Southern Baptist churches from across Mobile brought hundreds of students together Jan. 14–15 for the Young Lions Conference to focus on equipping and sending students to reach the city with the gospel.
“It’s really about mobilizing our students with the gospel and equipping them to personalize it and move forward in gospel advancement. It starts back at Jesus’ command to make disciples, that’s the heartbeat of what we do,” said Cliff Downey, global student pastor and associate West Campus pastor at Redemption Church in Mobile. “It’s one thing to say you follow Jesus, and another thing to actually do what he commands.”
Held at the Mobile Convention Center, the theme of the conference was “Light Up the City,” meant to emphasize the importance of students living a gospel lifestyle in their context.
The conference sessions featured times of worship and messages from evangelist Greg Stier, head of Dare2Share ministries, who challenged students to go out in groups into the city to share the gospel during their breaks in the conference.
One of those who took part was Breyton Cornelius, a high school senior who attends Redemption Church in Mobile.
“It was definitely very eye-opening just to see how God moved not just in our youth group, but all the different youth groups that were there,” Cornelius said.
Cornelius and others from Redemption went into the city during the conference on Saturday and went back out on Sunday after the conference to have more gospel conversations in the community.
‘My cup is overflowing’
“My cup is just overflowing now after the conference with my own fire for Christ. It was a big step in my faith, and I know it was for a lot of others as well,” he said, adding that he has continued to have gospel conversations and pray for people he knows who need Jesus.
Downey said the name of the conference was inspired by a concept from Francis Chan’s book “Letters to The Church.” Chan teaches that churches should not train their young “lions” to sit back, but to attack.
“That concept from Francis Chan started to resonate as a way to think about how to emphasize what we wanted to do in having our students take the city for the gospel,” Downey said.
Around 450 students attended the conference, while the total number of attendees including staff and volunteers was more than 600.
Five local Southern Baptist churches participated in person, while many more church leaders and students watched the sessions online. Several students made professions of faith during the event.
For Cornelius, future plans include attending the University of Mobile this fall to play baseball and study exercise science. He wants what he experienced at the conference to continue to affect his future.
“I definitely think this is something I will look back on, and this is something that I don’t want to say was just one point in my life and now I’m not on fire anymore,” Cornelius said.
‘Lifestyle of sharing’
“I want this lifestyle of sharing the gospel to be my lifestyle from here on out. I want to look back and say this is where I got the courage to go out and live the lifestyle we’re all called to live.”
In addition to sharing the gospel, there was another special way the conference helped “light up” the city of Mobile.
Downey said Mobile buildings will often light up in a particular color to recognize an event happening in the city. During the Young Lions Conference, several of the city’s most prominent downtown buildings were lit up bright orange, one of the conference’s theme colors.
Although the orange downtown skyline was a beautiful and encouraging sign, Downey said the most important thing he hopes students took away from the conference was a passion for the gospel.
“There is a joy in that Jesus left us with a mission and a message,” Downey said. “If our students are the Church of today, then it means they have an active part in getting the gospel to the people God has placed around them.
“God has given us a message, and that message is the gospel and it’s for everyone. I hope students realize ‘I don’t have to be ashamed of this message that I’ve been given. It’s a message that I’ve embraced and has transformed my life. Because of that, I stand unashamed when I present the message I’ve been given.’ I can see that active faith in our students right now.”
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.