Every year Student Life holds student conferences in the middle of the year to train students in evangelism and discipleship, and to develop them in their faith. This time is a highlight for many of the students who attend as they are challenged to trust God in new ways, and often make friendships that last a lifetime. Peter Somervell (pastor at Grace Church in Nelson) attended Student Life’s South Island conference this year as the main speaker giving messages on our identity in Christ. This is what he wrote in response to his time there …
When I boarded the plane in Nelson on Saturday heading to a Student Life conference, I did so with mixed feelings. There was a sense of excitement about what God was going to do in the lives of those I would be ministering to. But there was also a sense of anxiety: How would I be received? Would the content of my messages be suitable for my hearers? Would I be able to connect with them? By the second day those fears had faded. By the third day they had disappeared altogether. On the final day, I didn’t want to leave.
The conference was in Queenstown (I know, suffering for the Lord – right?). I’ve never been to Queenstown in the winter and I have to say, it’s worth it. The views are breath-taking. The camp was positioned right on the lake front with 360⁰ views of mountains, towering above us on all sides. Each morning I would walk out of the dining room on to the balcony of the camp building and gaze at the awesome scene in front of me.
Let me tell you a little about Student Life. Student life (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) operates on eight of our university campuses – Auckland, AUT, Waikato, Massey Albany, Massey Wellington, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago. Their mission is “to turn lost students into Christ-centred labourers.” From what I saw over those five days, they are right on target.
There were around 80 students attending, all at different stages of their study and their Christian journey. Each year that a student attends a conference, they are part of a training track where they are equipped to share their faith, grow in their relationship with God, disciple new believes and then in their final year of study, learn how to live and speak for Jesus in the workplace.
Once my job was done (speaking at the morning session), I jumped into one of these tracks to see what they do. I was suitably impressed. By the time a student has finished university, they are fully equipped to make disciples and have likely been on at least one or two summer missions. They learn that life is not about making lots of money and being successful in their careers. It’s about serving Christ and reaching the lost. If we could replicate this kind of equipping in the lives of those who attend our local churches, it would turn the world upside down.
I was also impressed with the caliber of the staff. After finishing their degree and completing their training, a student can apply to be a staff member. They raise their own financial support and work on campus full-time. I know the pressures of full-time ministry. I’m a pastor. But I don’t have to raise my own financial support. And I don’t lose a third of my congregation every year. Nor do I wear myself out silly, staying up to all hours of the night talking with students who don’t understand the meaning or need for sleep. I take my hat off to these leaders. Their reward is in heaven.
They do experience however, a measure of reward here on the earth. It comes in the form of life – new spiritual life. And if you are a follower of Jesus, you know that nothing is more thrilling and more exhilarating than seeing people come to faith. There were a number of students attending this conference who were not Christians. They were part of what they call the “explorers track.” While the others were in training sessions, they were learning all about the Christian faith. On the second day, one of them gave her life to Christ.
On my last day, while waiting for my flight at the airport, I received a phone call from one of the staff members: three more students had just committed their lives to Christ.
I don’t get to see this sort of thing in my church. Conversions are (sadly) few and require an immense amount of patience and hard work. I’m not saying the leaders at Student Life don’t work hard.
They do. It’s just that the people they are working with are young men and women in their prime who are making life-altering decisions. You couldn’t catch them at a better time. Four young individuals, who were previously bound for eternal separation with God, have now become children of God. Heaven rejoices. And so do I.
I’ll never forget these five days. I’ve never bonded with a group so quickly in such a brief period of time. I feel as if part of me was left there and I have taken part of them back home with me. Thanks Enoch and the leadership team for inviting me. May God continue to use your ministry to bring more people into his heavenly kingdom and may many more young men and women be equipped for serving the Saviour and seeking the lost.
This article was first published at https://petersomervell.wordpress.com
Do you know a university student who would like to be trained to share their faith and disciple others? Point them towards Student Life on their campus. Do you know someone who has questions about the Christian faith? You can download the Explore studies and start a discussion with them.