Dallas, TX – Nearly 400 DBU students gathered together for The Calling Conference, an event geared to help college students discern their calling to ministry and determine the next steps for them to take along that journey. Sponsored by Texas Baptists and coordinated by Dr. Bill Tillman, director of the Theological Education Division of the BGCT , the meeting brought together seasoned ministry professionals to share with the students knowledge and insight gained from years of ministerial work within local churches, college campuses, and denominational bodies.
The event began with a special chapel service held for students involved in the conference. Dr. Gary Cook, DBU president, gave a brief introduction and spoke to the students about his own calling in life. Dr. Cook expressed how God uses everything in life to prepare people for the future, even if their life leads to an unexpected path. He stated how he did not initially plan to become a university president, but that all of his background prepared him for the challenges he would face.
He explained, “You have to go on faith in calling—you never know what the Lord is doing when he starts preparing you for what’s ahead. You just have to trust and know that the best place to be is within His will.“
After his introduction, Dr. Tillman gave a brief history and mission of The Calling Conference. He stated the importance of training future leaders in the church and in the Baptist faith, expressing his hope that this conference would allow students to gain direction and insight for their lives. In addition, he challenged the students to remember that the BGCT and local churches were there to serve as a means of encouragement and in turn be an encouragement to others in their faith and calling.
Dr. Brent Taylor, pastor of First Baptist Carrollton, then spoke with the students about his own experience of being called into the ministry. Dr. Taylor explained how it is not possible to know the exact ways the Lord will choose to use a person in Kingdom work, also stating that God calls each person to different ministries and through different methods. Speaking from 1 Samuel 3, Dr. Taylor encouraged students to feel conviction in their calling from the Lord. “Don’t go into ministry unless the Lord has called you,” he stated. “Don’t go into it because you don’t know what else to do. If that happens, ministry often becomes about a person’s own talents, instead of the Lord’s power.“
At lunch, the group gathered to hear from a distinguished panel of guests as they shared some of their challenges and struggles as they each worked to discern their calling.
In addition, Dr. Bob Dean, executive director of the Dallas Baptist Association, gave a special invitation to the students to explore the many ministry opportunities that exist within the more than 500 churches within Dallas county alone.
Breakout sessions continued after the luncheon, and Jay Harley, DBU dean of students and spiritual life, shared a closing message with the group, warning the students about the dangers of looking for ministry success through a worldly perspective.
“It is not about how many Twitter followers you get,” Harley shared. “It is not about how many people listen to your podcast or your new worship song. It is about saying yes to God for His mission with the great likelihood that no one may ever know your name or know the profound things that you say or the wonderful songs that you write or the great ministry that you have.“
Rather than feeling despair for the potential lack of recognition in their future ministries, Harley challenged the students to see their unique callings as gifts from God, crafted for each one.
Written by Blake Killingsworth, vice president for communications, and Sally Minyard, director of graphic communications.