Come next May 25, thousands of collegians and youth will converge in an open field in the center of the contiguous United States.
They will spend the day singing, praying and reading Scripture around a massive foundation for a throne. These youth will focus on Christ and worship him alone. It’s an unprecedented event called “Paradise.”
Richard Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of Paradise’s founders, said God gave him a vision during his morning devotions; a crowd of youth gathered around the throne, worshipping Christ and lifting up his name.
“I don’t know how else to say it?’It was from God.'” Ross said.
At first Ross thought that this vision was a snapshot of Heaven, but soon realized God was leading him to make it become much more.
He said he contacted 18 Christian leaders from all over the country and asked them to pray about the idea. All 18 leaders spent two weeks praying. At the conclusion, they all agreed the idea was from God, and Paradise was on.
Paradise, according to its website?paradise08.com?”is a journey to awaken students from every part of the body of Christ to the supremacy of God’s Son” culminating at a one-day gathering of students worshiping Christ the King. Paradise will occur near the center of the U.S. near a town, providentially Ross believes, called Paradise, on the Kansas plains.
The students’ pilgrimage starts at least a month before the gathering, participating in individual Bible studies that bring them to an understanding of the supreme majesty of Christ.
Their private journeys will climax with a pilgrimage to the center of the nation. Here the students will find an empty field with a foundation for a throne, Ross said. All of the students will gather around this foundation and will worship Christ throughout the day.
“In this age of the church, the father’s focus is on the son,” Ross said. “When Jesus rose from the Mount of Olives, he was immediately enthroned in Heaven. We [Christians] have neglected that.”
Paradise will focus solely on Christ and his supreme majesty, nothing else. “Young people today see Jesus as a mascot or a friend,” Ross said, “What young people fail to see is his majesty. If they see that, they will see he is the reigning ruler.”
After awakening students to Christ’s supremacy, Paradise has two other goals: to call students to adore Christ, and to inspire them to arise to join him. Paradise is a unique event, Ross said.
“I don’t know of any gathering like it,” he said. Paradise’s complete focus is on the supreme majesty of Christ, who he is and what his reign is about. “We are focusing on Christ, because God is focusing on Christ.” Ross said.
In the months leading up to the Paradise gathering, collegians, youth, and leaders who are registered will have access to several online Bible studies. These studies will help the student learn about who Christ is and what his supreme majesty entails. After the students complete lessons in the study, they can go online and participate in an online discussion over what they have learned.
“They will know that much they are about to experience was molded directly by members of their generation.”
Paradise has been set up as a non-profit organization that has no denominational sponsors. “We established Paradise so that no group will be able to get bragging rights,” Ross said. “All the glory will go to Christ alone.”
In light of this, Paradise will not focus on any personality, speaker, or band. Nothing will be sold and no ministry will profit from Paradise.
“We needed to remove all distractions that might hinder students and leaders to worship Christ alone,” Ross said. “Nothing will be sold. All attention will be on Christ alone.”
It is written into Paradise’s constitution that all the registration fees gathered are used strictly to pay for this event. Any leftover funds will be returned to the attendees. While no one person or denomination is sponsoring Paradise, there are many leaders throughout collegiate and youth ministry that have signed on in support of Paradise.
“There are about 100 [people] right now on the Paradise advocates page,” Ross said, “and more being added every week. We have received a magnificent response.”
Paradise Advocates are collegiate and youth ministry leaders who having heard about Paradise, have decided to support this event. None of the people on the advocates page will be featured. All of the advocates are saying that they believe in the message of Paradise that Christ and Christ alone should be worshiped supreme.
“We have groups registered from 26 different states.” Ross said. “And it is still months away from the registration deadline.” An early response from leaders, who are not always known for registering early, is very encouraging. “Paradise has caught their attention.” Ross said.
Paradise’s webpage is where interested collegiate and youth leaders can go to register and learn more about Paradise. This website hosts the Bible studies and interactive pages to share what they have learned concerning Christ and his majesty.
Many leaders are being drawn by Paradise’s focus on Christ. “Many events focus on a personality; this walks away from all of that.” Brad Bunting, SBTC youth evangelism associate, said, “In a way, this is a call to revival, to focus on Christ.”
The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention is one of the sponsoring organizations.
“We have sent out informational letters to all the churches in the SBTC,” Bunting said, “and we have also passed out literature at several of our events.” In the coming months, the SBTC will continue to raise awareness about this event throughout churches in Texas.