SEU Conference 2023 Recap
SEU Conference is an annual event that includes three days of transformative worship and powerful messages from guest speakers. It’s something that students and faculty look forward to each year, and has definitely been one of the many highlights of my time at SEU.
This year, I got to experience the conference with the same people I first experienced it with last year –– my roommates and best friends. Each year we go, we leave closer than we were going in. I’m so grateful that we are provided the space to grow in faith together.
The amount of time, preparation, prayer, and fasting that goes into putting this event together is astounding. Here is a recap of what took place at SEU Conference 2023 and how the Lord moved.
This year’s theme was, “Home.” As Pastor James explained what they meant by this, he said that this past year there has been a burning desire on our campus for us, as the family of God, to take up residency in our purpose and our calling. Heaven is our eternal home, but we’re not sitting here on earth in the meantime, biding our time and coasting along.
I loved how Pastor James also emphasized that Jesus gave us the expectation in the Lord’s Prayer that things could be done on earth as they are in heaven. And so as followers of Jesus and citizens of His kingdom, it is our goal to to reach up and pull heaven down — to reach up and pull mercy, justice, love, and hope down. If heaven is our home, then it is our responsibility and commission from our King to go out into the world and bring home down so that earth can experience heaven through Christ.
We started the session one off with SEU Worship, joined by Red Rocks Worship. Shawn Johnson, lead pastor at Red Rocks Church in Colorado, followed. He preached an amazing message on anxiety, his struggle with it, and how the Lord helped him to overcome it. His first point was to stop blaming yourself for the anxiety and depression you struggle with, and how to fight the enemy who is the source of it. He reminded us that God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). He also stated that God has a new level of freedom for us, but we have to be willing to follow Him into battle and to fight for it, acknowledging that it isn’t about our strength, but about His.
Session two included more worship led by SEU Worship and Red Rocks Worship, and we got to hear an incredible message from our very own Pastor James! In keeping with the theme of the conference, the title of his message was, “Heaven’s Home.” He spoke about how home is more than just a place, but that home is the face and person of Jesus Christ. Heaven was not meant to be contained in a building, but in His people. As containers of His Spirit and presence, we are able to bring His Kingdom and heaven with us wherever we go. This can be shown in the way we love and care for other people.
Another point he made was that as hosts of His Spirit and presence, it is important that we clean out our house (our internal selves) of anything that is not of Him, and fill it up with more of His Spirit.
Session three started off with SEU Worship and One House Worship. There were moments of intense and passionate worship, and it was amazing to see all of my peers unified and singing their hearts out to the Lord. We also got to hear a new song that SEU Worship and One House Worship wrote together, titled, “What a God,” with a beautiful bridge that brought tears to our eyes. Here are those lyrics:
“If the highest place I reach is at Your feet,
then I’ve done it all.
If the best thing that I see is Your glory,
then I’ve seen it all.
Your love has changed my life,
God, You are my everything.”
As soon as I heard this song, I knew that it would be on repeat in my head for the remainder of the conference, and for weeks after.
We then got to hear a message from author and pastor, Irene Rollins titled, “Reframe Your Shame,” which she presented alongside her husband. She shared her testimony on her alcohol addiction and the effects it had on her mind, her relationship with God, her marriage, and her family. She recounted the shame she struggled with during this period of her life, and how shame is so powerful that it makes us hide, isolate, and cover up. It makes us hide from ourselves, from each other, and like Adam and Eve in the garden, shame makes us hide from God.
Recovery is to return to a natural state of health, mind, and strength, or to regain possession or control of something that has been lost or stolen. We must recover from our shame, or as Irene put it, become shame-resilient. To do this we must:
- Focus on Jesus — When you’re focused on the hurt, the hangup, or the habit, you lose sight of who Jesus is and become overwhelmed.
- Focus on forgiveness — There’s a difference between guilt and shame. To feel guilt is to become aware that we’ve done something wrong. Shame makes us think that we are fundamentally flawed and grace doesn’t apply to us. It is important to remember that His mercy and grace is irrevocable.
- Focus on freedom — If you’re not working on your recovery, you’re working on your relapse and you live a life of captivity to your thoughts and habits.
At session four, we were joined by Manouchka Charles, who is a teaching pastor at Vous Church in Miami, Florida. Her message titled, “It’s Training Season,” emphasized the importance of nurturing ourselves with God’s Word. If we want to walk into all that God has called us to, we must be prepared for it, and this involves spending time in His Word and in His presence. We must make room for Him to move in our lives, and stop wasting the time He has given us to prepare for the change that happens when He moves.
The night ended in an altar call, and we witnessed hundreds of students run up to the stage to be prayed over. What a beautiful sight this was.
We began day three with SEU Worship, this time joined by Ryan Horton. We then heard a message from Manny Arango, an author and teaching pastor from Dallas, Texas. He spoke about pride, worship, and anxiety, which are some of his talking points in his new book Brain Washed: Overcome Toxic Thoughts and Take Back Control of Your Mind. Here are some of the key points I took from his message:
- Pride is a root that produces two kinds of fruit: arrogance or low self-esteem. Pride is an obsession of self.
- If God inhabits the praises of His people, then it doesn’t matter how much peace or holiness we have, we can always choose to praise Him.
- God’s solution for anxiety is not peace — it’s order. When you live outside of God’s intended design for your life, your life will be out of order.
Session six, the last session of SEU Conference, was concluded by Tim Timberlake, pastor at Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Florida. He opened his message with the statement that the voice we listen to determines the destiny we experience. There are three different voices we can listen to:
- The voice of the enemy
- Our own voice, which if we’re not careful, could echo the voice of the enemy
- God’s voice
He also said that we move in the direction of what we focus on the most. If we focus on the wrong thing, we become the wrong person and move in the wrong direction. We must not let anything take our focus off of Jesus and His voice. Everything we do should be authorized by God in and through prayer.
It was during this last session of conference that we got to watch some of our peers make the decision to be baptized, celebrating with them as they came out of the water as a new creation in Christ. This was a teary-eyed and joy-filled moment for my friends and me.
Renewed Confidence and Hope
Those three days of SEU Conference were transformative and empowering. We saw the faith of many renewed and strengthened. We saw lives surrendered and hearts laid bare. We witnessed many accept Jesus for the first time. We were poured into by amazing pastors and teachers of the faith, and left each session full of hope and confidence that God is who He says He is.
I am so grateful to those who put in the time and dedication into making this year’s conference what it was, and can’t wait for SEU Conference 2024!
Ministry & Theology
By Mia Golding, Student Writer