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Christian Union
May 15, 2017

Christian Union Hosts Annual Conference for Students, Professionals

This spring, approximately 250 students from some of the nation's leading universities and marketplace professionals from key cities gathered for Christian Union's Nexus Conference to "draw near to the throne of grace." The conference, based on Hebrews 4:16, was held April 7-9 at the Marriott Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut.

Attendees entered into powerful worship, heard from an array of dynamic speakers, and participated in breakout sessions and seminars that examined how faith and culture intersect. nexus2

Nexus, which will be held annually going forward, is two simultaneous conferences, one for students and one for professionals.

On the first night of the student conference, Christian Union Founder and CEO Matt Bennett reminded students of the privilege of being able to draw near to an all-powerful God, stating "we must hold fast to God's throne" and seek His power and presence in our lives by having repentant hearts, pure motives, and clean hands.

The next morning, Rev. Eugene Rivers, a writer, community activist, and worldwide speaker, preached a captivating message that had some in the crowd fervently shouting "Amen!" Citing Matthew 6:33, he said that Christians are called first to seek God because it is in Him that they find their identities and significance. Rivers challenged the audience to be unashamed of the Gospel: "If you can scream loud for your school, but not for Jesus, we have a problem!" In response, Allyson Ho (Yale '18) said, "I caught a glimpse of the raw impact of the Word when Reverend Rivers called us not to be afraid of engaging with different cultures."

On Saturday evening, Jon Nielson, Christian Union's ministry director at Princeton University, emphasized that as Christians draw near to the throne of grace and find mercy, they are also sent out from the throne to boldly share God's love and truth.

Nexus-2017-studentsIn the final plenary session, Carol Kaminski, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew Language at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, stated that drawing near to God is the only way Christians can see His character. She lamented that so many millennials deem the God of the Old Testament as draconian, power hungry, and cruel. Kaminsky warned that if Christians do not read their Bibles, their view of God will be influenced by culture, and that it is through Scripture one sees that God is merciful and gracious.

At the Nexus Professional Conference, D. Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, shared two compelling messages, "The Legacy of Influence" and "Postures towards Power." Lindsay, Princeton PhD '07, also spoke on similar themes to the students during a Q and A time. A scholar in sociology, he is the author of View from the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World and Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite.

Nexus-PanelThrough the seminars and panels, students learned practical ways they could ground the theologically heavy subject matters of the plenary speakers. In one session, Clay Cromer, Christian Union's ministry director at Yale, and Laurel Copp, a ministry fellow at Brown, reiterated the importance of a personal devotion time, but stressed the contrast between being "received by grace" versus "achieved by performance."

The Christian Leadership and Race panel spoke on how ethnic diversity should be encouraged and celebrated within the Church. Jacqueline Rivers, the executive director of the Seymour Institute for the Black Church and Policy Studies and the Du Bois Fellow at the Hutchins Center of Harvard University, touched on how leadership is first and foremost servanthood and told students that, given the prestigious nature of the universities they attend, they must realize they have a responsibility to proclaim boldly the name of Jesus in all areas on campus.

Meanwhile, the Nexus Conference's emphasis on prayer exemplified 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ("pray without ceasing..."). Decked with soft pillows, scented candles, and Bibles throughout, the 24-hour prayer room provided space for a powerful time of community and intercession for students from the various campuses.

"I know students who experienced transformational conversations late into the night with ministry faculty and other students praying for them," said Anna Shea, a Christian Union ministry fellow at Cornell.

A returning highlight from last year's conference was the Spoken Word Bible memorization contest. Teams from Penn, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, and Cornell performed creative reenactments of Scripture, while Harvard's a cappella group Under Construction sang in between sets. The performances were theatrical—from Princeton's dramatic portrayal of Ezekiel 37, to Penn's anthem of triumph as they imbued fervor and force into 2 Corinthians 6, to Cornell's creative reinterpretation of the Prodigal Son story— yet each served as a moving testament to God's omnipotent Word.

Reflecting on the conference, Adaeze Okorie, Cornell '20, stated, "I am more confident in where I see myself taking my faith. I have a deeper longing to know God, and I plan to continue taking the lessons I learned at Nexus with me throughout the rest of my life."

The final worship song of Nexus was "Death Was Arrested," which includes a stanza that proclaims you have made me new/now life begins with you. It was a fitting way to end the conference, reminding students and professionals, as they return to campus and to work, that life begins with Christ and they can walk in full confidence with new life in Him.
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