said.

“I know that any subject they deal with here is going to have theological integrity,” Stewart said. “It’s going to have depth. It’s going to be solid.”

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