"Know the Time"
That was the theme of the Youth in Mission (YIM) Congress that I had the privilege of preaching and teaching at in Mannheim, Germany, this past Thursday through Sunday. Over 1,200 young adults from across Germany and Europe gathered to meet and sleep and eat in a large public school (closed for the Easter holiday) to celebrate their common bond in Christ and His mission for this third millennial world. While everything was in German—and I mean everything—I was delighted with how bilingual (tri- and quad-lingual as well) the German young are. And I was personally blessed with a top-flight young German pastor-evangelist translator, Kris Lenart, who is church-planting in Austria. We did the arithmetic together and calculated that we preached (five sermons) and taught (four workshops) for a total of 13 hours side by side! It was a non-stop and packed weekend from stem to stern. But I came home joyfully exhausted—and here’s why. As I tweeted from the Congress (@DwightKNelson): “These German young adults are energetic plus & committed to the hilt. They speak 2-4 languages, love Christ and want to win the world 2 him.” As I have found the world over, there are thousands of young adults in the Seventh-day Adventist church who are eager to build a base within their culture to reach their generation for Jesus. My driver, Daniel Riek, a young mid-management team leader in Volkswagen-Audi, radiated a thought-through enthusiasm for the mission of our community of faith there in Germany. Kingdom optimism-plus is what the young at YIM exuded. The YIM leaders, Marc and Wendy Englemann (both Andrews grad’s—I had Marc in a preaching class a few years ago), raised up this youth movement six years ago and have never looked back. And the growth and reach of YIM is evidence enough that the Holy Spirit is the wind in their sails. But what really set my own soul to singing was the response of the young adults to the appeals. We preached the “Primetime” series of teachings from the book of Acts (archived at www.pmchurch.tv). The leadership asked for a series of altar calls—and I am praising God with the statistics they shared with me Sunday night. Over 140 of those young made the decision to follow Christ in baptism. And two hundred and some (the exact number—which they passed along just before I went up for our final sermon—escapes me) decided to give a year of their lives in volunteer service/mission for God. What an answer to so many prayers! But one story in particular touched me. We gave three altar calls—Sabbath morning, Saturday night and again on Sunday night. Watching us on live-streaming was a young adult who was unable to attend the Congress this year. After the Saturday night appeal (through a decision card, followed up with an altar call), this viewer (who, for obvious reasons, I am choosing to keep anonymous) wrote an email to the YIM website. The email is in German, but at the bottom of my copy is the English translation: “I want to greet all YIM attendees, preachers and the YIM team. My name is _________. [It] means yearning . . . like the yearning I feel for God. I want to let you know that I was deeply touched by tonight’s presentation. Until now I have not decided to become baptized, but tonight I was one of the many people that came forward [in this case via live-streaming]. The sentence ‘no matter what your parents think of your decision’ really spoke to my heart. This was the reason why I hesitated to take this important step in my life. But tonight Jesus called me.” Who is the young writer? “I’m a Moslem and my parents will not accept this decision of mine. Please remember me in your prayers.” Praise God—a young Moslem in Germany in front of a computer screen heard the call of Christ and made the decision to follow Him in baptism. Such is the work of the Holy Spirit! The Congress theme, “Know the Time,” is simply a reminder to me that in this pivotal hour of history there is a generation of young eager to stand up and be counted for Jesus. High-techy, culturally savvy, and spiritually passionate—they are eager to mobilize for the Kingdom. For that reason Andrews University, Pioneer Memorial Church and the Adventist church the world over must be the user-friendly launching pad for this generation that empowered by the Spirit can do what we have never been able to do before.