More than 4000 middle and high school students (and the chaperones that brought them) pile into a large room waiting for the event to start. Hundreds have already crowded around the stage in anticipation for what is about to happen. Suddenly a big clock appears on the screens around the room and a countdown of one minute appears….
The crowd begins to stir.
More students flock to the front. Some of them dragging chaperones by the hand to squeeze into the already mass of adolescent energy that has taken up all available room near the stage and has spilled into the aisles. The glorious, all-together chant of counting backwards from 10 has begun….
10….The crowd yells together
9….They all get louder.
8….Some students are jumping ahead to 7
7….The majority of audience screamed together
6…. The kid behind me shouted in my ear.
5…..I could smell what he had for dinner.
4…..It was pizza and Monster energy.
3……Some kids starting turning the flashlights on their phones.
2…….the noise swelled.
1…….the crown erupts and then a loud voice yells out…
“STUDENT CONFERENCE 2018….DOES ANYBODY HERE LOVE JESUS!?”
A tidal wave of thunderous roar with screams and yells that can only be compared to that of a battle cry, is unleashed in the sanctuary of Gateway Church in Dallas, Texas. The annual conference brings young people from all over the world for the honor and glory of one name…Jesus.
The Time is Now, was the theme of the conference and dynamic speakers from church all over, encouraged and uplifted the young people to pursue their passions, gifting and callings. The line-up included: Pastor Robert Madu, Pastor Bianca Olthoff, Pastor Rich Wilkerson Jr., Pastor Jeremy Foster, and Pastor Ben Pirtle.
And those were just a few of the main session speakers. They challenged all of us to step outside our comfort zone to be Jesus. Even if outside your comfort zone meant yelling “YOU BETTER PREACH WHITE-BOY”! (Pastor Rich told us to yell that, I’m not making that up)
Break-out sessions that included; Social Media Communication, Songwriting, Hearing from God and knowing your purpose, really pushed students towards their dreams. It was refreshing to hear church leaders say, your role to play in God’s Kingdom, doesn’t have to be a “church-related” staff jobs.
There were music producers, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, anything that can be considered a job, they wanted this generation to passionately pursue it. One of my favorites was a short film made by Gateway students entitled: The Bold Ones. It focused on the pursuit of our greatest passions and how in that, God can be glorified. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=afnV61IKpWY&feature=youtu.be)
I honestly can say, the highlight of the three-day, two-night event was when we took time to inspire each other as a group back at our hotel. We made a big circle of chairs and leaders and youth begun to call those things out of each other in complete unity and life-giving encouragement that truly revitalizes one another. It was amazing to see how the students responded to each other and earnestly prayed for each other. This is what we were created to do and this is how God intended for us to live life together. I don’t think anyone left the room with dry eyes……that means there was a lot of crying!
I’ve always been a huge admirer of Gateway Church and their student conference doesn’t disappoint. That’s probably why our church has consistently been in attendance over the last 5 years and will continue to do so.
Side note: Nothing makes you more proud than to hear a staff member/volunteer from Gateway say, “I’ve heard hundreds of youth names and seen hundreds of shirts, you guys by FAR have the most dopest youth group name ever! That 212° is something!”
212° is the point at which water boils and is transformed. It is something new. 1st Corinthians 5:17 tells us all the old things are gone away and all things are made new in Christ.