COLUMBIA – At least nine students professed faith in Christ during the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) annual Youth Evangelism Conference (YEC) at Woodcrest Church here, Jan. 19-20.
The event was the MBC’s first YEC, at least in recent decades, and it drew 332 students and ministers from 33 churches around the state.
“I am so encouraged by what the Lord is doing in our state among students in the area of evangelism,” Brad Bennett, Making Disciples director for the MBC, told The Pathway. “Not only were students equipped in the area of relational evangelism, but we witnessed nine students surrender their lives to Jesus. I am grateful for our Making Disciples group, Jason Walters and Tamara Parry, and their dedication in executing such a quality evangelism conference for students and adult leaders.”
According to MBC Making Disciples specialist Jason Walters, the convention decided to organize this YEC after the Colorado-based Dare 2 Share Ministries stopped hosting its annual evangelism conferences in St. Louis and Kansas City in 2017. Jon Burdette, director of mobilization for Dare 2 Share, was the guest speaker at the MBC’s new conference.
The main reason young people don’t share their faith is because they’ve never been shown how to do so, Walters said. But the YEC now gives Missouri Baptists an opportunity to train both students and their leaders how to make disciples. The first YEC “went very well,” he added. “It exceeded all of our expectations.”
Yet Walters wasn’t the only one to feel that the YEC achieved its goals.
Michael Wilbanks, associate pastor of Faith Baptist Church, Festus, brought a group of 18 from his church to the conference. He said the YEC “encouraged us to boldly and compassionately share the gospel of Jesus with others often.” The event reminded him that the window of opportunity for evangelism is short, since not even tomorrow is guaranteed.
Evangelism training of this kind “can resuscitate our dead or cold hearts,” awakening again our passion for evangelism, Wilbanks added. But “if we never actually go and share, we are missing the point.”
That’s why leaders at the YEC gave young people a “48-hour challenge”: They had 48 hours after the conference to send a message to a friend who needs to hear the gospel, opening a conversation about their need for Christ.
The conference motivated evangelistic action among Missouri Baptists in other ways, as well. Ben Schnipper, a pastor at Genesis Church, Mexico, told The Pathway that the YEC was a “spring board” for an event that the church is planning to host in March. He hopes the event will “give our students opportunities to serve our community, pray with people in our community and share the gospel.”
“I think it is important to continue doing this event, and I will take my students to the conference again if the MBC has one,” Schnipper added. “For our group the fact that it was close and inexpensive made it an easy decision to come. I love that this topic in particular was covered during the school year so our students could turn around and go to school and share.”
The MBC’s Walters told The Pathway that the convention is already making plans to host another YEC at Woodcrest Church, Columbia, next January.