History Celebrated, History Made: IYC Orlando Looks Back, Looks Ahead as Lives Changed

 In All Church of God, CHOG, IYC: International Youth Convention, Youth Ministries

By Carl Stagner

One hundred years ago, humble beginnings accurately describe the “entire day” of Anderson Camp Meeting devoted to youth ministry which would grow to become today’s grand-scale gathering known as the International Youth Convention of the Church of God. Across the generations and across the miles, thousands upon thousands of lives have since been forever changed as the Holy Spirit harnessed these pivotal events to see his providential plans come to pass. Souls won to Christ, students accepting the call to ministry, youth (and other) pastors renewed in purpose and power, worldwide ministries funded in whole or in part, and churches changed upon hearing the testimony of returning teenagers—these victories offer only a glimpse of the incredible history recounted at the convention’s centennial celebration. As this year’s Orlando event unfolded, history was yet again in the making as multitudes confirmed their calling in Christ in the midst of jaw-dropping moments of high-decibel worship, contrasted by stunning silence and solace, between generously anointed teaching and preaching, and through selfless acts of service.

Psalm 145:4–7 framed IYC2024:

“One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness”(NIV).

5K at IYC2024

While the world obsesses over generational schisms, the church recognizes the value of learning from one another from generation to generation. Stories and testimonies of IYCs past didn’t detract from the Spirit’s movement among the students and their leaders this year. In fact, it strengthened the resolve of attendees to prioritize the mission of Jesus, one with a proven record of fruitfulness. While the 5K in support of the work of God in the Philippines certainly inspired missional imagination, the mission of Jesus was solidified in hearts through the overall witness of the week in Orlando as an estimated four hundred indicated a call to ministry. Compelling preaching and insightful teaching, combined with inspirational worship, clearly contributed to the harvest of souls and commissioning of the called. With a lineup of God-given talent like SEU Worship, Jeff Mugford, Michael Thigpen, Lori Maldonado, Adam Rentas, and Heather Thompson Day, it’s not hard to picture an outpouring of divine origin.

Confronted session after session with the palpable presence of God, students couldn’t help but consider the gravity of what God had done for them and the ready-to-be-unleashed potential of what they could do for God. In view of these realities, speaker Jeff Mugford posed the principle, “God doesn’t call you to change the world. He calls us to be faithful, available, and committed.” With a notable emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit during the second session, Michael Thigpen discerningly observed out loud, “God is always hovering over your life and he’s waiting to speak…for you to be in the position to receive what he’s saying.” Appealing to the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ, while demonstrating the need for cross-generational storytelling in Session Three, Lori Maldonado insisted that “God has entrusted us to share that story of redemption. It’s a treasure to share the good news!”

Michael Thigpen speaking at IYC2024.

Adam Rentas, IYC director and IYC2024 speaker during the fourth session, focused on the origin story of the apostle Andrew and his inextricable connection to Peter: “He had a willingness to be used by Jesus no matter how small the task may have seemed. He also desired to bring people to Jesus.” The implications inspire introspection: “Jesus is not asking us to [merely] commit to him, but [moreover to] surrender to him.” After all, Jesus is not only a friend of sinners. He is also the King of kings. And a lion.

Heather Thompson Day’s closing message opened with a presentation of a climactic scene from the 1990s-era blockbuster film The Lion King. Drawing inescapable Scriptural ties to our Lord as Lion, she concluded that “We need a generation of people willing to live out their purpose as image bearers…, children of the Lion of the tribe of Judah who protects and keeps covenant!”

Moving moments throughout IYC2024 vividly linger in the memories of all who descended upon Orlando, Florida, for a few days at the close of June. Longtime IYC director Andy Stephenson, for instance, beloved by the Movement, showed up and brought a greeting to guests of the 100th International Youth Convention. Then, at the beginning of the final session of IYC2024, the man known to be the longest-living IYC student brought a greeting to the crowd on his 90th birthday: “Give God the opportunity to do his fullest work in your life!” he asserted. Individual instances that many would describe as “God moments” surely abounded.

Thousands of students kneeling before Almighty God!

So, was it the games or the 5K? Was it the array of beach balls bouncing to the beat of the music during raucous celebration of God’s love, or the practical and informative student conferences? Was it the Silent Walk or the process/debrief time allotted for small groups? Was it the providential encounters with the public in the hotel or at Disney? Maybe it was the travel to and from Florida as existing youth group bonds were made stronger? Or possibly the impromptu move of the emerging leaders gathering from one conference room to another due to the surprisingly large response? Perhaps the almost twenty-five hundred teenagers kneeling before Almighty God in an amazing display of quiet reverence? Was the Object of worship and the Subject of our existence that which made IYC2024 a historic moment of life change?

Yes.

IYC2026 is scheduled to take place in Cincinnati, Ohio. Stay tuned to CHOGnews and Church of God social media for updates. Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

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