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Baptist Youth World Conference draws 7,000; gets Texas-size launch

HOUSTON (BP)–The outside Houston heat was nothing compared to that generated by the more than 7,000 jubilant young people from 81 countries who packed the Georgia R. Brown Convention Center for the opening of the 13th Baptist Youth World Conference.
This July 22-26 conference, held every five years is sponsored by the youth department of the Baptist World Alliance.
The international guests responded enthusiastically to the Texas-style welcome that included Scripture-reciting youth drill teams and traditional “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You” music.
The meeting hall reverberated with the sound of young people who greeted their counterparts from around the world exuberantly and celebrated their common faith in Jesus Christ with the chant “We love Jesus, yes we do, we love Jesus, how about you.”
Among the highlights were Dove Award-winning singer Wayne Watson, who sang the theme song he wrote, “For Such A Time As This, ” and The Company, a drama group from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth portraying the power of the gospel to change anyone, regardless of their sin, with the theme,”All souls come clean in John 3.16.”
Featured speaker Stephen Gaukroger, pastor of Gold Hill Baptist Church, Buckinghamshire, England, author and frequent Bible teacher in the United Kingdom and abroad, developed the theme for the opening session, “Now is the time to tell our world.”
Speaking from Colossians 4:3-6, Gaukroger identified five things every Christian needs to be an effective, powerful translator of the good news.
First, Gaukroger said, “We need Christ before we can tell the world. Let’s be sure we’ve given ourselves to him.”
The five things Christians need to share are:
First, prayer: “If we’re going to change our world, it will only come as the children of God … . Pray that he will have his way in our world,” Gaukroger said.
Describing prayer as “God’s intercontinental ballistic missile,” Gaukroger called on the youth and young adults to dedicate themselves to prayer, asking God to reveal to them what they need to do to be involved in his activity on earth.
The English pastor discredited critics who say all young people have a lack of commitment. “I believe Christian young people have grasped a vision for carrying the gospel into the future.”
Second, be wise in the way you act toward outsiders: “Live in a way that attracts others to Christ,” Gaukroger admonished. “If we act in a way that demonstrates the gospel, we will see breakthroughs in our communities.”
When Christians live in a way that is contrary to the gospel message, it “puts people off from believing in Jesus.”
Third, make the most of every opportunity. “If the world is going to be won to Christ, be awake and seize — snatch up — every opportunity to share your faith.”
Noting the popularity of the recent Hollywood version of “Titanic,” Gaukroger said the movie left out the true story of the Scottish Baptist pastor, John Hopper, who shared the gospel with everyone he met in the final hours of the tragic event. Hopper was a “nobody,” but a man who was obedient to the Great Commission.
“High-profile evangelists won’t change the world alone,” Gaukroger said. “It will take ordinary people — nobodies in the world’s eyes — to win the world to Christ.
“God is calling us to rise up as nobodies and bring somebody to life in Christ. The world will be won to Christ when every person in this room goes out to share his faith. The world is going to be changed by ordinary people,” he said.
Fourth, be gracious in the way you speak; Gaukroger said parents often say to him that it is not what their teenagers say, but how they say it that brings disagreement. The same is true in sharing the gospel, he suggested. “It will take gentleness — winsome behavior — to win others to Christ. Be affirming and accepting of others where they are.”
Fifth, be prepared so that you will know how to answer everyone: “The problem for many Christians is that they cannot provide an answer for the hope within them,” Gaukroger said.
“The Bible contains the answers to serious questions — racism in the church, validity of the Bible, hypocrisy among Christians, sexual abstinence — but Christians cannot share the answers with those seeking them because they do not know the Bible,” he said.
Along with Gaukroger, young people were encouraged by Ron Bobo, president of the BWA youth department, who told them to “put aside your prejudices and allow the Lord to do a new thing in you this week.
Underlining the evangelistic emphasis of the evening, Nilson Fanini, president of the BWA, reminded the young people they were in the space capital of the world, the place that sent out the first astronaut. “May God send astronaut evangelists from here to all the world” Fanini said.
*Name changed for security concerns.

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  • Tanya Dawson*