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MarkCentral — Christian Fellowship for university students in Ontario
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How about trying this: Get up, shower, dress in time for breakfast at 7:30. Meet in a classroom with about 25 people to study the Bible for 3 hours. After lunch, spend 2 more hours in Bible study with those people in the afternoon. Have a little free time before supper. After supper, do 3 more hours of group Bible study. Go to bed then get up and do the same thing tomorrow, and the day after that....for a total of 6 days.

Are you game? How about inviting some of your not-yet-Christian friends along? Does this sound a little too intense for normal people to be doing? Of course it does! Then again, why follow Jesus if all you want to be is normal? Maybe those two ideas don't actually go together.

The schedule I've described is what happens each May at MarkCentral, hosted by Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship for university students in Ontario. Inter-Varsity also runs similar events regionally across Canada. The crazy part: students come to this week-long intensive Bible study conference right after finishing final exams. So, what's the attraction?

Well, Jesus is actually the attraction. The vast majority of students who come study either the first or second half of Mark's gospel. Using an inductive study process of OBSERVE, INTERPRET, APPLY, the idea is to "follow Jesus" through the text and then explore what it means to follow Jesus in our everyday lives. I like the way one student put it-- "Jesus is a tough teacher. He is so loving, but He's also a very tough teacher....The reason He is so tough is because He wants you to truly learn and truly understand for yourself. He encourages you to seek Him with all you have."

This year we had 191 students and 30 staff and interns attend--the largest school representation?--WESTERN with 41 students! Each year we see people become Christians while at MarkCentral. We also see people grow in their relationship with Jesus, their understanding of what Jesus asks from us and what Jesus offers to those spend their lives following Him.

Not everyone has the opportunity for such an intense experience. I've been helping at MarkCentral for the past 8 years and love the way students thrive from attending this kind of event. And, there are just a few things I have observed at MarkCentral that I'd like to share with you because they apply for us all:
  • It's really great to read the Bible for yourself. Slowly...especially the Gospels. Mark is the shortest. There really is no better way to grow closer to Jesus than to observe Him directly through scripture.
  • It's really great to ask a lot of questions when you're reading the Bible--even simple ones. Oftentimes, the simplest questions turn out to be the most important.
  • It's really great to read the Bible and talk about it with other people. Jesus calls to to follow Him as one body--His church. Frankly, I believe the idea that "religion is a private thing" does not apply if your religion is following Jesus. The best part is when you and the people you're with all decide to put what you've read and discussed into practice as a community. Now, that's living!

Haydn Jensen has served with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada for the past 18 years. He lives in London with his wife, Susan and they have two young adult daughters. They attend Village Green Community Church.