A Conversation with Carter Conlon, General Overseer of TSC and Teresa Conlon, President of Summit.
What is the legacy of Summit? How did it all begin?
TC: Summit has a rich legacy when it was founded in 1994 by David Wilkerson. Initially he founded the school as a one-year Bible school program for Teen Challenge graduates. When he wrote about it in his newsletter, TSC began receiving inquires from young people around the country and even internationally wanting to attend. The vision of the school began to expand, and from that time until today the program has continued to evolve, officially becoming Summit International School of Ministry in 2012.
Dr. Conlon, how were you first introduced to Summit?
TC: In the mid 90’s, I was invited to teach the book of Hebrews. I would drive from NJ to PA every week to teach. (As a fun sidenote, Pastor Tim Williams and Pastor William Carrol were in my class!) Once or twice a semester all the teachers would come together in Catherine Logan’s office, who was the President at that time, and talk and share ideas for the school. I found myself brimming with ideas and getting more and more excited about the school. There is something about Biblical teaching that really resonated with me. I felt a heart and burden for the school continuing to grow in my heart.
What, if anything, did David Wilkerson share with you guys about his heart for the Bible school?
CC: Well, David Wilkerson was a man whose life and ministry had worldwide impact. He had learned from a young age that if you learn to pray and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, the miraculous can happen. He believed that young people could learn, as he and as Nicky Cruz did, to be sensitive to the voice of God. His emphasis for the school was always prayer, learning to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, and cooperating with the leading of the Holy Spirit. He said when people begin to do this, they become world changers. That was the hallmark of his life and ministry. The purpose of the school was not just more education, as good as that is, it was to raise up a generation that could walk in cooperation with the Spirit of God. Those are the ones who affect their societies for Christ. He was always a big picture person. It wasn’t just about getting a diploma; it was about changing the world around you. That’s really become the cornerstone of Summit today. I have personally witnessed radical transformation of young people by the power of God, many who have gone on to fulfill the things that were in the heart of Pastor David when it all began. You know, Pastor William Carrol use to say, “Summit must exist!”, he was adamant about it, there is something unique about Summit in that regard. The spiritual focus of the school, and the impetus to learn to hear God’s voice for yourself and move with the leading of the Spirit -- miracles start happening in our lives when we do that. True Christianity finds its deepest expression when we live for the benefit of other people. When that is our motivation, the power of God begins to be released in people’s lives.
What are you most excited about in this next season at Summit?
TC: About a month ago the lord gave me a scripture, Isaiah 8:18, “Behold I, and the children the Lord has given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts…” (KJV). I really feel the Lord is going to show up for these incoming students and they are going to understand what this scripture really means. The darker the times become, I believe He will show Himself strong on our behalf as the God of miracles. I’m excited, going forward, I really feel there is coming an outpowering if His power among young people; He will break through bondage, we will see miracles in people’s families. I truly believe God for a return to the miraculous. It is so needed in this hour we are living in. I’m excited for what that means. When we talk about miracles, there is a weird side to that, where people simply seek signs and wonders, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a living relationship where people move from spiritually dead to living.
CC: I’ve always had a heart to see the gospel restored the way it was preached in the book of Acts. The gospel message was meant to be spoken with signs following. That was an important earmark of the truth being spoken over all the other doctrines and philosophies of the day. It’s not just about the words you speak, it’s the power of the Holy Spirit behind the speech. I’m believing God to see a restoration of signs and wonders; the biggest sign being a transformed life. The second sign was healings began to happen and people were set free. I believe this can happen again in our generation if God can find a people who won’t touch His glory and won’t try to make a circus out of His power. Signs and wonders begin to follow when our whole reason for life and serving God is about the salvation of others. So many moments in scripture you see that Jesus was moved with compassion, then immediately following his compassion people were fed, they were healed, their lives were changed. We need to learn to live for the benefit of other people – this is what it really means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
TC: What distinguishes truth from words and theories? There is a promise that when God’s words are spoken, they are miraculous.
What do you hope Summit’s lasting legacy will be?
TC: In a word, transformation. That people who come to Summit will live transformed lives that will be lasting. That they would love God all the days of their lives, that they would be useable in His hands. That they would raise strong families. That this transformation will be deep and real. My hope is that students don’t just attend the school, but they would have a transformative experience with Christ that is lifelong.
CC: Pastor Tim Dilena has spoken several times now about believing God for an extensive worldwide coming to Christ in our time. I believe Summit is an integral part of that vision by bringing in young people from around the world who will share the gospel with the nations. I believe there is a generation of young people who will be world changers! In the days we are living in, I believe there is coming an incredible harvest for Christ.