RECAP: Fall Convocation 2017
Visit Lee University’s chapels during Convocation week, and you'll find students with hands raised, voices lifted and minds challenged by a variety of spiritual leaders.
On Sunday night, Lee President Paul Conn ushered in the Fall 2017 Convocation. Convocation is a four night, biannual Lee University event which focuses on spiritual life on campus.
Conn welcomed students by saying, “If we make the commitment to listen over the next four nights, something special will happen.” Conn challenged students this week to “live the Lee motto: Expect Something Great.”
According to Conn, if students will only commit themselves, Convocation will do positive things on campus. “The theme is spiritual focus for the whole campus,” Conn said. “When the campus family focuses, it will do two things: we will rejoice together and bring our hearts together.”
The message on Sunday night focused on the harms of self-deception. “We don’t like to hear what we don’t want to know. We make ourselves hear what we want to believe,” Conn said.
Referencing Proverbs 14, Conn warned against becoming “numb” to the things of God. “Satan can spin the image of our life into something that we would rather see,” Conn said. “We become vulnerable to the destructiveness of sin.”
To illustrate the dangers of this deception, Conn referenced the stories of Sampson, David and even recent Lee students. They deceived themselves and were pushed to “gradually cross moral lines,” he said. “Selfishness, indulgence and sin create a life of its own—a life that leads to death.”
Concluding his message with a question of introspection, President Conn asked, “Do you believe that you may be deceiving yourself?”
On Monday night, the next chapel message, delivered by Lead Pastor of Abundant Life Church Bryan Loritts, exposited Hosea 3—the mirror of 1 Corinthians 13, according to Loritts. “Every New Testament point has an Old Testament picture. Hosea 3 is 1 Corinthians 13’s match,” Loritts said.
Through the comparing of these two passages, Pastor Loritts identified the heart of Christianity as love. “An unloving Christian is an oxymoron,” Loritts said.
According to Loritts, this love is not as contagious as it should be. “There are too many people who say they are Christian, but they are really riding the coattails of Mama’s faith,” he said. “When Scripture says be full of the Spirit, it means to be third-trimester-pregnant full—obvious.”
The Christian standard for loving others, according to Loritts, should emulate the love you have received. “Is your love for others reflecting how God has treated you?” he asked. “Who are you doing life with that is nothing like you? What Gomers are in your life?” he said, referencing Hosea 3.
Pastor Loritts concluded with the application of this love: “Jesus said love is the most important witness we have. This love forces us to cross ethnic lines in a very politically divisive climate as ours. It forces us to consider how we walk with our friends in the gay community.”
Where do we start? “The first step is relationships: invite them over for dinner and coffee, not even to discuss issues, but getting to know people,” Loritts suggested.
On Tuesday night, Rebekah Lyons, co-founder of Q Ideas, spoke from the messages laced in her recent book, “You Are Free,” pleading with the student body to break the bondages in their lives.
According to Lyons, the first female Convocation speaker in Lee history, our biggest obstacle is our own mentality. “It’s hard to understand the love of God if you are in the spirit of an orphan,” Lyons said. “The Gentiles, us, are the people in the corners that are now adopted in.”
Lyons suggested that it is our own assessment of our shortcomings, not God’s assessment that we wrongly listen to. “God speaks to us, saying ‘I don’t measure your worth in ability, but in identity,’” Lyons said. “It takes recognizing that you are not an orphan to be freed from bondage.”
She applied the story of her own life to the message of bondage. She sought “public affection” for so long, yet came to the heartbreaking truth that it “cannot heal private rejection.”
Lyons shared a vision for what a freed student body would look like. She said, “The world should be at our doors asking ‘can I be a part of that?’”
Lyons concluded her message with an earnest prayer and a sharp challenge: “Bitterness can choke and rob you of the Spirit, of joy and of newness. Who in your life do you need to forgive?”
On Wednesday, the final night of Convocation, Lee University’s Dean of the School of Religion Dr. Terry Cross presented a message on sacrifice, sourced from Malachi 1. Reflecting on the subject, Cross said, “The beginning of Malachi begins with ‘A burden, A word from the Lord’—that’s like the weight I had.”
Cross drew the assessment that like the Israelites and their livestock, we too present half sacrifices. “The Israelites would say ‘Yahweh doesn’t take care of us, so why should we take care of him?’ So they brought blind, lame and blemished sacrifices,” Cross said. “Halfway obedience profanes the table of the Lord.”
Like the previous speakers in Convocation, Cross challenged the audience, “Do we give Him full worship in Chapel and then only half when we leave? Do we give God selected pickings?”
Transitioning to discuss another form of sacrifice mentioned in Scripture, Cross contrasted the passages of Leviticus 22 and Romans 12 as illustrations of presenting oneself. “The Gospel of Grace is our ability to bring baggage and all before God,” Cross said. “God doesn’t save us to leave us in our misery, but to save us and give us the greatest return.”
His message concluded with a tearful reminder that “out of our own gratefulness, we exclaim: ‘here I am, Lord.’”
After the chapel band brought Fall 2017 Convocation to a close, Cross reflected, “I’ve seen a lot of Convocations. This one had something very special to it. The people in the audience were very engaged and involved. They took it seriously, and the fact that attendance was so large even on the last night was amazing to me.” Cross said there is “really good hope” for this student body.
According to Conn, in moving forward “every student should take responsibility for his or her own communication with God. I’m willing to trust whatever that means.”