LITTLE ROCK – On February 29, more than 1,300 students and young adults gathered at Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock for the sixth annual Lead>Defend Conference on apologetics and leadership.
A wide array of dynamic speakers taught from Scripture on a variety of topics that are foundational issues for this generation of Arkansas Baptist students. Jim Denison and Abdu Murray were the main session speakers, while Ricky Chelette, Mary Jo Sharp, Bill Newton, and Andy Jennings held breakout sessions.
Bruce Venable, College+Young Leaders Team Leader introduced the Kasey Earl Band from Central Baptist Church in North Little Rock, who set the tone for the day with powerful worship.
Jim Denison, the first plenary session speaker is the CEO of Denison Forum – an apologetics ministry focusing on using today’s news to teach a biblical worldview. During his session entitled, – ‘Culture Shock: Why we are where we are’ Denison explained that our culture did not arrive where we are by accident. Being tolerant of worldly issues like abortion or homosexuality becomes the new norm unless your view is based on a biblical background. He identified three “metanarratives” that today’s culture has decided are true: truth is personal and subjective, sexuality is your choice and religion is dangerous.
He went on to identify how we, as Christians, can engage this type of mentality and bring the biblical truth back to light: seek the Spirit’s power, identify the metanarrative and speak the truth in love.
The breakout sessions spread out around the campus, focused on issues facing students and young professionals as they navigate an increasingly secular culture.
Denison’s breakout session, ‘Discerning Today’s News Differently,’ aided participants in viewing the plethora of media available through a Christian worldview lens.
Ricky Chelette, executive director of Living Hope Ministries in Arlington, Texas, led during two different breakout sessions on ‘Understanding Gender Development.’ Chelette helped young men and women to see how God’s design for sexuality should be their guide instead of the chaos and confusion created by society today.
Bill Newton, an Arkansas native and associate pastor, held a session entitled ‘I Spy’ about why we believe the Bible is the best basis for a worldview. He then put that to the test with examples from movies, news, and culture to show students how to use biblical examples to contest today’s worldview. In a second breakout after lunch, Newton spoke on ‘Abortion: A Case for Life.’
Mary Jo Sharp, a former atheist from the Pacific Northwest and now an assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, talked about ‘Encountering the Problem of Evil in Everyday Conversations.’ She explained how to approach the common question of ‘If God is good, then why is there so much evil in the world?’ Sharp explained this question provides a basis for great conversation about God’s grace and salvation in the midst of life struggles. During the afternoon session, Sharp expounded on her journey with Christ as she spoke about ‘Why I Still Believe: My Desire to Walk Away and the Reasons I Stayed.’
Andy Jennings, young adult pastor at Cross Church Springdale, held a breakout session on Faith v. Science. Jennings explained that science and faith, while seeming at times to be at odds, are not at all. In fact, he detailed how some of science’s best discoveries are the best advocates for Christian worldview points.
Abdu Murray, a lawyer and convert from Islam, replaced Ravi Zacharias as the final plenary speaker after Zacharias cancelled due to emergency back surgery. Murray is Senior Vice-President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministry and travels around the globe speaking and arguing the case for Christianity.
He spoke Saturday on the ‘Exclusivity of Christianity.’ Using stories from his experiences both as a Muslim and after he’d converted, Murray that every major religion in the world claims exclusivity whether they explicitly say that or not. Every religion also has a point of exclusion – except Christianity.
The day was packed full of teaching and networking and discussion thought breaks as well. The speakers were very gracious with their time and interacted with students throughout the day.
Students and young adults left equipped with Gospel truth they could take to their college campuses and workplaces to spread the Gospel and engage an ever-changing culture.
Ryan Scantling and Seth Tucker, the hosts of the Lead>Defend Podcast that airs every other Thursday on your favorite podcast listening app, were able to sit down with some of the speakers and get even more information, advice, and resources for students to use. The first episode dropped March 5 featuring Ricky Chelette. The rest of the episodes will drop every other Thursday until the end of April. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss what the other speakers had to say.
Lead>Defend Podcast line-up:
March 5: Ricky Chelette
March 19: Bill Newton
April 2: Mary Jo Sharp
April 16: Abdu Murray
April 30: Andy Jennings