Awesome in Atlanta: Year-End Celebration Soars in Spite of Storms
By Carl Stagner
The close of 2022 saw severe winter weather and malfunctioning computer programs blamed for widespread flight cancellations during the busiest travel time of the year. Christmas get-togethers and business engagements weren’t the only plans adversely affected by one prominent airline’s predicament. To reach the year-end celebration, registrants en route to Atlanta, Georgia, for the National Inspirational Youth Convention crossed several hurdles, if they were able to make it at all. But, in a beautiful display of God’s sovereignty, what could have been a diminished experience due to the unexpected difficulties turned out to be one of the most powerful Spirit-orchestrated events in recent memory.
Jason McClendon, pastor of Community Church of God in Macon, Georgia, also serving Church of God Ministries as executive director of advancement, was exceptionally blessed to attend this last year’s gathering. He looks back at the December event with the warmest of spirits, recalling with great amazement at the Holy Spirit’s harnessing of the challenges for the good.
“Even with the debacle with the airline and the storms,” he explains, “the response was incredible. The theme of NIYC 2022 was Identity (“Who Are You?” based on John 1:12), in keeping with the Church of God regional conferences held earlier in the year, and the messages communicated that theme so well—that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but each of us is created wonderfully in the image of God and we all have purpose in him. The young people especially responded to the message that you cannot find your self-worth through social media. People came to the altar, many came for salvation, but the biggest response was when an invitation was given regarding the spirit of suicide—indicating just how many of our youth had considered suicide at one point in their lives.”
Thank God for NIYC. Thank God for the Spirit at work through the anointed speakers, worship leaders, conference leaders, and so many other vital roles. Because of that, the trajectory of several young lives was forever changed. George Fultz, youth and family pastor at First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, was one of the speakers Jason identified as having preached an especially fruit-bearing message.
“His message was very relevant to young people,” Jason remembers. “He used the illustration of a cracked mirror, as well as the need to recognize the rearview mirror only tells you what’s in the past. And, what’s in the past needs to stay there! The way we view things can be skewed, so a clear sense of identity is necessary to see who we are in the image of God.”
Great things are happening in the background at NIYC, too. God’s people are uniting in the cause of Christ through the ministry of this pinnacle annual experience, and the future of the work looks brighter than ever. Michael Copeland, NIYC president, was honored in his leadership, only adding affirmation to the direction of this dynamic ministry of the Church of God.
“NIYC 2022 was life-changing,” Michael reflects. “It is an honor to hear the testimonies of young people that came to the convention not knowing who they were, with thoughts of suicide on their mind and a lack of hope in their life. However, they left the conference with an assurance of Jesus’ love and an identity rooted in Christ. Youth, young adults, and adults alike were reunited, renewed, reinvigorated, and restored. NIYC 2023 in Houston, Texas—here we come!”
Speaking of NIYC 2023, registration is open at www.niyc.org. Plan ahead and enjoy big savings!
The National Inspirational Youth Convention is an annual conference of the Church of God, which brings together hundreds of people of all ages—not just youth—to worship and grow together in Christ. An integral part of the Church of God movement’s annual calendar, and operating as an auxiliary of the National Association of the Church of God, NIYC takes place in a variety of locations but always between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Since 1938, the gathering has served as a special opportunity for people to meet Jesus, be discipled and, if the Spirit calls, to accept the call to vocational ministry.
Learn more about NIYC and register for the 2023 gathering at www.niyc.org. First, don’t miss the Mid-Year Virtual Leadership Conference sponsored by the National Association of the Church of God, March 7–9. Register online and learn more here.
Feature (top) photo: Inspirational moments abounded during worship sessions at NIYC 2022.