BY SHAWN BRACE
I had the privilege of attending my first GYC in Orlando just three weeks ago. After observing this organization from afar for a number of years—primarily by listening to a lot of the audio on their website, as well as occasionally watching their live streams of past conferences—I was eager to get an intimate view of this massive movement.
The big picture is that I was incredibly blessed by the tremendous Christian fellowship I enjoyed while attending. That is the thing that stands out to me the most. It was so refreshing to interact with thousands of young people (as well as a few older ones!) who not only share a burden for the Christ I love, but also the Adventism I love. I love how GYC—and those who attend—are consumed with a passion for Adventism, being unashamed of our prophetic calling and mission. One doesn’t need to be guarded when talking about subjects that are peculiarly Adventist. (Of course, I firmly believe that we should also be in environments where our faith is challenged, but I’m glad there are occasions when we can simply be unapologetically Adventist—an experience that GYC affords).
On the other hand, one of the areas of concern I had before attending GYC was whether there was enough emphasis on a subject that I deem to be all-consuming: the motivating love of Christ, especially revealed at the cross. I am pretty one-track minded, feeling this needs to be front-and-center at any Adventist gathering. This is not to say that other topics cannot be addressed (i.e., eschatology, standards, etc.), but that they should all be bathed in this important theme.
After attending GYC, I was encouraged by a greater awareness of this need, encountering pockets of presenters who seemed to recognize this. The evening speaker, Jeffrey Rosario, is one example. He spoke openly about our calling to lift up the beauty of Christ (which makes Adventism most unique), and not simply subjects that may unnecessarily cause alienation from others. My heart also rejoiced when it was announced that the theme at next year’s GYC will be “At the Cross.” This underscored to me that GYC is continuing to seek to move toward a more balanced, gospel-centered emphasis, recognizing that what makes Adventism most unique is our understanding of the gospel and the cross, rather than any other teachings that we may detach from this important center.
Is GYC perfect? Of course not. None of us are! Could there be a greater gospel-emphasis? Absolutely (just as there could be in my own preaching and teaching). But I would definitely encourage a person to attend—just as I hope to do so again in the future.