IRVING, Texas — With 236 professions of faith at youth ministry events of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention during the summer of 2003, Student Evangelism Associate Tom Cottar can finally take a deep breath. After organizing two youth events targeting lost students and one student leadership camp, all of which occurred in the first two months of the summer, the SBTC staffer has now set his sights on an October event to train youth pastors.
“We are lookingto start a revolution,” said Cottar, explaining that modern youth are “extremely savvy,” but have bought into a non-Christian worldview.
Although youth are often “anti-church,” Cottar said students are still interested in spiritual things. “They are finding out that life, real life, is only found in the truth ofGod’sWord. Not in Allah, Justin Timberlake or even themselves. We can criticize Britney Spears all day long; she may be the sum of all our fears. But get ready, Britney has built an army.”
Cottar said the vision of the SBTC for reaching youth is to “expose students to the power of the truth of God, to let them experience real life (through worship, missions, teaching, etc.), and then togive them the tools to live a Christ-centered life, making a difference for the kingdom in their home, school and church.”
About 260 students seeking to make a difference in their communities attended the first annual Outbreak Leadership Camp, June 2-6. Outbreak, designed to equip and teach youth leaders, also aspires to give students hands-on ministry skills through classroom teaching, student involvement modules and intense Bible study.
“The purpose of Outbreak is to teach the youth apologetics, leadership skills and a ‘Jesus-style’ of living that attracts unbelievers and strengthens the local church body,” said Cottar.
At the end of the day, students gathered for corporate worship to hear main speaker Aubrey Spears and praise by the John Sherrill Band. Texas Baptists offered interaction with the youth in small group sessions on the Christian worldview including: Bil Cornelius, pastor of Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi; Chandra Peele of Godly and Beautiful Ministries; and Randy Haney, pastor of Faith Harbor in Baytown.
June 9-13, the SBTC hosted its annual youth camp in Columbus, Texas with Dare 2 Run Ministries. About 1,100 students from 150 churches attended the camp, purposed to bring the gospel to lost youth, while encouraging and strengthening the walk of existing Christians. From youth camp, Cottar reported 150 professions of faith, 77 calls to full-time Christian service and 18 recommitments to living in Christ-likeness.
Main events and speakers included Jeff Mangum and The Smith Band leading in worship.
Approximately 2,000 students from 115 different churches attended the Youth Evangelism Conference (YEC), July 11-12 at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. This year’s conference was centered on the theme of the connectwithgod.com web site, which encourages youth to first connect with God in a personal and intimate relationship, connect with a friend who does not know Christ and, finally, connect that friend with Christ.
“If those students will catch a vision of what they can do, not just in their school campus, but in their church, they can go back and actually be the light that sparks something in their church, in their youth group, in their family,” Cottar said.
Conference speaker Dave Edwards told students that no matter how many “religious motions” they go through, it won’t matter until they “really, genuinely connect with the life of Christ.”
Edwards, citing Ezekiel 36:25-27, outlined three things that only God can do: make believers complete, change them and make them clean.
“If we’re going to connect with God, we’re going to have to allow him to do something in us that we could never do on our own,” he said.
Youth were encouraged throughout the weekend not only to seek to draw nearer to Christ themselves, but to encourage others as well. Computers were set up to allow students to log on to the connectwithgod.com site establishing screen names and email accounts.
“[Students] can meet each other online, encourage each other and ultimately reach out to their lost friends, lost students and peers,” Cottar said.
One 18-year-old student already connecting with God, others and his community volunteered to act as a deejay, performing between guest speakers and musicians during YEC. Noel Montemayor of Rowlett said he has always been a big music fan, but in recent years God has shown him that music can be one of the central ways he can connect with other students in order to share the love of Christ.
“How awesome is it just to deejay and… [bring] people to know Christ,” he said, looking out over his peers at the conference. “How awesome is that? When you’re deejaying, you can change a life. One deejay can affect over a thousand people.”
Cottar said he watched in amazement as Montemayor sought to focus the attention of his peers on Christ through his energetic performances.
“After each session, there were 20 to 30 kids standing around him asking questions. He probably shared his faith with 100 kids that weekend, because they were so interested,” Cottar recounted. “His whole message was ‘If you’ll give every area of your life over to God, there’s no limit to what he will do with it. Look at me. I’m just a high-school kid from Rowlett; I’m just up here spinning records and loving God with my life.'”
Other YEC speakers and event leaders during the weekend included Chandra Peele; the John Sherrill Band and Big Daddy Weave; drama ministry Skitzo; and speaker Bill Gravell. Broken Ground, a choir of 7th-12th grade students from First Baptist Church Euless also performed.
The purpose of cramming three major youth ministry events into the first six weeks of the summer was not a moment of insanity, Cottar assured, but to demonstrate that all students have a place of service in the kingdom of God.
“I want to send a message that says, ‘regardless of what part you play in the body of Christ, we need you,” Cottar said. “Students have to realize that they are not the church of tomorrow, but the church of ‘right now’.”