Graduate students gather for conference

By January 1, 2009

USA (MNN) — Almost a thousand graduate students representing all kinds of academic
disciplines attended "Following Christ 2008" in Chicago on December 27-31. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Conference director John Boyd said the event,
which focused on the theme of "human flourishing," would encourage attendees to
integrate their disciplines with other disciplines and with God's plan. 

"The thrust of the Following Christ Fonference is really all
about putting the pieces back together that are all too easy to separate, not
only our faith from our work and private and public lives, but actually helping
to see…that God created everything and is Lord of everything," Boyd said. He added that the conference aims to "draw
fields as different as the arts, and business, and social science back together
again…with a bigger vision of what God's doing in the world." 

The triennial conference was co-sponsored by InterVarsity
Press and the Graduate and Faculty Ministries Division of InterVarsity. Most of the people attending the conference
are graduate students preparing to be university faculty or work professionally
in fields like law, business, health care, or government and public

"In all these fields, it's all too easy to get
compartmentalized, and to specialize so much that it's hard to connect the
pieces of your life back together," Boyd said. "So we're all about bringing a clear vision of spiritual formation, a
holistic vision of who God wants us to be as people, back into our professional
lives as well as our spiritual lives." 

Sometimes the conference revolutionizes the way that
students approach their faith and their field. 

"Already, it's been great to hear stories of folks,"
Boyd said. "Just this morning, I heard
somebody who said they sat down with someone in sociology — and this was a
Christian believer, somebody developing as a sociologist, who just had never
tried to put the two together. Nobody
ever really said, ‘Hey, what does your faith have to do with your professional
practice?' And it's that kind of story
that I just love to hear, because that's really what it's all about here."

The conference is also an opportunity for Christians to
encourage each other to boldly live out the Gospel in what is often a hostile

"In a lot of these fields, whether it's government or the
secular university world, the powers of fear and hesitation to be an outspoken Christian
— to be someone who's identified as a follower of Jesus — are really powerful,"
Boyd said. "So we need to do a lot of
encouragement of one another to be simple Christians who don't have to be
ashamed of anything, and certainly we can be as loving and friendly as it takes to
be good neighbors to our professional colleagues, just like we would be good
neighbors on our street."

Boyd said the real fruit of the conference appears when it
is all over, and he encouraged Christians to pray for conference attendees as
they return to their studies for the coming semester. 

Boyd asks for prayer "that the seeds that get planted here would
be both challenging and encouraging…folks who need to get a little poke, a
little prod along the way would be challenged. But the work is already hard — being a Christian, being a
professional, and putting the pieces together can sometimes feel like a really
big challenge. So I would hope that
there's a lot of encouragement that goes along with that, that the Spirit would
be quickening folks not only to have new ideas and new practices, but also to
have the courage and energy keep taking those steps with Him."

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