This past weekend Carrie and I took a van full of students to Louisville for the Give Me An Answer conference hosted by Boyce College and SBTS. The theme this year was RENOWN, and was geared to equip students to make Jesus famous in every aspect of their life. This was our second year to take a group and the response to go doubled from last year. That was a big encouragement because that didn’t come from me selling it or the allure of Chick-Fil-A for a meal or even to go to Louisville. The selling point was students who went last year telling students this year they needed to go. If I can find something they’re actually excited about, then maybe we’re on to something? Carrie and I talked about it after we got home and we both agreed it was well worth the sleepless night, the quick trip, and the last second frustrations because of not only what was presented but how the students responded.
What sets RENOWN apart from most every other youth conference I’ve been to is found in their foundational conviction that students can handle Truth, they can handle serious issues, and they’re ready and willing to make a difference. Instead of building everything around the circus mentality, it’s built around a conviction that Scripture is authoritative, relevant, and accessible. So their goal is to teach the Bible, engage the culture, and ultimately pursue the worship of Christ. They stated from the beginning they weren’t going to water-down the truth and were going to pursue it whole-heartedly.
The keynote speaker was Josh Harris, who most of us read in high school or college with his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. All these years later, that’s still a book (along with the sequel, Boy Meets Girl) that I would highly recommend to parents and students who want to glorify God with every part of their lives. He shared about his upbringing in a pastor’s home and how it wasn’t until he was much older that he really embraced the Gospel and began to live for Christ. I’ve read several of his books and have heard him speak before at conferences and have always come back to two things I appreciate about Josh: his humility and never-ending quest for learning, and his commitment first to the local church. He does conferences and still does major speaking/writing projects, but his primary work is as a pastor. I love that. He pointed us to Luke 6 and really pressed on what we’re building our lives on: the truth of Christ or something else. Much of his talk comes from his book Dug Down Deep, which I highly recommend as a great read.
Dr. Mohler also was a speaker for the event on Friday night. He spoke from Isaiah 44 on idolatry and brought up the reality of God’s jealousy for His own fame and how God can use sarcasm to point out the foolishness of idolatry. His message was important to note in a culture increasingly pagan and a church that has failed to acknowledge its own struggles with idol worship. His words on the nature of worship showed that we are all worshippers, the decision is whether or not to worship the one true and living God or ______.
Dr. Russell Moore also spoke on Saturday afternoon, and he was the one who closed out the conference. His message was from 1 Corinthians 10 and was a charge on how to overcome. He pointed to reclaiming your identity in Christ (as the fullest and most complete category of our existence – that we are first and foremost found in the righteousness of Jesus), to reorder our desires (realizing the power of them and that God gave them to us to be good – but that they have their limits and sin can quickly destroy), and to reframe our future (as opposed to a here-and-now culture that overlooks both future judgment and future promise).
The most amazing thing about the speaker lineup, when we asked our students who they got the most from, they said Mohler. One wanted to bring him home with us, like a stray puppy? This comes as no shock to me, for years I’ve watched him from afar connect with young men and women who he would have nothing in common with other than Jesus. And that’s really all that matters. My theory, which has no scientific grounding, is that for many students in our generation and the one behind us, this may be the first time they’ve been exposed to a speaker who speaks with such authority, conviction, and clarity. I’ve heard people describe him as a man with the courage of Luther and the mind of Erasmus. That would be an understatement, given the history of Southern Seminary. I was so encouraged by the fact that our students drew so much from him, and that they have a desire and hunger to learn from those who have so much to offer.
Worship was led by Devon Kauflin from Covenant Life Church and the Na Band. Their movement, known as Sovereign Grace, seeks to do the best of both worlds in worship leadership (combine great music with solid theology in the lyrics). I have been blessed greatly by their contribution to the Church. Their songs were easy to sing along with, rich in truth, and done with excellence. I hope our students got a lot from the worship leadership, because they did what a worship leader ought do, direct people to the cross and prepare people to hear God’s word. You can find one of the songs they did, All I Have Is Christ, here.
OK, moment of transparency, Carrie and I played hooky from our second breakout session to go have coffee, see her dissertation in the library, and spend some time together. The breakouts were led by people associated with Southern Seminary, whether faculty, students, or friends. These were designed to make specific application to a variety of issues and how God’s fame could be pursued in each of those. Some of our students went to breakouts on biblical manhood and womanhood, others on dating, sports, cultural awareness, the college campus, and more. All of the breakouts were recorded and are posted here.
Overall I have to highly compliment Dr. Dan DeWitt and the leadership team at Boyce College, the Event Production staff at the seminary, and the countless workers who gave of their time to make it happen for their excellent work. This conference will, by God’s grace, be a fixture on our student ministry calendar. Keep up the good work, lives are being changed and people are being impacted for the Gospel.
The goodie bag was well worth it, which is always a plus for conference attendees. The gift of Dr Mohler’s books was great to put good resources in our student’s hands so that they can understand the “big picture” issues going on in the world.
If you’re a student pastor looking for a conference to take your students to, let me encourage you to seriously consider the Give Me An Answer conference. You can trust that what the speakers will present is rooted in biblical truth, there will be a pursuit of excellence in every area of the event, and your students will leave being equipped in their faith. I love it because of my affection for Boyce and Southern, but more so because I know if I can point our students to great resources it will last longer than any concert, band, or cool event. They are even taking the show on the road, with remote conferences located all over the country in an attempt to equip students without requiring them to come to the Louisville campus.