I honestly had forgotten just how spiritually powerful and impacting Brethren National Youth Conference can be. What a thrill it was to be back this past year. It had been a while since I had attended. For 10 years as a youth pastor, I took my own teens to this summer event that Josh McDowell has called “the best youth convention out there.” I had been back a couple of times since then to speak. So when the invitation came for me to return to BNYC again as a speaker this year, I accepted. In fact, Laura and I came out a day and a half early so we could experience the atmosphere of BNYC once again.
The only drawback to it was the heat in southern California (BNYC was held this year at BIOLA University in La Mirada, CA). The temps were in the triple digits as a heat wave pounded the area. Typically, I’m told that high humidity in the L.A. area is around 15%. The high temperatures we endured were escalated by a 60% humidity reading. Mercy…I don’t think I have sweat that much since my trip to Cambodia. Remember, I’m the guy who typically takes 3 or more showers a day. I actually did pretty well until we took our son’s laundry to wash it the day after we arrived. All of his sweaty (and I do mean sweaty) and dirty clothes had been wadded up wet and thrown into a suitcase. As I piled through his laundry sorting them into the proper washers, I about died. UGHH!
Anyway, back to more spiritual things. What I love best and miss most about BNYC is the worship. I just can’t describe for you what it is like to worship with 2,000 teenagers. When youth are the minority among hundreds of adults in a Sunday Morning Worship Service at church, they are inhibited to a degree. That’s too bad because we could really learn a thing or two about worshipping God from our teens. When they get all together at BNYC, the inhibitions disappear and pure, unadulterated worship becomes paramount. I love to experience it…I love to participate in it…I love to watch it. At BNYC, all of the walls come down. Worship becomes what worship is meant to be…a Spirit led response to truths about God. This isn’t like church. These teens don’t just stand on cue and unemotionally sing along with the worship team up front. This is different.
These teens don’t just sing. They focus. They focus on who God is and who they are in comparison. You look around and you see it on their faces. It’s real. They couldn’t care less about who is around them and what others may be thinking of them. Their mind and their motive are on one thing…God. Many lift their hands. Most clap. Some cry. Still others put their arms around their friends and worship in unity. Some bow to their knees and yes, you might even see a few who dance. Now if that rubs you wrong, you may have a hard time in heaven because I believe we will sing and dance before the Lord.
As a youth pastor, I saw it each and every year at BNYC. Kids break before God. Sin is confessed. Relationships are restored. Abuses are forgiven. Lost friends are prayed for. Spiritual gifts are put into use. I have seen more teens make life and eternity changing spiritual decisions at BNYC then anything else I have ever been part of in my life. It was the same this year too. Josh McDowell is right. It’s the best youth convention out there!