MACON — For two days last week speakers challenged approximately 4,500 students at the Macon Coliseum to treat 2019 as a year like no other.
The MOVE Conference, sponsored by Student Groups and Faith Development of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, has for years served to simultaneously evangelize attendees who haven’t made a commitment to Christ while equipping believers to witness to others. However, an unfortunate stereotype for student conferences points to teenagers’ emotions. Commitments made at the beginning of the new year, as adults can testify, often flare out as quickly as a roman candle.
Considering that, speakers and leaders urged attendees to claim the “Make Your Move” theme as one they will carry to their schools, hometowns, and homes. Speakers Ed Newton and Brent Crowe addressed the crowd Friday and Saturday, respectively. Others appearing included music groups Building 429 and Tenth Avenue North as well as illusionist Jared Hall. For photos and social media posts search with the hashtag #move18.
“We asked students to consider the specific move God wants them to make,” said Ricky Smith, lead state missionary for Student Groups and Faith Development. “Those ‘moves’ could then be written down on panels we’d placed throughout the exhibit hall. We read responses ranging from ‘share the gospel more’ to ‘read His word’ to ‘God called me to be a missionary in Kenya.’”
Also, students were given a magnet on which they could write their ‘move.’ That magnet can then be placed in a visible area – such as their school locker – to remind them of their decision. Approximately 200 students responded to an altar call Friday night, Smith added.
“We’re wanting to drive the students toward action,” he stressed. “God takes the commitments we make to Him seriously. So, we want to give teenagers tools to help them do that.”
A relevant message
Leaders affirmed MOVE’s commitment to be gospel-centered and equip students for ministry at their schools.
“This weekend was amazing and that doesn’t happen by chance,” Jim Williams, minister of students and communications at Friendship Baptist Church in Warner Robins, emailed Smith and state missionary Mike Ricks. “One of my students came from death to life Friday night and a couple of others had some really good seeds planted. Your genuineness for students and helping student pastors/student ministries is very evident and greatly appreciated.”
Jeff Glenn, student pastor at Shirley Hills Baptist in Warner Robins, cited the conference’s close proximity for the church’s 21 years of attending. But it’s far from the most important reason.
“We know the gospel is going to be presented and most every year we have students make decisions,” he said. “Our kids are going like the artists and hear about Christ in an environment relative to them.”
This year two from Sherwood Hills prayed to receive Christ while another made a rededication.
And whether it was intentional or not, Glenn picked up on a common thread through the messages and even lyrics to songs during worship. It touched on a subject he’s seeing more of in student ministry.
“I felt there was an emphasis on addressing student depression and anxiety, putting God first in dealing with those areas. It’s a message our kids need to hear because they’re dealing with a lot of stuff. God is our refuge and who we need to be going to.
“Brent Crowe’s messages Saturday were really relevant to our students. He challenged us to ask questions like ‘What is our purpose?’ and ‘Why did God put me here?’ What is the story of your life and how are you going to let God write your autobiography?
“Our students need to understand their identity in Christ and live a life with purpose, not allowing the world to drag them down. It was spot-on with what they needed to hear.”
Early steps for the next MOVE
“The MOVE Conference happens at a strategic time of year,” Smith pointed out. “Kids are on break and needing something to do before heading back to class. It’s also the catalyst for the youth leader heading into that second semester of school. We want everyone to see God is on the move and wants them to be a part of it. It also fits in well with the ‘This is My Story’ initiative. Youth pastors can use that on the heels of this conference and have a tool to help students learn to tell their testimony.”
Steps are already in place for next year’s MOVE Conference, again at the Macon Coliseum, he added. Pastor Naeem Fazal of Mosaic Church in Charlotte, N.C. and Clayton King, teaching pastor at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., will be the speakers. Artists include David Crowder, Bethany Barr Phillips, Riley Clemmons, and Micah Tyler.
“We’ve worked hard to go ahead and have our speakers lined for Dec. 27-28, 2019,” said Smith. “We encourage people to go ahead and register at the super-discounted rate that will only be good for the month of January.”