Students Urged to Accept God’s Call, Leap into Action

Post a Comment » Written on July 17th, 2009     
Filed under: News
By Stan Friedman

KNOXVILLE, TN (July 17, 2009) – The house was jumping when Pastor Efrem Smith commissioned the 5,500 students at CHIC2009’s final worship service to return to their “undone” communities and make a world of difference.

Preaching from the first chapter of Jeremiah, in which God calls the youthful prophet to ministry, Smith declared to the people whose lives had been changed that, “Your very life is a testament to a local church in the Covenant somewhere praying for you, believing in you, travailing in the spirit for your life, and you must go back and continue work that is behind those prayers.”

Smith said the call on the students’ lives is rooted in their baptism: All of this was about the community that is the Covenant believing in God’s plan for you, praying for you, claiming God’s justification and grace and wholeness and cleansing on you. And now you have an opportunity and stand up and say your prayer’s been answered, pastor. You’re prayer’s been answered, youth minister. You’re prayer’s been answered, grandmother.”

EfremSmith gave two cautions regarding their call from God, telling them that they should not return home thinking they have to solve the problems of the entire world. “I don’t want you to feel so weighed down that you don’t make a difference,” Smith said. God will show you how to minister to a particular community.

“Don’t go home stupid,” he said, evoking much laughter. “That’s a spiritual word for somebody,” he said with a broad smile. “Don’t have the spirit of stupid! Don’t go home all religious. Don’t go home thinking that you’re better than everyone else, because the truth of the matter is that you’re still undone.”

Although the students should go back to their communities with humility, they also return to their communities “anointed, appointed, equipped and empowered,” he advised.

He suggested the students will return to their communities not only with a call, but with a vision as well. The events of the past week will enable them to see everyone around them in a new way, with new possibilities for change.

Smith said he gave his life to Christ while a sophomore in high school because a friend named Joey returned from a youth conference and shared his own life that had been changed.

“Go back pouring out God’s amazing love,” Smith implored. “Go back and be an extension of God’s forgiveness.”

Smith said the students will need to return with courage rather than the fear they still may have despite receiving God’s assurances of call and empowerment. If they do not act, however, they will feel the dismay of returning as a person with an unchanged life, he predicted.

As Smith had rooted the students’ call in their baptism, he continued that their future includes expanding on the rich Covenant heritage. “You are a part of a heritage that has been going on for close to 125 years, and as a pastor in a Covenant church, I’m asking you, I’m commissioning you, I’m imploring you to continue this legacy in your generation.

“In our movement, we have had the ability to see the world with God’s eyes in such a way that God continues to re-invent our movement,” he added, drawing laughter when he said, “Our movement was a Swedish movement, but you can look at me and see that’s changed.”

PraiseBecause Covenanters have been willing to let God change them, women are now able to fulfill all of God’s call on their lives – even as pastors, Smith said, which brought loud applause and cheering. He added that the church is becoming more multiethnic as well as even more committed to compassion, mercy and justice around the world.

Smith closed by sharing a story told to him by Darrell Griffin, pastor of Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago. Griffin had seen an impala at a Chicago zoo and learned that the animals can leap 13 feet in the air and jump 30 feet forward.

Given the animal’s amazing ability to leap so high and jump so far, Griffin was puzzled when he saw that the impala was contained in its area by a wall that was only three feet high. He learned that the impala will not jump if it cannot see where it will land.

“The impala has no faith,” Smith said. “And so, even though it has the ability to go 13 feet high and 30 feet out, it won’t even jump over a three-foot wall. Some of you – that is what your life is like. Even though you have the ability at this conference to go higher and to go further in your life than you’ve ever been, you’ve got to figure out what is the three-foot wall that is keeping you from going where God wants you to go.

“Is it pride? Is it selfishiness? Is it low self-esteem? Is it hurt? Is it something that somebody did to you? Whatever it is, jump over the wall!” he shouted.

“Do not let the three-foot wall keep you from going out, keep you from going further! Don’t you let no wall keep you from being everything God has called you to be. I say you need to jump! Jump up! Jump up and get down! If you want to say yes to God’s call on your life tonight, I dare you to jump!

President Gary Walter spoke briefly and related several stories of lives being transformed during the week, of people who were making the leap. “In the Covenant, we don’t believe in hype, we believe in hope,” he said. “If it doesn’t change a real life in a real place, then we’re not real interested.”

The night also focused on giving to an “undone” world. Students gave $109,327 in the special offering to be used for sustainable missions projects in Thailand – click here to see a related story. It also was announced that CHIC attendees had packed nearly 428,000 meals to be distributed to people in Africa who suffer from extreme hunger.

The crowd cheered a music video of the Battle of the Bands winner Ellen Tkacsik, who attends Bellingham Covenant Church in Bellingham, Washington. The CHIC production team filmed the video earlier in the day.

Tkacsik won the contest on Wednesday night as worship service attendees cast their votes via text messages just before the service began. “It just feels crazy,” Ellen said when she learned she had won, having garnered 40 percent of the vote.

The band Third Day also performed.

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