Why do we do it? Why does the Church of the Lutheran Brethren—you!—invest time and money into a national convention for youth? As the Regional Pastor representing the work of North American Mission with the Youth Convention (YC), I needed to answer that. Is it worth your investment?
This year it can be summed up in one word: YES! Friday night of YC17 demonstrated that in a defining way. Pastor Dave Foss was preaching from God’s Word to the crowd of some 550 young people and their chaperones. The theme of the week was Break Every Chain. The messages from Pastors Dave Foss and Chris Priestaf were designed to help those present see how we are all gripped by the chains of sin in some way. They both presented the Law and showed us our sin and need of Christ. And then they presented the Gospel—how Christ breaks the chains that hold us.
That Friday evening Pastor Foss asked if anyone there needed prayer. A simple request after God’s Word had done its work in the hearts of those gathered. Young people, chaperones and pastors came down to the front of the auditorium and received that prayer. After praying, with the area full of people, they all embraced in one huge hug, a hug from one another, but really a hug from the Lord.
Now it is easy to over-emotionalize things and I don’t want to do that. But as the group started to break up and leave for the evening’s youth group gatherings, I stood by and watched and prayed. It was easy to see, by the tears and other outward signs of emotion, that many were deeply affected by the Word of God working in their hearts and minds. One pastor came to me and said he was one of the first to go to the front of the auditorium because he needed that prayer, he needed to be set free! Then he added, only Jesus can set us free.
I was not part of any youth group, so I did not experience what happened in each group’s evening gatherings, but I walked among them to get a glimpse. What I saw were some of the usual things from young people. Smiles, jokes and teasing. But I also saw heads bowed and prayers being offered to Jesus. It reminded me of my youth, when I was trying to figure out what life was all about and whether there really was a God who created me and died to save me. I am glad for YC. I am glad because God’s Word is preached there and young people have the opportunity to meet Jesus through his Word.
Pray for all who went to YC17, that the seed that was planted there will prove to have fallen on good soil and grow in the hearts of those young people, their chaperones and even their pastors. We all need a fresh encounter with God through his Word.
Rev. Gary Witkop serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as Regional Pastor to the Western Region and represents North American Mission on the Youth Convention Planning Committee.