I’m sitting in the Global Village here at the Winter Conference (my job is, in part, to man the sound booth and make sure nobody walks away with the equipment), and each year two things seem to happen. First, I always seem to come down with some sort of bug during conference. That tradition continues this year with a nice head cold. Secondly, I am reminded each year during this conference why I do what I do. I love seeing college students show up to this conference. There is something kinetic that takes place when you get this many students together with a common vision and purpose. In a real way, it turns a bunch of individual ministries into a big movement.
I can’t help but remember the first time I showed up at a winter conference. Back then we called them Christmas conferences, and it was at the Adams Mark Hotel in Charlotte. I was an overly confident, extroverted freshman who had almost no self-awareness (i.e. I had no idea I was overly confident). I rolled into the ballroom at the hotel thinking I knew what to expect. I had been to big Christian gatherings before. We’d do some singing about how good God was, there would be a speaker who told us that we should love God, and we’d go home feeling good about ourselves.
I had no idea what was about to happen.
I don’t remember who spoke, I don’t remember much about the conference, to be honest. I just remember leaving as a different person than when I showed up. God had given me a glimpse of what it looked like to live for him in college. I saw 1500 other college students who cared about growing to be more like Christ, who loved people enough to be willing to step out in faith and share the gospel with people who didn’t know it.
It was a process, don’t get me wrong. One conference didn’t turn me into some kind of perfect Christian. In fact, I’m still well short of anything like that. What it did was totally change the trajectory of my life. Like the difference between getting on I-95 North and traveling 2000 miles and getting on I-40 West and doing the same thing, one small decision in the beginning totally changes where you end up. The road I took on December 27th, 1998 has led me on an amazing adventure that has literally taken me around the world to share the good news that Jesus died for jacked up people like me. 11 conferences later, I sit here watching hundreds of students get on the same road.
Pray with me that God would continue to use these conferences to change all of our trajectories! Also, while you’re praying… ask Him to make this head cold go away.