By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
8,017 students, leaders attend annual Youth Evangelism Conference held in Nashville
NASHVILLE — A total of 655 teens attending the YEC or Youth Evangelism Conference made professions of faith.
In addition, 140 teens made commitments to specific roles in ministry including missionary work, 149 requested baptism, and 82 were other decisions.
A total of 1,026 students made public spiritual commitments and recorded them.
The YEC — sponsored annually for the past 46 years by the Tennessee Baptist Convention — was held March 13-14 at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.
A total of 8,017 students and leaders, mostly from Tennessee but also from four other states participated, reported Kent Shingleton of the TBC staff who directs the event.
One unique feature of the 2015 YEC was the baptism of a new Christian teen. In his 17 years of leading the YEC, this is the first baptism to be held, said Shingleton.
Hannah Melson, 15, a new Christian, was baptized by Joe Thompson, pastor, Southside Baptist Church, Shelbyville, where she attends. Assisting was Josh Melson, youth minister and Hannah’s dad. Her mother, Tena, watched from the crowd.
Shingleton welcomed the students to YEC, asking, “I wonder what God has planned for you this week?
“I know many of you are stuck in stuff … I don’t know all you need but Jesus Who is here tonight in this place is tougher than any of your stuff. …
“He is calling many of you to be His disciples. Jesus said it would be difficult — that you would be like lambs among the wolves, but He says, ‘I am sending you to take a stand.’ It may not make sense but He says follow Him, take a stand.”
The theme of the 2015 YEC was “Stand.”
Clayton King, youth evangelist of Anderson, S.C., was the main speaker.
In the Friday night session King, who operates Clayton King Ministries and Crossroads Summer Camps, spoke from Luke 24.
He told the students that many of them were “good at being close to Jesus but not being consumed by Jesus. You’re good at playing church but not following Christ.”
He read the events in this Bible passage which followed the resurrection of Jesus including the seven-mile journey by two disciples of Jesus from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Jesus joined the men on the journey.
King noted sometimes Christians don’t realize that Jesus is looking for them.
So many teens today think that because they are too bad or that too many bad things have happened to them, Jesus will be offended or disgusted.
Issues facing students include: not being a virgin, molestation/abuse, cutting themselves, drinking alcohol and taking pills, struggling with their sexuality, wanting to die, hating the way they look, and watching pornography, King said.
“You can never sin greater than God’s love for you. … He’s saying, ‘I love you. Let me in.’ ” King referred the students to Romans 10:13 and John 3:16.
On the other hand, King asked the students if they think they are Christians because they dress modestly and have never gone to an R-rated movie?
Returning to the Bible passage, he speculated that the two disciples in Luke 24 finally recognized Jesus because they saw the nail holes in his wrists as He broke bread.
“Nobody survived the Roman crucifixion. He didn’t survive one but He defeated one,” declared King.
When the disciples finally recognized Jesus, who then disappeared, they were so impacted that they walked seven miles back to Jerusalem though it was dark and dangerous to do so, reported King.
“If you’ve never felt close to Jesus, maybe then you’ve never let Him in. …
“Invite Him to take control of your life and He’ll save you now and He’ll continue saving you for the rest of your life and He will never let you go.”
In the Saturday session King spoke from Romans 1 explaining that identity should precede activity.
“Identity is more important than your activity.”
He discussed why Jesus was identified as Lord by early Christians. The term at that time was used by people when referring to Roman emperors, so the use to refer to Jesus was openly questioning the Roman hierarchy as well as helping people look to Him as their ruler.
King said he struggled with his own identity. He was adopted when his 15-year-old mother “gave me up.”
He may not know his physical DNA but “I know what my spiritual DNA is.”
Teenage girls should know their identity, he added. They should know that they are “the temple of the Holy Spirit and not a play toy for some boy who can’t control his urges.”
Boys who think they should get drunk to impress others should realize that they “don’t have to go out and impress anybody.”
He quickly added that “I’m not a perfect person. I sin all the time.”
Students may be thinking that they are fine because they don’t cheat, don’t tell perverted jokes, and don’t send pictures of themselves that might lead someone “to stumble or cause people to misunderstand” their intentions.
He warned the students against spending a lot of time on Instagram, Twitter, the Internet, and Facebook.
“I love you. I don’t want you to close down everything. But are you obsessed with it? … Are you always looking at your phone? … You cannot have a virtual relationship with people.”
Christianity has to do with human connection “and we have to be eager for that.”
He warned them to stop listening to Satan who constantly speaks to them.
The Apostle Paul said he wasn’t ashamed of the gospel but in the original Greek Paul said, “There is no shame in the gospel.”
“Just because you messed up, it doesn’t mean you give up.”
They shouldn’t be worried that people don’t like them. “People already don’t like you,” quipped King.
“You’re not a second class citizen of this world. You’re a walking, talking, stick of gospel dynamite.”
King encouraged them to share their faith. While he has served in other countries telling unreached people about Jesus or just witnessing to someone at Walmart “the crazy, mysterious, supernatural happens. … Then you will know you are on mission like Paul.”
If they are a Christian, each one of them is already called to be a minister and a witness, he instructed. But some have “a special call” to be a minister or a missionary.
King invited students who understood that God was issuing that call to them to move to the stage. Hundreds did.
Other YEC activities
The students gave an offering for the TBC 2016 Guatemala Missions Trip for high school students to be led by TBC staff. It will be held June 4-11, 2016.
A Christian celebration band, Rend Collective of Ireland, capped off the Friday session with a celebratory concert for the many spiritual commitments just made. Rend Collective is currently in the United States touring with Christian composer and recording artist Chris Tomlin.
Also several videos featuring Tennessee Baptist students were viewed by the YEC crowd. The featured students told how they took a stand for Christ.
First Baptist Church, Selmer, brought 84 students and a total of 102 people.
John Chandler, youth minister, said, “We’ve got a good group of parents that are committed and we all function together as a committee. I’m just blessed to lead the group.”
The youth group takes about four trips a year and coming to YEC is one of them. To transport the group, the church chartered two buses.
On Friday night 10 students from the group made spiritual commitments, of which six were first-time professions of faith, said Chandler, which makes the effort worth it.
“There is not a better, close, easy event than YEC and even though it is a big expense, it’s more effective and important to our youth group (than others),” he explained.
While at YEC the group spends a lot of time together fellowshiping, added Chandler. A lot of counseling occurs. When they return home they make a video together about the trip.
“It’s all about us being together as a youth group,” he concluded.
He has led the youth group to YEC for 12 straight years.
Ben Putnam, youth pastor, First Baptist Church, Watertown, attended the Special Youth Leader Briefing where he wrote down the name of a teen in his group who needed God and prayed for him. Then during the YEC session, the student made a profession of faith.
“Prayer works. A young man made the decision of a lifetime,” said Putnam, who brought about 20 students and leaders.
He brings his group because “it gives an opportunity for the kids to get out of their normal environments.”
Putnam noted that they are around so much sex, drugs, and alcohol. But at YEC they have “a great environment where they can finally sit down and listen to that still, small voice that is calling them.
“I don’t have any question that they’re going to hear the gospel,” said Putnam.
The 2016 YEC will be March 11-12 at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.