Reflections on this spring’s Wilberforce Weekend by our Director, Jenni Miller…
Our WeCARE for Students board encouraged me to attend the 25th Wilberforce Weekend hosted by the Colson Center in April. I was blessed to join more than 350 Christian leaders from around the United States. We gathered just outside of Washington, D.C., to learn how to better put feet to our faith, and to connect with others called to live out their Christian faith in the public square. We even got a sneak preview and hardhat tour of Washington, D.C.’s Museum of the Bible – scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.
It was a weekend of rich intellectual content, great mutual encouragement and opportunity to learn what others were doing to grow God’s kingdom in their communities, states and our nation.
The theme was “Restoring All Things: Promote Good, Resist Evil, Restore Brokenness.” Many gifted speakers presented thoughtful and in-depth lectures. Truly the great takeaway was repeated reinforcement of the truth that we who follow Jesus: 1. are not crazy (despite what our culture may claim) – and 2. are never alone. Christ always is with us – through prayer and through His people.
Two phrases in particular stood out to me. One described how we disparate members of the Body of Christ are called to work together in the common cause of advancing God’s kingdom. The speaker exhorted us to engage in “the ecumenism of the trenches.” That is, when we take part in a great battle, no one need – or ought to – get too worked up about their small differences with those sharing the same foxhole, but instead should shoot in the same direction against a common enemy. That enemy, we know from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, is not one of flesh and blood.
The second phrase spoke of the unequivocal sense of urgency most of us feel these days: that it is essential for God’s people to listen and obey – right here, right now. One speaker made clear the consequences of ignoring God’s call to the Church: “today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.” In other words: in these darkening times, if we do not act now, we may not be able to act later.
As I considered the conference’s timely theme, it became clear that we in Released Time Bible Education are positioned to help restore all things in all three ways… When we help bring Bible classes to public school kids who are hurting, we promote good. We resist evil by following the clear dictates of established released time law and by standing firm despite opposition from those who are – in the words of School Ministries’ Executive Director Ken Breivik – “predisposed to attack and restrict the religious liberty of all of us.” And we restore brokenness by bringing the hope of Christ to communities, serving those who might never otherwise hear of His love.
All to say, I came away with my spiritual batteries recharged – and encourage all of us to seek out opportunities to do the same. Let us all look for – and take advantage of – chances to connect with fellow believers in Released Time (like this summer’s School Ministries’ 25th anniversary conference and the call to work and pray with fellow RTBE providers to grow God’s kingdom in Ohio) and in our communities and churches.
Why? To help us follow in the courageous footsteps of William Wilberforce, in whose honor this conference was held because of his heroic twenty-plus year fight to end the slave trade in Great Britain and to restore manners and civility to an increasingly degraded culture. He stated clearly the necessity of heeding God’s call upon all our lives: “Life as we know it, with all its ups and downs, will soon be over. We all will give an accounting to God of how we have lived.”
Amen and amen.