This weekend I went to “Imagine What’s NEXT,” a United Methodist college conference in Denver, Colorado.
This conference invited United Methodist college students from all over the United States. I met people from Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Kansas, Louisiana, and so many more places. Many of the groups were Wesley Foundation groups like us, but the one thing we all really had in common was that as United Methodists, we all wanted to become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The conference started out with an amazing opening worship. The music was phenomenal. Lead singer, Sarah Bollinger, had the most powerful voice I have ever heard live. I didn’t know a majority of the songs that were played during the weekend, but I enjoyed them all the same.
The second day was packed so full of worship, service, and fun. We began with worship, which ended up being two hours long, but I didn’t mind so much the length. There were four speakers, two of which I really identified with.
Tyler Ward spoke about faith bands, which are small groups–I mean really small, like 3-4 people MAX–that meet once a week to ask the question, “How is it with your soul?” This stood out to me because Bobbie, my former youth leader and mentor used to ask our small group that question at our weekly bible study throughout high school. I had forgotten about the phrase and it really made me think…how is it with my soul? I meet with a small group once a week to eat and study the Bible, but we have not ever asked the question, “how is it with your soul?” Maybe we should start.
Ismail Pathan spoke about interfaith mission. As this is the one thing I have been struggling with more than anything I have in my faith journey so far. Ismail is Muslim and he spoke about how he created an entire interfaith association at Syracuse with several faith groups represented. Of course, I was in awe that I was not the only person who wants to collaborate with other faith groups, so after all the speakers were through and the session was over, Aeriel (a friend on the trip with me) and I flagged Ismail down to talk more about interfaith ministry. I was absolutely inspired by Ismail and the fact that he came to speak to a crowd of 600 United Methodist Christian students. He told me that knowing is the most important thing to being accepting. I couldn’t agree more.
Saturday afternoon and evening we went to downtown Denver. Before we left, the conference staff gave each person (yes, all 600 of us) $5. We were to take that money with us to 16th Street Mall and do good with it. Our group decided that instead of individually getting something small, we pooled our money to make “warmth kits.” Together, we were able to get two blankets, two hats, and six sets of hand/pocket warmers. Instead of sticking to the mall, we decided to go beyond the mall to a street corner where a bench played home to some homeless. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough to give to each person, but we gave the group all of the supplies. What they needed the most was gloves. We didn’t get gloves, as they were sold out at the Walgreens we went to. We thought the hand warmers would be good because all of those people had pockets, and there were enough of them to go around. It saddened me that we couldn’t give them a more long-term solution, but I believe the gifts were appreciated.
After that humbling experience, we went to Trinity United Methodist Church to see Jimmy Needham play some great music. DETOUR: Jimmy Needham is great and if you haven’t listened to his music yet, do it NOW. It is unlike any Christian music I have ever heard. It was truly a blessing to spend time listening to his music live. He is quite the inspiring man. For the first time in my life, I cried to the message Jimmy was delivering and I felt like he was preaching exactly what I was feeling…amazing God moment for me.
Sunday morning was inspiring. Reverend Vance P. Ross from Gordon Memorial Church from Nashville, Tennessee gave the sermon. I have never in my life heard such an amazing sermon. Rev. Ross talked about being you, but remembering God’s new. Ross said that we get caught up in ourselves. The self is important and each one of us should stick to who we are, but sometime when we get caught up in ourselves, we forget about what God is calling us to do. This man is so passionate about the word of God and the energy he put on that stage will remain branded into my mind for a very long time. What Reverend Ross ended his sermon with was the best, most inspiring part. Ross said to us, “We have had enough Christians. What we need is some disciples of Jesus Christ.”
Ross is completely right. God doesn’t want more people to come to church. What God wants is for us to be disciples of Christ and go out into the world and “make a better blueprint” for those who have fallen down so many times, they don’t know if they can get back up again.
Ross’s sermon had me wondering if the United Methodist mission statement is the one that should be displayed. As Reverend Elizabeth Jackson would say, “We shouldn’t be striving to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We should be striving to transform the world to make disciples of Jesus Christ.” After all, isn’t that how Jesus made us his disciples? He went out and transformed the world. I am a disciple of Jesus because He transformed my world. I’m going to follow in His footsteps and transform the world and just hope that as a result, people will become followers of Christ, as I have.