CIU grads urged to 'fight evil'

The leader of the Southern Baptist Convention's national evangelism movement told graduates of Columbia International University on Friday they must prepare to be "giant killers" to fight prevailing evil in the world.

"Do not ever underestimate the enemy. Do not ever take lightly the power of the evil one," the Rev. Frank Page told nearly 60 graduates gathered with a large crowd of family and friends in Shortess Chapel.

Page, a former convention president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, reminded the graduates of the Old Testament story of David, the future king of Israel, who refused to be terrified by the Philistines and the daily taunts of the giant Goliath.

"David took up those stones, and you know the story," Page said. "Put on your full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground."

Page applauded the private evangelical college for its emphasis on Christian evangelism "and being true to the call."

Page said he has seen "an overwhelming perspective of defeat," even among denominations. "Our churches are falling apart all over the world."

But he said those who hold fast to the "belief in the power of the name of the Lord God Almighty" can turn evil aside.

Page's appointment in October as vice president of evangelism for the convention's North American Mission Board emerged out of his urgent call, while president, to tell the story of Jesus Christ "to every man, woman and child" in North America.

The 10-year initiative, called God's Plan for Sharing, begins in 2010 and is aimed at evangelizing what he calls "the lost continent."

"The majority of people in North America do not have a relationship to Christ," he said.

Page serves on President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, a position that allows him access to the president on matters of faith and politics.

Page said after the address that he and the president remain at odds over many issues, including abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research.

But he said he thinks he has as much access to this White House as he did during the administration of former President George W. Bush, who was seen as a friend to evangelical Christians.

"He (Obama) is extremely personable and kind, and he does value differing opinions," Page said.

As he prepared to present the degrees, CIU president Bill Jones told those gathered "you have just begun your employment in the giant-slaying business."

Each graduate was presented with a small bag of seeds, Jones said, to symbolize the sowing of the name and message of Christ.

In all, 100 degrees were conferred, about 40 in absentia, spanning the university's undergraduate school, graduate school and seminary and school of missions.