Gray hair is few and far between among the almost 4,000 people who gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, for the 2020 convention of Generation. Youth. Christ (GYC).
The annual event, geared to church members 35 years old or younger, began on the evening on January 1 with a clear-cut call for attendees to serve and commit more to doing bold things for God.
“Instead of trying to make a difference, I believe we should try to make the difference,” said Dean Cullinane, the evening speaker this year. The 2020 GYC Convention followed the theme “By Many or By Few,” words pronounced in the Bible by King Saul’s son Jonathan before he attacked a garrison of the Philistines with only the assistance of the young man who bore his armor (1 Samuel 14:6). In that vein, Cullinane, who serves as a dean at Weimar Institute in California, called everyone to avoid conformism and set higher goals for Christ.
“We often say we must bring one person to Jesus,” he said. “But I’m not comfortable just bringing one person to Jesus. We should try to bring a thousand people to Him.” Reflecting once more on Jonathan’s story, he said, “Jonathan’s faith was a crazy, insane faith, but God rewarded him, because the Bible says that ‘The Lord saved Israel that day’” (1 Samuel 14:23).
To achieve similar results, Cullinane emphasized, total surrender is essential.
“You’ll never know how much of a difference you’ll make until you put everything else aside,” he said. “We cannot be used by the Holy Spirit if our lives are singing ‘I Surrender Most,’” Cullinane added, in a nod to the well-known Christian hymn, “I Surrender All.” “And we must be responsible for the changes we want to see. We cannot love God by default,” he said.
Bathed in Study and Prayer
Before young people — or any church member, for that matter — can be bold for God, it is essential to study God’s Word and to spend time in prayer, GYC leaders emphasized.
“I’m fearful that young people would rather show off their new shoes than their old Bibles,” Cullinane said as he stressed the need for every church member to delve into God’s Word.
At the same time, Bible study and lofty goals without unceasing prayer are useless, said GYC president Moise Ratsara in his opening remarks.
“A generation that is waiting for Christ’s coming is a generation of prayer,” Ratsara said. On that note, GYC leaders reported that a day before the official opening of the event, more than 150 people who had already arrived in Louisville welcomed 2020 in a special session of prayer. And special prayer sessions were to take place early each morning during the convention.
“We’ll pray for different things — for surrender, for the Holy Spirit, for the persecuted,” Ratsara said. “Our activities will be bathed in prayer.”
One of the reasons prayer is essential, according to Ratsara, is that there is a clear connection between a life of prayer and young people’s willingness to serve even in the most difficult of circumstances. “A praying generation is a generation willing to sacrifice,” he said.
Opportunities for Service
Against that background, GYC leaders explained that the organization is stressing ways and methods that can open opportunities for serving as Jesus served. Reminding attendees of the scores of booths at the adjacent exhibit hall hosted by a variety of mission-minded ministries and organizations, Ratsara said that most of them were there to help young people find a place — an activity to share Jesus with others.
“We want to give you opportunities to serve Jesus,” he emphasized.
In a pre-recorded video message, Seventh-day Adventist Church president Ted Wilson reminded young people that they had not come to this annual event by chance. “I know there is a purpose in your presence being there at the GYC convention,” he told them. Quoting Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White in a message to young people, he read, “‘Do not hesitate to work for the Lord because you think you can do but little. Do your little with fidelity; for God will work with your efforts’” (from Messages to Young People, p. 23).
In that sense, Cullinane called attendees to work and serve selflessly without looking for acknowledgment or the world’s praise.
“We are not in this work to be remembered,” Cullinane said. “So look for the impossible, for those situations where you have to put all your trust in God, and move forward in faith.”