By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
See also: YEC 2017 Photo Gallery
NASHVILLE — Youth Evangelism Conference 2017 drew about 7,383 participants to Municipal Auditorium here March 10-11. At least 712 teens made professions of faith during the Friday evening session.
In addition, 392 students recorded that they had been a lukewarm Christian but were ready to follow Christ as a dedicated disciple, 210 teens reported that they felt called by God to serve in missions and ministry, and 578 made other commitments.
Also, thousands accepted the “Oikos” challenge of YEC 2017. Kent Shingleton, coordinator of Youth Evangelism Conference for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, told the teens that “Oikos” (oiee-kahs), a Greek word, means extended family.
The students were challenged to share Christ with their Oikos because those are people they share influence with. “Ninety-five percent of believers came to know Christ because someone in their Oikos actually invested in them,” the teens learned via a video.
“In order to change the world, we must first change our world,” said Jared Shingleton on another video about Oikos. Shingleton is youth pastor, Hope Fellowship Church, Smyrna, and Kent’s son. “You see relationships are not by accident. … He (God) knows exactly who is there and we believe that God is ready to empower you to change your world.” He added that his youth group recently nearly tripled in size after it began the Oikos strategy.
At the end of the last session, teens identified and wrote down the names of 8-15 people, the average number of people most people have influence with or their Oikos. Then they committed to spend time with, pray for, and witness to their Oikos.
Another part of the program were The Skit Guys, Tommy Woodard of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Eddie James of Dallas, Texas. They used humor to present the Ten Commandments, the rich young ruler, a person literally and figuratively being beaten up with a Bible, and several other messages.
Kent Shingleton additionally reported that next year the 50th YEC will be held. To prepare, about 30 people who had “seen God work in their lives over the years at YEC” were videotaped during YEC, said Shingleton. Many of those videos will be shared through social media throughout the next year.
Main message Friday night
Dave Edwards, biblical communicator of Oklahoma City, spoke to the teens about how sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. Then he asked the students why the relationships in their families, dating life, churches, and youth groups were “falling apart” and what “fig leaf” they were hiding behind.
Speaking from Genesis 2:25, 3:7, and 3:8, he noted Adam and Eve were in an idyllic situation yet they reached for the apple “and began all of this deception” which is “symbolic of them taking matters into their own hands,” said Edwards.
People often hide who they really are or their greatest insecurity or secret. This requires perpetual hiding and always looking for something new to hide behind, he added. People also begin to develop the thinking that if they ever become honest, they will be hurt.
Some use substances such as alcohol or narcotics, cutting themselves, food, clothes, online persona, looks, intellect, cheerleading, band, religion, music, or art as their fig leaves, Edwards noted.
Edwards told of his parents divorcing when he was 5 years old and not seeing his father again until he was 21. Then in school he couldn’t read or write so he was placed in a class for slow learners until it was finally determined that he was dyslexic. He coped through all of this by being funny though he was hiding a lot, he explained.
“Buried behind that thing you’re hiding behind is a wonderful person,” he observed.
As seen with Adam and Eve, God initiates but doesn’t invade our space and is not put off by our fig leaves or all the drama in our lives, he explained. Then God sacrificed an animal to clothe them which was the first sacrifice for sin and which was followed by God’s sacrifice of Jesus for sin.
Students today may experience “the eternal life of Jesus,” Edwards said. If they accept it, the right friends and the right people to date will come into their lives and they will find a better atmosphere in their homes.
In the middle of his broken home and his dyslexia he knew he wouldn’t make it unless Jesus was living inside of him, he said.
“Just like with Adam and Eve, God says to you and me tonight, ‘Let’s make a trade. You give me what you’ve been hiding behind and in exchange, I’ll give you something that you’ll never lose.’ ”
Saturday morning speaker
Luke MacDonald, executive pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel, Elgin, Ill., told the crowd of students they aren’t “special, not even a little bit.” His father is James MacDonald, the founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel which has seven campuses in metropolitan Chicago and the host of “The Walk in the Word” TV and radio shows.
The pursuit of specialness develops selfishness and narcissism and leads to misery, he explained. “You my friend were made for more.”
“We don’t need to be special; we don’t need to be the best because we already know the best; we know the King.”
MacDonald referred to David, the shepherd boy who was the giant killer and then the greatest king of Israel. He is described in the Bible as “a man after God’s own heart.” Yet David was the only one of Jesse’s eight sons to not be considered by his father to be a potential king.
“If anybody was special David was, but the fact that he knew that he wasn’t special is exactly what made him so significant.”
Many students in the crowd at the YEC could say honestly “I have a heart for God; I would love for God to use my life but I am the wrong person, so it’s not happening.” They may think this because they are bad at math or sports, chubby, have a learning disability, or are a girl. However, nearly all of the people in the Bible that God used had flaws and included prostitutes and murderers, said the pastor.
“Do you know that God has already given you everything that you need to do exactly what He wants you to do today? It’s so easy to get caught up in what we wish we had.”
David himself writes his belief that he’s not special in Psalms 8, noted MacDonald. Like David the students also can learn “that the story is not about us at all. We just get to be a small part of the story of God.” But God will do more through them than they could without Him, he added.
“You’re not special, but Jesus is. When you understand that, God can do anything, and I mean anything, in your life.”
Other news from YEC
The YEC participants gave $9,186 toward the 2018 YEC overseas missions trip to Guatemala to support the Tennessee/Guatemala Baptist Partnership. The TBMB coordinates the trip every other year. In 2016, 78 youth and adult leaders served in Guatemala.
YEC 2018 will be March 9-10 at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.