About a month ago, I and ten others from my church spent five days in Kentucky for an annual Christian Youth Conference called Momentum. Though we’d gone on mission trips before, it was the first time our church had tried going to a conference like this; it probably won’t be the last.
I knew I wanted to share something about the things I’d learned and experienced there, but giving a long, drawn-out, detail-by-detail account didn’t seem like the right way to do it. Instead, I thought I’d just post a slightly expanded version of what I had the opportunity to share with my church family yesterday.
Basically, how it changed me:
I went into this conference with very low expectations. For the most part, I was just expecting a lot of hype; if not from the leaders of the conference, then certainly from the other youth who would be there.
And yet, I came out of that conference a different person — a better person — than who I’d been going in. We learned and experienced so many things in those five, incredibly short yet full days, but if I had to sum up the greatest thing I took away from that conference, it would be the way that it made certain things that had always seemed out of reach for me… tangible. They became not just ideas, but realities.
One day at lunch, while I was waiting in line for pizza, the two guys standing next to me in line started a friendly conversation with me. Their names were Zach and Quinton, and they had both been saved at Momentum two years ago and three years ago respectively. After chatting for a bit, I turned to head back to my table with my pizza, when they asked me if there was anything they could pray for me before I went.
I was mind-blown. And yet, right there in that bustling cafeteria, they each laid a hand on my shoulder and just prayed for me like it was the most natural thing in the world. It didn’t matter that we’d met two minutes ago.
The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I was so caught off-guard. Are we not called to be a people of prayer, who are unafraid to come before the Throne, who lift up those in need without ceasing? All those two guys did was understand and live out that truth. Now, I can honestly say that I have never been less ashamed to ask people for prayer requests, even my friends who are not believers. Thanks to the concrete yet completely followable example of Zach and Quinton.
Perhaps the greatest example of the intangible becoming concrete took place in an area in which I’ve been struggling to grow for some time now: evangelism. One afternoon, our scheduled outreach was to walk around an assigned street and just find someone to “bless.” We each had $5 (so in our groups of three, we had $15 altogether), and that was to be our tool; buy someone lunch, maybe get to know their story, wherever it takes you.
The first person my group talked to cheerfully told us that she’d already had lunch (it was about 1:30pm after all), and that she was just out enjoying a walk. We watched her walk away, somewhat comforted by the thought that if we didn’t really get any other conversations, at least we’d tried. The second guy we talked to was walking towards the intersection we were standing by just as the crosswalk turned red (I remember thinking, “He has to wait for the light, maybe we can get a quick conversation with him”), so we just launched in and (pretty awkwardly) asked if we could buy him lunch or something. He seemed a little surprised and even slightly amused, so he asked us once or twice why we were doing this, and we responded once or twice that we simply wanted to “bless” him that day. Then he asked if we were from a church group or something (I think excessive use of the term “bless” tipped him off; that seems to be the Christian go-to for anything and everything good), which somehow (I don’t remember how) lead to asking him what he believed. After talking a little while longer, we asked him if we could at least get him a coffee or something to continue the conversation over, to which he readily agreed.
“But first you got to tell me what you believe.”
One hour later, there under the Kentucky sun by that intersection, we were still talking to him; about the Gospel, about Christ, what Christians believe, what he believed, and especially about the Bible. He was a really nice guy, and he shot completely straight with us. We in turn did the same. We listened as he explained what he thought about a certain Christian idea, and he would listen as we explained what we thought he should know about said idea. He believed that the Bible was a great book, full of human wisdom, and that eternal life consists of the legacy you leave behind by living well. We encouraged him to check out the prophecies in the Bible to weigh whether they seemed no more than man’s words or not, and told him becoming an ambassador of God means leaving an earthly and an eternal legacy behind you. It was an amazing conversation. It ended pretty naturally; we just thanked him for talking with us for so long, he thanked us for our conversation, and he just walked off in the direction that he’d originally been going.
He never did get that coffee. As we watched him walk away, we said a quick prayer for him; that God would allow the seeds that He had planted through us to take root, and to grow into something fruitful in that man’s life. Quite a few of the things we had said seemed to take traction in his mind; he just said that he couldn’t accept some of the things the Bible teaches. I pray that he sees that the Bible is God’s Word, and that when our opinions and the Scriptures diverge, we are the ones who must change.
(By the way, we also found out later that one of the other groups, seeing us engaged in conversation with this guy, decided to pray for us while we were talking across the street. That was cool.)
All that to say this: a wall has been lifted. Now, talking to complete strangers about the gospel is no longer… unfathomable to me. I’ve seen that it can be done. In fact, now I want to do it again and often.
I know for a fact that that hour-long conversation in the Kentucky sun was all the work of the Holy Spirit. All the right thoughts and Scripture passages and examples just came to mind (and you better believe that I was praying for them throughout the conversation). It was incredible to see how He used my thinking and what I’ve learned in the past to guide that conversation. And maybe for that reason, it felt pretty much normal to be having a conversation like that. If it had been an incredibly dramatic, mountain-top experience, I would be so afraid that I would never be able to have that kind of experience again. But it didn’t; now, it can become a habit.
One thing I liked about the conference overall was the emphasis on not just having moments with God; nice, fuzzy feelings you can look back on. Instead, we are to build momentum. A snowballing of passion for the Lord’s work that just keeps growing as it goes along, that gets more and more unstoppable and impacts more and more lives as it dives deeper into enemy territory.
That is the kind of life I long to have, the kind of “regular activity” I long to do, the kind of person I long to be. I don’t want to just think back to the time I had that really cool conversation with that guy in Kentucky. I want to make conversations like that a pattern in my life. As Aristotle so aptly said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” It’s a lifestyle, a consistent pattern, not a moment or a one-time experience.
Obviously, there will be many failures, many rejections, many disappointments as I try to live this out. But I serve a God who can turn my weakness to strength, and turn what the enemy means for evil to the good of His people and His own glory.
I went into that conference with low expectations, and came out… different. Honestly, for the first time in my Christian walk, I can say with confidence that I know — both in my head and my heart — that I am a new creation. That I am not ashamed of the gospel; that I am not the same anymore. And I pray that the momentum I have now will not fade as the days pass, but grow all the stronger for the passage of time.
* * * * *
I leave for college tomorrow. And though I go to a Christian campus, I want to get into the community there and be a light to the lost and the unseen. I ask that God would enable me, His servant, to speak and live with boldness, and I ask that you pray that I would live as such. Your prayers are ever appreciated.
I fully intend to continue blogging, but I’ll likely be learning to walk again in my new environment for most of first semester, so it’s anyone’s guess how much time will present itself for me to dedicate here. As always, I thank you for reading, and hope to be back soon.
Praying for boldness,