Urban singles exhorted to spiritual growth
RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)--It was a singles conference "planned with urban singles in mind."
JoAnn Scaife described it as "a multicultural experience where these young adults can come together and discover not only the joy of being single but also the tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth and intimacy with Christ that their time of singleness offers."
Scaife, a Baptist Collegiate Ministries director from Tennessee and founder of Living Single in Faith ministry, coordinated the Urban Singles Conference at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C., April 10-13.
About 100 collegians and young adults from around the country, as well as one student from Canada, attended the conference, sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and Baptist Collegiate Ministries of Greater Nashville, Tenn.
Scaife, BCM director for Tennessee State University and Fisk University, both in Nashville, said the conference sought "to speak to students who are preparing to embark on their careers as well as those who are already in the work force and living as single adults."
Casey Sanders, seminar leader and graduate student from Brentwood, Tenn., told the young women in her breakout session that being single is about "God's business."
"Bask in that," Sanders said. "When you feel like you don't have anyone in your life, rejoice. That means God has His angels surrounding you, protecting you from some people who could be bad for you."
Sanders cautioned the women to not listen to the culture that tells them another person can make them complete.
"You can only be complete in God," she said. "Never, ever think that you will find a man who will make you complete. If you go into a marriage as an incomplete person, all you will have is an incomplete marriage."
Singleness is a time for discovering purpose, said speaker Darryl Sims of Chicago, founder and president of Evangucation Ministries.
"Purpose is always connected to God," Sims said, and it gives individuals passion and power -- but it also brings pain.
"This is something you would do all the time even if you didn't get paid for it," Sims said, noting that passion brings the power to make things happen. "People are blessed by your passion," he said.
"Anything worth having, though, you will pay a price for it," Sims said. "It will cost you dearly. People will talk about you. You will not have the time to go and do things that others do. You will invest sweat equity in your passion. But when the pain is attached to God's purpose for you, it is marvelous.
"When you start to view pain as a part of the process of achieving your passion, you learn to embrace it," Sims said. "Pain will become your fuel."
Darren Washington, author of "A Dummies Guide to Sexual Abstinence," told the attendees he has been abstinent for 16 years. Staying close to God and letting Him meet the need for intimacy is key, he said.
Washington listed steps to staying abstinent: Know Jesus is your Savior; read and have faith in God's Word and apply it to your life; be content in being single; desire and commit to living a life of abstinence; don't allow emotions to rule you; and keep company with people who are supportive of your choice.
Musical guests during the conference included Grammy and Stellar Award nominee Cynthia Jones; singer/songwriter Kevin LeVar; and the female trio Trin-i-tee 5:7.
Adrian Anderson, a member of Trin-i-tee 5:7 and a single woman herself, said singleness can be a wonderful time of life.
"This is time you can work on a career that ignites your passion," she said. "Take advantage of this time to find and develop interests. Don't just wait, moaning to your friends about being single. Develop yourself and make yourself whole. Remember that Jesus is the only One who wants a broken person. Your future mate will want you whole."
Speaking on loneliness, Veryl Howard, founder of On a Mission for Christ International Ministries, based in Fayetteville, N.C., said, "You can be married and be lonely," describing loneliness as "a psychological state of mind. It is a lack of relationship with God. It's a separation."
Howard reminded attendees to let their singleness be purposeful. "Do all you can for Kingdom work while you are single," she said. "Maximize your time. Discover your assets for the Kingdom."
Jamey Gilliland, a collegiate ministry director in Oklahoma for both Rogers State University and Tulsa Community College, said marriage means people have to choose their ministry.
"When you get married, your husband or wife becomes your first ministry," Gilliland said. "You give up the freedom and right to take some risks."
Gilliland suggested that singles make a "stop doing" list. The list should include items such as stop making fall-back pacts; don't buy a pet with a boyfriend or girlfriend; don't play house, which he defined as partially living together; don't buy furniture together; and don't develop a sexual relationship.
"All those things can get messy," Gilliland said. "They can hurt you. When you get that ring on your finger, you want to have as few scars as possible."
Attendees' comments about the conference praised the transparency of the speakers.
"I didn't grow up with a father around," one young man said. "This has been so eye-opening. It's the first time I have been around this many godly men who talk straight to me and tell me what I need to do to be a great man of God myself."
A young woman added, "It has been amazing to hear these speakers, these adults who are strong Christians, tell us that they made mistakes, they had sex, they did drugs, but that they saw it was sin and turned from it." God forgave them, she said, "and they were able to become godly people. Nobody talks straight like that to us. No one else has been that real."
Tanika Bryant, who decided at the last minute to attend the conference, recounted, "Someone sent me a link to the webpage about the conference. I got that link and knew God was speaking to me in a very direct and concrete way.
"I needed this," said Bryant, a human resources consultant and adjunct college professor from Columbia, S.C. "I'm craving a deeper intimacy with Jesus. I'm tired of being defeated and superficial. I'm ready to turn my whole life over to Him."
Bryant was convinced the devil was trying to keep her away from the conference.
"I don't like to travel by myself," she said. "I don't like to drive in the rain. It makes me nervous. And wouldn't you know, while I am driving up here by myself from Columbia, I see really dark and stormy clouds gathering. I prayed hard, 'Lord Jesus, don't let it get bad.' I had no more than finished the words until I saw a break come in the clouds. I saw sun shining through the break and, in just a minute, the storm had passed."
Bryant said she knows now there is a difference between living single and living single in faith.
"I heard one of the speakers say Jesus could maximize my potential. I liked that," she said. "I know that God will finish the work He has started in me. He will be my focus."
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources.