18 Wesley Foundations retreat to Cross Point
By Holly McCray
Although he earned a B.A. in 1977, Bishop Scott Jones’ faith walk during his college years typifies that of young adults today. He told his story to 180 students at a campus ministry retreat Feb. 18-20 in southern Oklahoma.
At age 18, Jones stopped attending church—a decision also made by too many young people today, and the Church mourns.
Then a truck driver shared his faith story with young Jones, who left that encounter yearning for such conviction. The son of a preacher joined in campus ministries; he relished reading the Chronicles of Narnia.
"I wanted God to zap me; then I would know I was a Christian," Jones said.
His longing persisted. Today the bishop of the Kansas Area describes it as "a four-year gestation period." Holy assurance came when Jones was a college senior, but "zap" is inaccurate.
"I was on my knees, alone in the chapel," he said. "A sense of peace came over me."
Jones kept studying, earning a doctorate in religious studies and even teaching at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. He was elected to the episcopacy in 2004.
He studied the young-adult audience at the February retreat. "What’s in your hearts and minds?"
Jones was joined by Bishop Robert Hayes Jr. as keynote speakers for the event, held at Cross Point Camp on Lake Texoma. Students came from 18 Wesley Foundations within the South Central Jurisdiction. Planning was led by the Wesley Foundations at the University of Oklahoma, at Kansas State University, and at Denton, Texas.
"These two men of God brought the Word and challenged our students to get real when it comes to discipleship and being the Body of Christ to a hurt and broken world," said Daniel Dennison, OU Wesley director.
Participants learned about global poverty, the art of worship, and United Methodist doctrine. They posed insightful questions during an "Ask a Bishop" session.
Hayes urged students to counter the cultural mantra What’s in it for me? with another question: What’s in me for Him (Jesus)?
"In our society, we want privileges if we are going to join something. One of the frightening things I see as a bishop is there are churches and people taking the message of sacrifice and saying, ‘Let’s turn it into something easy.’
"That was never Jesus’ way," Hayes said.
He recited Gospel verses, including "The Son of Man has no place to lay his head" and "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself."
"Pick up your cross and be different," Hayes emphasized. "Take the focus off me and make Christ the center of life. Stop being so concerned about me, myself, and I. And in the next three, four, five years, you cannot imagine what you will be. That’s what’s in it for you."
Rev. Dennison said the weekend refreshed him, "to watch so many young people come together to worship and grow closer to Christ and to one another." The next All-Wesley Retreat will be held Feb. 17-19, 2012.
"One of the best things I like about this," said Adam, from Kansas State, "is getting away from everything back home and reconnecting with God and other Christians here. It will make you come back again."