Tony Campolo Stirs Up Young Professionals for the Kingdom

Tony-CampoloJesus often taught and talked about the difficulty in following Him rather than the things of this world — to put our words into action by continuing to give and help and spend ourselves to glorify our Father in heaven. Riding in on a donkey as a humble servant, He was not what the world expected. Jesus came to die and fulfill His purpose and calling, and spent Himself for the call of the gospel. But are we doing the same?

This question was asked during a recent event hosted by the National Christian Foundation of South Florida. Their guest speaker, Dr. Tony Campolo, author, pastor and social activist, came to speak with a diverse, new generation of young professional Christian leaders to discuss this call to action. In his life work and commitment to do the work of Christ, he is known for his unconventional ways and certainly his raw, real and vivid style delivered with poise and intensity which got over 100 young leaders thinking about Christ’s ministry, movement and life changing message that is the gospel. A true storyteller, Camplolo stirred up raw emotion in the room, challenging everyone to think about where we are and what we are doing. Challenging us to think of our missions, purpose and place in the Kingdom. And not just in the big things, but in the small things.

Sensitivity to others
“We must be spiritually sensitive to the needs of others,” he said, “or we may miss things if we are not present in that moment.”

Campolo recounted a story of when he was a professor working at the University of Pennsylvania. He was known around the secular campus as a compassionate Christian with answers. On one particular day, a student walked into his office to ask him a question about a particular book.

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38 NIV).

“But he wasn’t there to ask me about the book,” said Campolo. “He was there for another reason. I wasn’t spiritually sensitive to his need that day, I was somewhere else, and I missed it.” Campolo went on to describe how the student continued to ask him the same question about the book and he gave the same answer.

“Thirty minutes later,”he said, “the student had jumped to his death from the top of the parking garage. I heard later that he was a student who had been struggling with his sexuality who came to the well-known compassionate Christian teacher who just may understand.”

Understandably, Campolo tells the story a bit shaken and solemn and with a message that hits home about finality and discernment. It is a sobering message about the effect we as believers in Jesus could potentially have on this world if we were always on our “A” game.

Choosing service
And he didn’t hold back. Campolo was honest about the radical message of the gospel and what it means to be a follower of Christ. He gave a stirring contrast between the lives of two students he had taught at Eastern Bible College, his alma mater.
On a mission trip to Haiti with a group of students, one student in particular was moved by the plight of the Haitian people. They were at a clinic that had only one doctor and several nurses that had to turn several hundred people away for treatment. Dr. Campolo said more than likely there was no way those people would have come back the next day; they were too weak. The student announced that he was moved to action by what he saw and wanted to become a doctor and return to Haiti to serve that very clinic.

Years later Dr. Campolo ran into that student on the streets of New York City. He asked him what he had done with his life. The man recounted how he had become a doctor, more specifically a plastic surgeon. Dr Campolo said, “I turned to him and asked him what happened? You sold out. You sold out.”

Contrast that one with the young man in his class at Eastern Bible College who later went on to Harvard Law.

“He could have been anything. He could have worked on Wall Street. Instead he chose to move to Mobile, Alabama, and represent clients who were facing the death penalty. That student understood what it meant to seek the kingdom of God.”
It was a great reminder and exhortation to so many young lives full of potential about who they belonged to and how much work was still needed in the kingdom. It was a spiritual call to action, a wake up from the dead of sorts, that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Melissa Zelniker-Presser is an attorney who is following her God-sized dream of becoming a full time writer. Melissa currently runs a blog and is also working on a non-fiction book detailing her journey to Christ as a Jewish believer. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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