Oklahoma Senator James Lankford Speaks at Chapel

James Lankford

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford visited Dallas Baptist University on October 2 and delivered a Chapel message that touched a central theme close to the hearts of many DBU students -- choosing who to follow. "We overcomplicate Jesus's most basic statement to us, to get up in the morning, and ask this simple question: 'God, how can I follow You today?'" Lankford said. "It is the most simple and yet most terrifying statement you could ever make. You have no idea where it could go."

Lankford told students that before his political career, he worked as a youth minister for 22 years. He called the experience an "absolute joy" and thought he would do it forever. However, in 2009, Lankford discovered another calling taking root in his heart: running for Congress. "There was this overwhelming sense that every time I sat down to pray, God said, 'This is what I want you to do,'" Lankford said. "For months, I kept telling God what a crazy, dumb idea that was. Nobody in my family had been in politics. I had no background in politics." Lankford noted in jest that DBU alumnus Stephen Boyd -- who currently works as a Legislative Correspondent on Lankford's staff in Washington D.C. -- had more political experience upon entering a career than Lankford, having "actually won something in student government."

After seven months of wrestling with the idea, Lankford glanced over at his wife, Cindy, as they were driving home from church one Sunday. "I said, 'I'm going to be an old man someday, and tell my grandchildren about the time I didn't follow God if I don't do this [run for office].' Cindy smiled, lovingly at me, and said, 'I was waiting on you. I've been hearing the same thing.'" Lankford resigned from his youth ministry position soon after this startling confirmation. He remembered frequent confrontation with the question, "Why?" "I had several people say to me that I was leaving the ministry and going into politics," Lankford said. "After a while of hearing that, I got sarcastic enough to say, 'Yes, I know, it's terrible; it seems so odd for God to send light into dark places.'"

Lankford turned his message to address students who might be called into occupations such as politics, journalism, or Broadway -- places many people might not think Christians belong. "If our Father calls you to go there, why don't you follow Him, and see what the mission is when you get there?" Lankford said. "The decision we make is not what we're going to do one day; it's who we're going to follow that day when we get there. That's the real decision."

Lankford encouraged students to face post-graduation uncertainty with a strong resolve to do the same thing then as they should do now: choose daily to follow God. "It is a terrifying challenge I could ever set in front of you, but also the most freeing thing I could give to you today," Lankford said. "Open up your future, and say to God, 'I don't know where you're going to take me, but You can send me anywhere You'd like because I've decided to follow You.'"

Written by Jordan Jarrett

Jordan Jarrett is a member of University Communications at Dallas Baptist University.