EMPOWER 2024: ‘God absolutely loves you”: 18 saved as Student Rally draws massive crowd

Evangelist Ryan Fontenot (right) prays as a group of students respond to the gospel message during the Empower Conference Student Rally Sunday night at Irving Convention Center. SBTC PHOTO

IRVING—In only its second year, the high-energy Empower Conference Student Rally drew double the crowd—nearly 750 students and youth leaders from 70 churches—as the inaugural event did one year ago. But that wasn’t the most important number.

Before the night ended at the Irving Convention Center, 18 students gave their lives to Christ following an invitation offered by evangelist Ryan Fontenot, founder of RAGE Ministries.

“The world says find yourself … identify yourself. … Jesus says, ‘Deny yourself,’” Fontenot said. “Jesus is not signing up to be your co-pilot. He doesn’t ride shotgun. …He came to take over your life.”

Fontenot’s gospel invitation was preceded by his sharing a humorous anecdote about the first time he told his eventual wife he loved her. He then pivoted, addressing an even greater love: the love of God evidenced in Luke 5.

“Those words—‘I love you’—are thrown out kind of casually. … We have all these things that we say we love,” Fontenot said. Referencing Luke 5:27, which recounts Jesus’ calling of Matthew, Fontenot added, “This story gives us a full picture of the love of God. I want you to know tonight that God loves you. God absolutely loves you.”

Just as Jesus pursued Matthew before calling him, Fontenot said, “The love of God finds us right where we are.” Many of those Jesus sought and called to salvation were in difficult life situations, including those who were demon-possessed and a woman caught in sin.

“You come to Jesus in order to get right with God. You don’t clean yourself up first,” Fontenot said.

Not only does God meet us where we are—He also invites us to where He is, Fontenot said. “Jesus loves you. Jesus will meet you. Jesus won’t leave you right where you are.”

Fontenot added that when God calls people, He calls them to fully surrender all aspects of their lives. That surrendered life “changes us forever.” Matthew, a tax collector, left behind an entire business to follow Jesus. Peter and Andrew, fishermen, “jumped ship” and did the same.

Jimmy McNeal leads the more than 750 students and leaders in worship during the Empower Conference Student Rally. SBTC PHOTO

In doing so, those men experienced literal life change. Fontenot urged students who have already made a profession of faith to examine their own lives to see if there is evidence of change, asking them to evaluate their music playlists and other forms of entertainment, their attitudes about church, and their desire—or lack thereof—for the Word of God.

In addition to Fontenot, the rally featured illusionist Zak Mirz and worship leader Jimmy McNeal.

Mirz warmed up the group with a series of illusions heavy on audience participation. Students expressed amazement as Mirz made impossibly correct guesses, manipulated silver coins, and created artificial snow. As McNeal and his team led from the stage, students sang, raised their hands, and worshiped enthusiastically.

Exclaimed McNeal, quoting Psalm 150: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”


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