320 students make spiritual commitments
By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
NASHVILLE — The Youth Evangelism Conference 2016 drew about 8,330 teens and their sponsors here March 11-12 to worship, laugh at The Skit Guys, and hear challenges.
The YEC is the largest event held by the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The attendance was up about 300 from last year.
A total of 278 students made professions of faith while 42 made other commitments.
For the first time, using the YEC app, many of the students recorded their spiritual commitments on hand-held devices or smart phones. Also with the app, teens and sponsors gave funds to the missions offering.
Another new offering this year was the video of YEC highlights available on social media outlets. The video, which was available for download the evening of March 12, could be shown in church services and youth meetings as part of a report.
Kent Shingleton, youth evangelism specialist, TBC, welcomed the crowd to the Municipal Auditorium, introducing this year’s theme — Detox.
“Our prayer is that you would detox from this world and truly change what you care about, and that will only happen when you meet Jesus Christ as the Savior and Lord of your life,” he stated, followed by applause.
Shingleton told of Peter and John after Pentecost and other great events for Christians at the time. The disciples were directed by authorities to stop talking about Jesus. However, Peter and John said, “Sir, we can’t help but talk about what we have seen and what we have heard.”
Finally, Shingleton said leaders of YEC “believe God wants to reveal something amazing to you … He loves you, He loves you.”
Friday night session
Ed Newton, former associate pastor and staff evangelist, Faith Baptist Church, Bartlett, for 14 years until 2013, was the main speaker for YEC 2016. He is the
new senior pastor, Community Bible Church, San Antonio, Texas.
On Friday night he said, “As we talk about ‘Detox’ tonight, I think for many of us we need to be defragmented, detoxed from this idea that our good behavior or our religion will allow us to have a right standing before God. …
“Good people don’t go to heaven. Saved people go to heaven. …
“It’s not about you doing better; it’s about you understanding that Christ is better.”
Newton referred the teens to Colossians 3:1-4 noting the verses refer to the position of people apart from Christ, in Christ, and through Christ.
Everyone has sinned, are dead spiritually, and thus, pitied by God, Newton explained.
Religion can’t save people, he added, because it is like someone trying to climb a mountain to meet God. Also religion teaches that “Jesus is one of many pathways.” Instead God came down the
mountain to be with us, he ex-
Believing in Jesus isn’t enough because even the demons believed in Him, Newton said. People “can’t impress a holy God. The only thing that impresses God is perfection, because that’s His character.”
The sins of a person “are thrown into the depths of the ocean” or are “removed as far as the east is from the west. …
“Nobody can love you like Jesus … because when you and I were enemies of God, God loved us, despite us,” he explained.
Newton discussed the view of some Christians that their identity is based on being a sinner.
“God looks at me just as if I’ve never sinned. … God sees you as son and daughter and neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, nor present, nor future can ever separate you from the love of God. …
“Rise up, step up, speak up, and begin to embrace the destiny that God has set for you … .”
People can be assured that there is nothing they can do to earn salvation or lose salvation, Newton added. “We (Christians) set our minds on things above and this is our identity, not guilt.”
He referred to many in the crowd who come to YEC year after year and are encouraged in their faith but two weeks later they “go back to an old way of life.”
Teens may be thinking about their performance as Christians or things other than their relationship with Jesus, observed Newton. For instance, they should not let some clothing brand, whether Abercrombie or Tractor Supply, define them.
Are you hiding or concealing Christ? he asked the teens. Are you “Christian ninjas” who come and go without people noticing? You might be “settling for second best” in your life.
“He wants to be made known through you.”
Finally Newton asked if the teenagers would be ready to meet Jesus if He came back tonight. You might say that you know Jesus, “but does Jesus know you?”
Saturday morning session
On Saturday morning Newton spoke from Colossians 3:4-12.
The students at the YEC “are not the future church of America … ; they are the current church of America,” he declared, which was followed by applause.
“Students, I want you to hear this — It’s not about what your church can do for you, it’s about what you can do for your church.”
Referring to verse 5 and sexual sin, Newton stated that anytime a person’s sexuality, relationship status, or intimacy with the opposite sex becomes their identity, it becomes idolatry which is sin.
He admitted that he made some “catastrophic choices” before he was a Christian. He was introduced to pornography at 11 years old by a family member and became sexually active at age 12. He stopped being sexually active when he became a Christian in high school.
“At 40 years old I still bear the emotional scars in regard to choices that I wish I could go back and erase.”
Thankfully his fiancé forgave him for not being sexually pure, though she was when they married, Newton added.
“Would you wake up every day and fight for holiness? It could be an addiction; it could be a battle; it could be in regard to purity. Today you make a decision not to go back to an old way of life.”
God has a plan for your destiny and what you say and do really does matter, he added.
Dealing with sexual sin “is a battle for the mind. … It’s not accidental that every form of marketing and media is going after you. They’re using sexuality to sell everything. …
“God created sex and it is good but it has to remain within the context of marriage and it’s not because … God hates you. Actually God has the very best in store for you.” Decide that the person you will marry is worth waiting for, he advised.
Then Newton referred to verse 7 which considers anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk.
Christians avoid these things because they have salvation rather than to earn salvation, he stated.
“Rules without relationship equals rebellion.”
People can choose to be like everybody else in society or follow God.
In verse 9 the Scripture notes that being a Christian is not about race, religion, or a person’s resources. It’s about Christ who makes all of these characteristics unimportant, he stated.
Newton referred to verse 12 which lists the fruit of the spirit.
“If we know in the end we win, then why do we choose to live in defeat today?”
Instead of constantly thinking of themselves as sinners, Christians can have a “love relationship with Jesus, and therefore I wake up every day with just two choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.”
Just like the main characters of the movie, “Ghostbusters,” Christians shouldn’t be afraid of the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit. “I don’t have more of the Holy Spirit in me than you have in you. It’s whether or not we submit and surrender.”
The Holy Spirit “desires to lead you in victory” but people try to do their own thing. If they realized that God saved their soul, then they should grasp that He can manage the details of their lives. God is their shield, deflector, protector, and defender, he declared.
Finally, Newton encouraged the teens to read the Bible which will renew their minds. The Bible is filled “with sweet solutions to life. … The Word of God is true for all people, all places, for all times.”
About half of an 80-member team of older students who will serve in Guatemala this summer were commissioned. The team is supporting the Tennessee/Guatemala Baptist Partnership. Offerings taken at YEC 2015 and 2016 will help fund the missions work.
This year $20,194 was given to the effort.
YEC 2017 will be held in Nashville March 10-11.