Nazarene Youth Conference: Thy Kingdom Come kicked off Wednesday morning with its first session as thousands of youth and leaders from across the USA/Canada Region gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, for a morning of worship and a special message.
Harbour, the NYC worship band, set the tone for the morning with several songs, including one with a youth choir made of up students from each district.
NYC Pastor Mark Holcomb welcomed attendees and led the group in an opening prayer. He encouraged students to acknowledge NYC as their time, to be attentive to God's leading, and to bless the city of Louisville.
Each of the conference's seven services will focus on a single word, beginning in Session 1 with "image." After an introductory video, East Central Field Youth Coordinator James Smith read the morning's scriptures, Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:15.
Rick Rigsby began his message by asking students their number one priority in life. He explained that their answer should align with Deuteronomy 6:5: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…"
Loving God includes following His commandments. The first is found in Genesis: "Be fruitful." There are many ways to be fruitful, including through thoughts, words, and actions.
"We are created in the image of God, and every part of our body is designed to bear fruit," Rigsby said. "Are we using everything God has given us for His glory?"
Rigsby explained that today's society does not prioritize holy living.
"We live in a society where we don’t care about the fruit anymore," he said. "In a shallow, superficial world, it’s real easy for you to become the priority."
Focus on self can result in a focus on possessions and a cluttered closet.
"Could it be that a closet of clutter is a deep indicator of your heart?" Rigsby asked. "Tough times will clean out your closet and reattach you to the Word of God."
He closed by encouraging students to put the focus back on God.
"A tattered Bible is evidence of a life that is not," Rigsby said.
Holcomb returned to dismiss the crowd, leading attendees in the Lord’s Prayer.
Throughout the afternoon, students participated in Ministry with Others (MWO) projects and explored the Rec Hall. MWO projects included sorting baby supplies for Bundles of Hope, assembling water filters for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries, organizing donations for Goodwill, packaging food for Syrian refugees, participating in community improvement projects, and more.
This year's Rec Hall featured a zip line, bubble soccer, archery tag, inflatable games, exhibits, snacks, and a lounge area. Nearby, students could also tour The Experience, a 90-minute interactive walk-through that guides participants through the Lord's Prayer.
Harbour opened Session 2 with songs focused on the evening theme, "kingdom."
Central Field Youth Coordinator Shawn Evans introduced guest speaker and Nazarene pastor Gabriel Salguero by reading from Matthew 5:3-10.
Gabriel, together with his wife Jeanette providing Spanish translation, asked the 7,000 participants “What is the Kingdom?” They explained “all of us are family, united in the love of Christ.” With The Lord’s Prayer as a guide, Gabriel emphasised that we need the Kingdom to break into the world, shattering everything that is darkness and bringing the Kingdom to our schools and our friends. The Kingdom is not a place to escape to, but rather, our prayer needs to be "Jesus, let Your Kingdom come."
“In our own lives, we are going to face challenges — some big, some strong, and some ugly — that will ask you to compromise your faith, your values, and principles, and your integrity," Gabriel said.
He reminded NYCers that there's no such thing as a "Christian activist," as he is often called; to be Christian is to be active. Gabriel stressed the importance of love above all else.
"Have the courage to stand with love against everything," Gabriel said, with the following caution: "We don't want to curse the darkness; we want to turn the light on!"
Gabriel closed in prayer, asking for this "John the Baptist generation" to turn the light on in every corner of the world.
"Love always wins!"
Tune in live to the next session at youtube.com/c/nazareneyouthconference.
More from NYC: