Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists from all 50 United States and 61 foreign countries heard a clarion call for holiness and dedication to the movement’s core message on the morning of Sabbath, January 4, 2014, as the annual Generation. Youth. Christ (GYC) event reached its zenith in Orlando, Florida. Morning worship attendance was recorded at 6,500.
“As Seventh-day Adventist young people in service to God before men and angels, you are called to proclaim the Advent hope with the need for revival, repentance, and reformation through the power of the Holy Spirit,” declared Ted N. C. Wilson, General Conference president, who moments earlier was named “president of the young people” by outgoing GYC president Justin McNeilus. A smiling Wilson responded by saying the accolade “was an even better title than being president of the General Conference.”
The veteran church leader then turned serious in his call for evangelism by the church’s young people, many of whom had both attended training sessions on outreach during the annual four-day GYC event and had participated in a day of outreach in Florida’s fifth-largest city, with a 2012 population reported at 249,562.
On Friday, January 3, nearly 2,800 Adventist teens and young adults gathered in the Orange County Convention Center’s auditorium to be trained in meeting community residents through two primary methods: distributing GLOW tracts and offering The Great Controversy door to door on a donation basis. The money gathered from the sale of these books was designated to support a ministry in the Orlando area called SALT (Service And Love Together) that witnesses for God in various ways, including helping those who are homeless, as well as supporting children living in poverty in the Orlando area.
Evangelist David Asscherick offered his testimony about being converted by reading The Great Controversy and how it had made a powerful impact on his life as a young Adventist. Young adult literature evangelists from the South Central California Conference also provided instruction on how to effectively go door to door and present the book to people. Fifty-five buses were procured by GYC to take participants to various canvassing locations.
Door-to-door visitation allowed the teens and young adults the opportunity to meet many different types of people. Some, who could not donate to help cover the cost of The Great Controversy volume, were given copies nonetheless.
Another outreach opportunity took some participants to a nursing home to visit seniors. Moses Maier, a student at Southern Adventist University, said going to the nursing home and visiting with the residents made them happy and in turn, it made him happy to visit and help brighten their days.
Other GYC attendees visited a homeless shelter in Orlando and passed out box lunches—each containing a copy of The Great Controversy. Tony Messer, a pastor from the Michigan Conference, noted that before going to this homeless shelter he had believed homeless people were less educated. After meeting with several of the men, he learned they have a thirst for knowledge, and several of them had stacks of books, including the Bible. They were eager to read The Great Controversy and learn more about the truths presented in it.
Alex Bates, one of the bus leaders, said the eight participants with him distributed 31 copies of The Great Controversy.
“My first GYC experience was great because we did outreach, and that was a blessing for me because I was able to [reach] people within a couple of minutes,” said Nishele Adams, a 19-year-old Lehman College student from New York City.
According to GYC officials, 2,800 people participated in canvassing. The volunteers knocked on 22,622 doors; left 15,517 tracts; gave out 2,238 copies of The Great Controversy to individuals; and prayed with 2,089 people, recording 216 requests for follow-up Bible studies.
Another key element of the event is the availability of numerous topical seminars providing spiritual, theological, and practical instruction on a wide variety of issues.
In one seminar Wilson spoke about how the Adventist Church works. He reminded seminar participants that when decisions are made at either the General Conference or the local church, praying for the Holy Spirit to help guide in the decision and studying the Bible are both needed. According to Wilson, when an issue arises in a local church that goes against what the denomination stands for, teens and young adults should consult with the pastors and local elders about their concerns.
Another seminar informed attendees about the dangers of the emergent church movement. John Markovic, associate professor of history at Andrews University, described the emergent church movement as trying to introduce a new view of Christian faith, replacing traditional understandings of Christianity with what is called emergent Christianity.
According to Markovic, Adventist proponents of the emergent church say they believe the Bible to be the Word of God, but mix Adventist thoughts and logic with premises of the emergent church, making it difficult for believers to spot error. Markovic said emergent teachings have subtly opened many to the beliefs and practices of mysticism.
One seminar attendee, Diana Santos of California, was grateful for Mar-
kovic’s presentation: “[His] summary of the origins, seductive and evolving set of ideas in the emergent worldview compelled and challenged me. I am reminded to immerse myself deeply in the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy while viewing the emergent movement as an opportunity to address the issues that both weigh us down and seduce us.”
Another seminar track offered GYC attendees insights about reaching out to homosexuals. Presenters Wayne Blakely, Michael Carducci, and Ron Woolsey gave their personal testimonies of leaving homosexual lifestyles, and described how the church can both uphold biblical truths about sexuality while reaching out with compassion.
Before the morning worship, several Adventist leaders joined Wilson onstage for an hourlong question-and-answer session in the Sabbath school time to address various subjects related to young adults.
The panel included a group of Adventist thought leaders, each with a message for the largely young adult congregation: Mark Finley, a special assistant to Wilson as well as editor at large for the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines; James Black, North American Division youth ministries leader; Bill Knott, Adventist Review and Adventist World editor and executive publisher; and Paul Ratsara, Southern Africa-Indian Ocean division president, who spoke movingly of the loss of three close relatives during the past year, including his wife, Denise, who died of cancer in October. They were interviewed by Israel Ramos, director of public campus ministries for the Michigan Conference and GYC cofounder; Justin McNeilus, GYC president for the past six years; and Natasha Nebblett, incoming GYC president.
Asked what message he had for young people, Wilson said, “Get involved in your local church. Be a part of what’s happening. Don’t just throw your hands up and sit in a corner.”
Mario Sanchez, a 22-year-old from Oakland, California, noted, “It’s been great to meet people from all over the world, different backgrounds, different ages but [all] excited about doing the Lord’s work.” n
—by Mark A. Kellner, news editor, with additional reporting from Seth Shaffer of Collegedale, Tennessee, and Mark Paden, GYC communication vice president.