When Jesus left this earth, He asked His followers to do something very specific. He said, "Go and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matthew 28) Our young people today often hear that Christianity is about accepting Christ into your heart, going to church, and being apart of the annual missions trip. But sometimes part of the commission that Christ gave us in Matthew 28, discipleship, is omitted from the instruction students receive on Christianity. In Des Moines, Iowa, we got the chance to disciple and challenge students to take their faith seriously.
Our team had a new member for the trip. Due to several unforeseen circumstances, Colleen was transferred to the other team, leaving us with 1 man or woman short. God worked everything out, however, so that one of the speakers from our banquet was able to travel with us before needing to return to College. Angela was the perfect fit for our team. Her outgoing personality and confidence made what could have been a tough transition an easy fit. She would stand by our booth at the conference and encourage some of the 1,500 students who were there to come to our breakout sessions. Her creativity in reaching them astounded all us and had us rolling with laughter – especially when she would throw gum at the feet of students, walk over and tell them, “I think you dropped this.... so have you heard about Axis?”
All of us worked at recruiting students to come and we were able to pack out each of our three sessions to the point that there wasn’t even standing room! The students were eager to hear and interact with us before and after sessions. One young man I had the privilege of getting to know was encouraged by what we had to say. In the conversations that I had with him, he would comment on how we stood out from the other speakers because we were making an effort to get to know as many people as possible. He said that we viewed students as being people that were worth our time to invest in and talk to even after the sessions were over. Our conversations reminded me of the importance of person to person mentoring and discipleship. When the church tries to get people to say that they want to become Christians but then doesn’t follow up with them, it leads to seeing people as decisions and numbers. But taking the time to really invest in people’s lives and challenge them to really grow and mature in their faith changes the way that we as followers of Christ see people.
But growing in faith is not about just having more “feeling” experiences. One of the sessions that we did was called “Is Child-like faith biblical?” On the first night I had 2 girls come up to me and tell me that they would not be coming to that session because they already knew what it was about. I challenged them to go and search their Bible and find the passage that talks about it and if they could, we would give them a free t-shirt, but if they couldn’t, they would have to attend the session. They returned with the 2 passages they thought covered child-like faith – but upon quick examination, not only did neither passage say child-like faith but both passages were dealing with entirely different issues. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells us that we need to become humble like little children. And in Mark 9 and 10 He deals with the rich young ruler illustrating that the first will be last and the last shall be first. Jesus was also referring to the social separation between children (who are last) and the rich elite (the rich young ruler). After attending our session, the girls said that they understood better why we should use our minds in our search for biblical wisdom. They also saw the need for every Christian to become spiritually mature in their walk with God.
There was so much more that took place at Des Moines, and I wish I could blog about all of it. Speaking at the Ignite conference was a lot of fun. We spoke along side of some really inspiring leaders such as Alex and Brett Harris, Phil Vischer, John Stonestreet, and others. But the key that we took from our experience was that although we were all competing with one another to invite students to our breakout sessions, we were all united in a common mission – to make Disciples of all nations. (Including the youth and adults that attended the conference.) This is what Jesus has asked us to do. To “go forth and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I Have commanded you. And I am with you always even to the end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20