By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – Ed Newton commissioned more than 6,000 students to leave the Rapides Parish Coliseum and be salt and light in their schools, communities and world during the 2019 Youth Evangelism Celebration.
“I believe as the world grows darker, the light gets brighter,” Newton told the students. “And I believe God is rallying a group of teenagers who will say ‘We are the salt of the earth! We are the light of the world! God’s got a mission for us!’
“You have a choice to make,” he continued. “Are you going to be a thermostat or a thermometer? God’s trying to raise up thermostats in the world that will change the atmosphere of their campus, that will change the atmosphere of locker rooms, that will change the atmosphere of friendships that you have. God wants you to embrace that you are salt and that you are light.”
EMBRACE THE CALL
Newton, pastor of the 27,000-member Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas, headlined the gathering, Nov. 24-25. Newton challenged Louisiana Baptist teens in multiple sessions to share what Christ has done in their lives, and encouraged them to change the world for the Lord.
By the end of the two-day spiritual encounter, 500 students had made some type of faith decision: 198 statements of belief, 73 responses to a call to ministry, 158 acts of repentance to restore fellowship with Christ and 71 other commitments.
The theme of “Resolve” was based on Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 5:15-17 to “Pay careful attention, then, to how you live…making the most of the time…understand what the Lord’s will is.”
The two-day event also included award-winning Christian artist Zach Williams, event master of ceremonies, comedian and illusionist Jared Hall and Community Bible Church praise band “Central Wxrship.”
Throughout the evangelism conference, students and adult leaders were asked to intentionally reach out to classmates, family members, co-workers and others with the message of the Gospel. Moreover, during the Monday afternoon session, Newton led a training session using a strategy called “My 8.”
The eight-session study, developed by Newton, asks students to identify eight people in their lives who need Christ and to commit to pray for them faithfully. Additionally, students are challenged to memorize eight verses of Scripture that will help them biblically share the Gospel in those divine appointments God has designed for them.
This is the fourth of a multi-year rotation to equip students with various tools to share Christ. Those who began the training as seventh graders during the 2016 YEC will be familiar with seven different evangelistic tools by the time they are seniors.
Brandon Lewis, youth ministry strategist for Louisiana Baptists, told the Baptist Message he was encouraged by the commitment by thousands of students to share Christ once YEC concluded.
“I’ve had the unique privilege of attending YEC as a student, bringing groups as a youth pastor, and am now honored to lead this incredible event that God has used to change lives for 32 years,” Lewis said. “It was so much fun to stand on the floor of the arena and listen to 6,000 teenagers and adults sing praises to our King. Then, as the coliseum emptied on Tuesday evening, I couldn’t help but think about how each family, church, and city will be affected by their passion for Christ as they return home. I can’t wait to begin hearing those stories.
“It takes a lot of people to make YEC happen,” he continued. “I’d like to say thank you to (youth ministry strategist) Julie Woodrum, everyone who volunteered, all our ministry partners both on and off the stage and every church that made a way for their students to participate.”
ANSWER THE CALL
Jaydon Bryant, a sixth grader from the Gathering Place’s West campus in Pineville, was among the students who experienced salvation at YEC. He repented and plans to be baptized as soon as possible.
“I gave my life to Christ because I knew I was a sinner,” Bryant told the Baptist Message. “I sin a lot, but it never occurred to me until this morning at YEC.”
Aubrie Rosteet, a seventh grader from Houston River Baptist Church in Sulphur, was inspired by Newton’s messages.
“I took away how much Jesus loves me and I am to be the light to the world,” Rosteet said. “When I get back home, I will try to stand out more and not blend in with the crowd.”
Brendan Brunson, a twelfth grader from Longstraw Baptist Church in Choudrant, said the event took him back to a time when he accepted Christ at YEC.
“It’s great seeing others do what I did five years ago — walk down the aisle to publicly declare their trust in Christ,” Brunson said. “Ed Newton encouraged me in his messages to be a leader as a member of the football team and to shine for Christ there.”
FOUNDATION FOR THE CALL
Newton told the students they can have a profound impact and prolific influence on the culture if they follow Christ and grow in their knowledge of Scripture.
“We believe in your generation,” Newton said. “We believe that Jesus will become further famous to the ends of the earth because of your willingness. But that cannot happen if we do not understand the significance of God’s Word. His Word is tried and true. And may you build your life upon the Word.”
Newton, citing Matthew 5:13, encouraged the students to not blend in with the culture, but instead stand out.
“God called you not to camouflage Jesus but to completely convey Jesus at the highest level” Newton continued. “You must choose to go down this road, the narrow road, not the broad road. In order to do that, you have to make a decision.
“Your decisions today determine your future,” he said. “Are the choices that you are making and the decisions that are being made in public being lived out in your life when nobody is watching? Are you compromising the very conviction that maybe you have made at this particular setting? Do you proclaim ‘Jesus is my everything’ here, but then two weeks later go back to your old way of life?
“Jesus wants to use you in such a way to provide direction, warn of danger and also expose darkness. If there were not Jesus followers on the planet, how corrupt would our world be? The reason why God possibly is holding off his judgment is because he is allowing the light in you and me to expose the darkness.”
ACCEPT THE CALL
Newton closed the celebration by making a charge to the crowd to build their lives on the rock of Christ and to reject the relativism that so many follow today.
“Jesus would help us understand that the Word of God is absolute truth,” he said. “It’s true for all people, all places, all times. The Word of God is more relevant than any social media platform you can ever look at. It’s more relevant than the USA Today. Jesus and His words are what you and I are called to build our life on. Jesus would help us understand that religion won’t save you. Only Jesus can save you.”
He also encouraged the students to embrace a life of service.
“It’s not what your church can do for you,” he said. “It’s what you can do for your church. You’ve got gifts, talents, abilities, and they need to be leveraged for Kingdom purpose in your church.”