FAYETTEVILLE – ”If you don’t love people, do not go into the ministry,” said Aaron Matthews, senior pastor at First Baptist Church Lowell.
Along with a panel of two women and two men, Matthews addressed a crowd of high school and college students–possible future church planters, pastors and missionaries– who sensed a call to the ministry. Each panel member detailed their call-to-the-ministry testimony, gave advice on how to succeed in ministry and answered questions from students attending Explore Your Call training.
Explore Your Call is a new ministry sponsored by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC). The free, regional opportunity was held Sept. 19 from 6-8 p.m. at Cross Church, Fayetteville.
“Through various events, Explore Your Call wants to connect those called to ministry with current pastors, student pastors, children’s pastors, worship pastors, missionaries and church planters as well as give opportunity for group trainings and networking,” said Lynn Loyd, missions consultant for the ABSC.
“Since the beginning of the church, God has raised up leaders to shepherd, and He continues to do that today,” said Warren Gasaway, event moderator. Gasaway is on the ABSC Church Health Team and oversees Super Summer Arkansas and Explore Your Call. “Arkansas Baptists want to be a part of His plan as He equips leaders to advance the Kingdom. Students sensing a call will identify with the ones who walk with them while God is calling. We want to be faithful to Him and to them.”
Before the panel spoke, students shared in round-table discussions led by ABSC leaders. Each student answered questions like: Where are you in the process of discerning God’s call? What fears do you have about surrendering to God’s call? How are you currently serving in your church?
Adeline Boyd told people at her table that she knew God’s plan for her already. “I’m called to missions,” said the Fayetteville High School senior. “I love Haiti! It’s my favorite place ever. I’ve been four times. It’s where I’m supposed to be. I will intern there next summer, come back, go to school for education and go back to maybe teach teachers in Haiti or have a class of my own.”
Collin Seelye, 21, said God’s plan for him is not specific, but he feels led to “some form of missions.” “I came tonight because I’ve been exploring my call to missions and how it’s going to look in my life,” said the University of Arkansas student who leads music at First Baptist Church in Huntsville.
Associate ABSC Executive Director Greg Addison told students that people may discourage their call. “They may say, ‘ministry is awful; don’t go to church work; the church is falling apart; the ministry is too hard.’ Let me tell you what God says,” he said, referring to I Tim. 3:1. “The Bible said it’s a valuable thing to desire to be a minister. We have the privilege to serve the church of Jesus Christ.” Addison said he practiced law for six years before surrendering to God’s call. “I would not trade a single (ministry) moment for anything I could’ve done as a lawyer,” he said, adding that he’s been in the ministry for 20 years.
“I’m very glad I came,” said Wade Wilson after the event. “ I liked getting to ask questions from others who are at the same stage in life as I am.” The high school junior from First Baptist Church Rogers said he feels called to be a pastor. “Now I feel like I need to be preparing–to read my Bible daily and develop my relationship with God–so when I become a pastor, I can do the best job I can.”
This was the third regional training event across the state. Loyd said the event which met at Second Baptist in Conway had 120 overall and 70 students; the one at Williams Baptist College had 65 overall in attendance and 30 students, while the Fayetteville meeting had 70 overall in attendance and 35 students.
Lisa Falknor writes for the College and Young Leaders Team and is a northwest Arkansas regional correspondent for the Arkansas Baptist News.