GARLAND—During this year’s Baptist General Convention of Texas Youth Evangelism Conference, prayer was a mere text away.
Participants were able to text-message their prayer requests and see them projected onto a screen at the event—just one example of the changes the conference has undergone in its 40-year history.
Youth Evangelism Conference grew out of the vision of Wade Freeman, BGCT evangelism director in 1968. He appointed Theron Farris as first youth evangelism director, and the initial conference at Travis Avenue Church in Fort Worth drew about 5,000 students.
The conference rose out of a need to minister to young people, said George Worrell, who followed Farris as director. Organizers decided the best way to do that was by getting young people together.
“Young people inspire other young people,” he said.
Worrell later began a similar program in Missouri, and it spread to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Georgia.
Through the years, up to 20,000 students attended each conference to hear speakers ranging from Miss Texas to NFL star Terry Bradshaw. Venues have included Reunion Arena in Dallas and San Antonio’s Alamodome. This year, the conference was held at the Special Events Center in Garland.
“We try to have quality Christian bands and quality communicators,” said former director Chuck Flowers. “It has been a tremendous blessing.”
Each event has included a call to commitment, and thousands of students have responded during the public invitation, Worrell said.
The number of students attending the event has decreased in recent years as other organizations offer similar conferences—some scheduled on the same weekend.
But Flowers said he doesn’t look at it as multiplication, not competition.
“When you put it all together, there are more young people being reached than ever before,” he said. “We are excited about what God is doing.”
This year’s conference drew about 6,000 young people. At the event, 32 made professions of faith in Christ, 62 renewed their commitment to Christ, 17 expressed their sense of calling into ministry—and 32 responded to the invitation for more than one of those reasons.
During the conference, Jon Randles, BGCT Evangelism Team leader, said Texas churches and Christianity are so easy to access that people are hardened to it. People take the Christian message for granted.
“It is so cheap you don’t hear it,” he said. “It makes you knowledgeable, but it doesn’t change your heart.”
Randles challenged students not to get stuck in that mentality. He encouraged students not only to give God their hearts, but also give him their minds.
“You men and women, as young people, are a generation that lives on the cusp of what could be the most important generation since the book of Acts 2,000 years ago,” he told the students. “We could possibly be the greatest revival generation of all time.”
Anohter keynote speaker, Wes Hamilton, a teaching pastor at Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, used Moses to illustrate that there is no excuse for not doing as God calls.
Moses offered excuses for not doing what God asked, but God had an answer for every excuse, he noted.
If students feel like they don’t know enough about God to share their faith with others, they need to get to know him better, Hamilton said.
There are two types of people—those without a story because they have not allowed God to come into their lives, and those who need to tell their story, Hamilton noted.
“It is our belief that every student can have a story of their own,” BGCT Youth Evangelism Director Leighton Flowers said.