ALEXANDRIA – More than 7,000 students and their leaders filled the Rapides Coliseum for the 2010 Youth Evangelism Celebration Nov. 21-22. More importantly, 361 professions of faith – a record – plus 206 re-affirmations of faith and 22 other decisions, plus 182 students called into ministry – a second record – were made during YEC.
It was the largest YEC ever, said Kevin Boles, youth ministry strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. The final count was 7,024 registered for the event that concluded with a concert by the contemporary Christian inspirational group, and recent American Music Award winner, Mercy Me. That total is up from last year’s record 5,050.
[img_assist|nid=6916|title=A record-setting 7,024 students and their leaders attended the 2010 Youth Evangelism Celebration Nov. 21-22.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=67]It was the largest event ever to take place in the Coliseum, said Kimberly Townley, the event venue’s executive director. This includes the March 30, 1977, appearance of Elvis Presley, she said. At that time, the Coliseum’s maximum capacity was 5,000, or there might have been more, she added about the “King of Rock and Roll” who emerged on the music scene in 1954 and gained international prominence in 1957. He died Aug. 15, 1977.
Some suggested it was the largest event of any kind hosted by the Louisiana Baptist Convention. According to “House Upon a Rock Refurbished: a Sesquicentennial History of Louisiana Southern Baptists 1973-1998,” the largest LBC annual meeting took place in 1996, when about 2,600 messengers registered.
A look through back issues of the Baptist Message confirmed that 1996 saw the largest number of messengers to the present time.
“I truly sense this generation of students is experiencing an awakening in their spiritual lives,” the youth ministry strategist said. “Christian students are growing deeply concerned about their friends who do not know Jesus.
“At the same time, those Christian students are being unleashed through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, to take the good news of the gospel to the nations,” Boles continued. “Our theme demonstrates that, and I just believe we met God where He is working.”
Long before Mercy Me started its concert at 9:21 p.m. Monday night, the Stephen Miller Band, skit duo Far From Ordinary, sand artist Joe Castillo, and youth speaker Ryan Fontenot focused on this year’s theme: Let the Good News Roll aka Laissez les Bon Nouvelle Rouler.
“God is after you,” Fontenot preached. “… Jesus sees you. He knows what you’re texting right now. … Jesus says it’s time to stop playing games with Him. … I’m asking you to question where you’re at with Jesus. … If the God of the universe lives inside you, you’re going to know it.”
Scores of students streamed forward in response to an invitation to give their lives to Christ. As they were leaving to another building to talk with counselors, Fontenot said, “How dare we worship God in song when we haven’t asked our friends in this room if they know Jesus?” More students streamed forward.
“To give your life to God is harder than it seems,” said Carlie Morse, 14, of His Church in Pineville, when asked what God said to her during the first session. “As a teenager, you have all this stuff – what’s cool and all that – and it doesn’t really go with what God wants you to do.”
Final totals after the Monday evening service were 361 professions of faith – a record – plus 206 re-affirmations of faith and 22 other decisions. A second record: 182 students said they were responding to a call to vocational ministry.
“I believe that YEC was simply a conduit for what I pray is already happening in our churches and among this generation of students,” Boles said. “They’re ready to lay down idols, shun worldly possessions and mindsets, and live evangelistically, and as our theme verse – Matt.28:19-20 says – ‘as they are going’ reach their friends and the world with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. As a result, it is vitally important for churches to follow up with the students who made decisions at YEC."
Technology played an important part in developing this year’s YEC, the youth ministry strategist said.
“We spend an extraordinary amount of time and resources focusing on excellence from a production side of things,” Boles said. “This year’s YEC was one of the best-ever, from that standpoint. The 60-foot by 40-foot stage was the largest stage we’ve ever used. We added two more video screens – a total of six – and utilized high-definition video produced before YEC, which incorporated our theme.
“It’s absolutely necessary to do this so as to connect and ‘hook’ a generation of students who are oftentimes referred to as ‘screenagers,’ Boles continued. “In other words, every form of communication today’s students use involves a screen of some sort, from their cell phone, their iPod, to the touch screen navigation in their car. Production is over the top in that regard.
“But it’s simply a means to an end,” the youth ministry strategist said. “Engaging students through a production methodology helps us communicate the unchanging message of Jesus Christ.”
Ben Hackler, youth minister at First Baptist Church in Swartz took 20 youth to YEC.
“It’s just a great shot in the arm, and gets students excited and gives them a challenge leading into Christmas,” Hackler said. “You want them to know what it’s all about. Christmas really is about Jesus.
“When you talk with kids one-on-one they just want to know what’s real, what’s true,” Hackler continued. “When Ryan gave the heart call, he said it like it is: [Salvation] is more than a ticket out of hell. They want to be faced with the truth because they’re faced with a lot of options. … Like Ryan said, don’t just add Jesus to your life; give Him your life.”
The 2011 YEC is set for Nov. 20-21, but the location has not been decided on, Boles said. Cooperative Program provides the infrastructure costs for YEC. The balance of the cost is defrayed by the participant registration fees.