WILDWOOD – As a young girl with an inquisitive mind, Rachel Billups sought answers to questions ranging from how the universe works to why people die. While growing up in a Christian home, she yearned to know more about God and God’s plans for her life. Through her explorations, she found her faith and gave her life to Jesus. She knew early on that she was called to a life of service to God.
Since the role of being a female pastor seemed out of reach, Billups dreamed of becoming a missionary, a chemistry professor in India, or someday becoming a pastor’s wife. Yet, none of these called her name.
“Through my young adult life and some of my adult life it’s always been an ebb and flow of, ‘Are you sure this is it, God?’” Billups added. But through active prayer and encouragement from fellow Christians, she knew God was calling her to become a pastor.
Billups is currently serving as Ginghamsburg UMC Tipp City Campus pastor and as Executive Pastor for the church’s Next Generation Ministries. Not only is she responsible for caring for the mega-church campus in Ohio, but she takes direct responsibility in shepherding and visioning for the next generation. She works on reaching them and leading them to Jesus.
Billups has become disciplined and intentional with her time and efforts, engaging in a prayer each morning followed by a time of working on her latest book; an autobiography about real-life obstacles told through the lens of Biblical characters.
“What does it mean to be fierce in the midst of that?” Billups asks. “I want people to look at life and say, ‘All of this can fuel me into the future.’ It’s about letting God shape us into the people that God called us to be.”
Along with working on her book, Billups is preparing her messages for Greater New Jersey’s IGNITE youth conference this September in Wildwood.
“I think experiences like IGNITE are opportunities for us to experience a real taste of the kingdom of God,” says Billups. “Those moments can be life-altering. If you only see IGNITE as a way to get spiritually high, it’s not good. It should be more than just a once a year Jesus shot in the arm.”
Spending time daily in prayer and God’s word allows her to continually grow in her faith and connect more with God. Leading up to the conference, she is using these moments to prepare her heart and ask God for the words to speak to the younger generation.
“With the Holy Spirit,” she explains, “I can partner with God to be a part of someone’s life story. I realize at the end of the day, the power of these experiences don’t come from me, so it’s not about me. It’s helpful to maintain that perspective when preparing for these things.”
Getting to know her audience is a key factor in her preparation. Just as Paul was able to relate to his audiences in the Bible, she wants to relate to hers.
“I grew up in a rural Ohio with 50 people in a service. Not everyone is going to relate to my folksy country stories,” says Billups. “So, it’s important for me to understand the group that I’m speaking to.”
In order to connect with the youth, she wants her messages to be “real and authentic.”
“I think I’ll meet students where they are. I’ll tell the truth about myself,” Billups explains. “I’m not a spiritual superhero, I’m like everyone else.”
This year’s IGNITE theme is World Changers, centering on the scripture of Matthew 5:14 about being the light of the world.
“When we say yes to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is alive within us,” says Billups. “There’s a divine spark inside of us, a flame.”
Just as Billups followed her own curiosity and deepened her faith, she will explore questions with the youth that they may not have thought to ask or known how to answer.
“How do we see the divine light that God sees within us? How do we be public with our faith? What does that mean?” Billups proposes. “Not just with our lips, but with our lives. What does it mean to be a faithful person?”
Her underlying message, however, is to let the youth know they are loved.
“Not only by God, but by people around them. I also want them to understand that they should love themselves.”
Rachel Billups will be speaking at IGNITE 2018, Sept. 28-30 in Wildwood, NJ. Register your youth before Aug. 31 to receive the last discounted price. Click here.