Above: Rusty Gunn, pastor of Sand Springs, Church That Matters, spoke on how to discern between what all Christians are called to do and God calling those to vocational ministry.
SHAWNEE—“Onward” was this year’s theme of The Call Conference, which met Aug. 27 at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), and 477 attendees representing 79 different churches were encouraged to move onward in the calling God has made in their lives.
“God is going to continue to move His church onward,” said Brian Baldwin, who serves as student evangelism and missions partner for Oklahoma Baptists. “We should know that He is going to do that, but also, we should press on toward the goal, according to Phil. 3:14. This is a journey that we are pressing toward. Students come and try to discover that calling or deepen that calling. Many are just trying to sort out what this even means in their life. The Call Conference helps students understand what it means to be called to the ministry and to missions.”
Whether they answered God’s call at the summer youth weeks at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center or at another summer camp, or they are needing confirmation or direction for this calling in their lives, students were able to find fulfillment at The Call Conference. Baldwin knows The Call Conference also is helpful for local church leaders who are encouraging and discipling these students.
“On the local church level there is a burden for the next generation of leaders,” Baldwin said. “It is the local church’s job to multiply and raise people up. The Call Conference provides churches an event for them to bring people to who have been called to vocational ministry. They will know how to move forward, but also leaders learn how to help and guide these students who are called to ministry and missions.”
OBU student Tristen Russell said he found benefits in attending previous Call Conferences. A member of Edmond, Waterloo Road, Russell helped with technical support of The Call Conference.
“It’s a great place to come and learn,” Russell said about The Call Conference. “I am called to worship ministry. The Lord has opened doors to confirm that call. There are a lot of students who don’t know how to discern the Lord’s calling on their lives, and The Call Conference is a great place to find that discernment and learning the next steps to take toward the calling God has for them.”
Gunn explains difference between ‘common contributions’ & consuming calling’
Rusty Gunn, pastor of Sand Springs, Church That Matters, was the keynote speaker in the opening session of The Call Conference. His sermon helped encourage students to know what all Christians are called to do and what those whom God called to a life of ministry or mission work.
“Every Christ follower is called to ministry,” Gunn said. “Some are called to what we call THE ministry. Some are called to be teachers and firefighters and businessmen, and in all these possibilities we should glorify God. For some, they are called to vocational ministry. That’s your occupation. That’s your life’s work.”
Gunn shared his testimony of how he struggled for three years after God called him to full-time ministry.
“I didn’t have The Call Conference to help me wrestle through some of those things to help me understand there really is a cost to this,” he said.
Gunn clarified the difference between what all Christians are called to do, which he said are “common contributions” and those God calls to a life committed to vocational ministry.
“Every follower of Jesus is called to make some common contributions,” Gunn said. “Being a part of a local church, tithing, sharing the Gospel, serving on ministry teams within the church, offering our talents for the ministry of the church—these are examples of common contributions that every believer should be making in the Body. But God has decided that some will not only make common contributions but they will have a consuming call.”
Other keynote speakers at this year’s Call Conference were Mario Melendez, OBU professor of Old Testament and biblical studies, and Tom Elliff, longtime pastor who now serves and mentor and facilitator of the Tom Elliff Center for Missions at OBU.
Breakouts focused on various areas of ministry
The Call Conference offered 13 different breakout sessions that cover a wide array of ministry possibilities. “Called to Obedience” was a breakout specifically for new believers in Christ and was led by Matthew Emerson, OBU dean of theology, art and humanities and professor of religion.
A new breakout focused on media ministry and was led by Michael Davis, multimedia coordinator at Falls Creek. Todd Sanders, Falls Creek program director and youth ministry partner for Oklahoma Baptists, led a breakout for parents and youth leaders titled “Leading Those Called.”
Other topics included Children’s Ministry, Church Planting, Evangelism, God’s Call in God’s Word, Missions, Pastoral, Small Town Ministry, Women and Ministry, Worship Ministry and Youth Ministry.
Those who participated in past GoStudents mission projects or were interested in GoStudents had the opportunity to meet for a special luncheon during The Call Conference.
Students receive ‘arrows’
At the end of The Call Conference, church leaders presented to participating students wooden arrows that featured a prayer and Phil. 3:14.
“These arrow are to encourage these students to keep pressing ‘Onward’ toward the call that God has on their lives,” Baldwin said. “We encouraged the students to place the arrows somewhere as a reminder of the event and, more importantly, the call God has on their lives.”
For more information on The Call Conference, visit oklahomabaptists.org/thecall.