As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
Hundreds gathered to learn, celebrate Jesus and share experiences during the Youth Specialities Europe summit. Local churches should be “communities of forgiveness” for everyone.
For the third year in a row, Especialidad Juveniles Europa (In English, Youth Specialities Europe) has organised a two-day meeting for youth leaders in Madrid. This time, the focus of all the plenaries, workshops and forums has been the church.
Hundreds of youth leaders from all around Spain gathered on September 9th and 10th to learn, celebrate and share experiences, challenges and dreams, in order to be part of God's mission and impact the new generations.
YOUNG PEOPLE, BIBLE, PASTORS
The gathering started with 2 hours of training and dialogue that the organisers called “Specialities”.
The participants could choose between two topics: “How to lead a generation who does not want to be led”, and “How to avoid a superficial Bible study”.
At the same time, a session only for pastors was led by the well-known international author Philip Yancey and the Director of Youth Specialities globally, Lucas Leys.
LOVE WITHOUT PRIDE
In the evening, veryone came together for the plenary. Instead of having just one speaker giving a talk, the youth leaders summit had several speakers with shorter talks (of 15-20 minutes), so that the participants could hear different approaches to different topics, but all with the same common thread: the church.
Among the speakers of this first plenary session, there were Spanish pastors and preachers, leaders of youth organisations and church planters.
“Evangelism, the life of the church, starts when others see how we love the Father and how we love our brothers and sisters”, the first speaker said.
Humility is a key in our being a church, because, as the next preacher pointed out, “pride is a cancer that so easily enters in our churches […] There is nothing more beautiful than Jesus in his throne”.
“DESPITE OUR DESPERATE REALITY, GOD CHOOSES US”
After these first plenaries, Jaume Llenas, Secretary General of the Spanish Evangelical Alliance talked with some church planters about the role of the youth in church planting: “We are all church planters, maybe God has not called you to lead the initiative of the planting, but He has given you gifts to take part on that project”, one of the planters said.
“True Christianity recognises that we fail, a faith that is broken by admitting that we are imperfect. But, despite our desperate reality, God chooses us and says: `your problems are now mine´”, pastor and author Jose de Segovia shared with the youth leaders.
Following this talk, Alex Sampedro, director of Youth Specialities Europe, interviewed Philip Yancey and his wife Janet. They shared stories about their life and ministry and talked about athe reality of the church, which “has the same potential to bring people to Jesus, or drive them away”.
“I want a church that rewards honesty and do not punish it”, Yancey concluded.
ART, WORD, MISSION
“'Christian' is a great noun, but a bad adjective”, the first speaker of the Saturday morning plenary said. He talked about church and arts: “The gospel is not only the truth, it is also beauty”.
The church and the Word cannot be separated: “What will you do when God asks you something against your judgement?”, asked the next preacher. “The church is called to summit to God”.
The last plenarist stressed the importance of remembering that “the church does not have a mission, it is in the mission, but the mission is of God”. She pointed out that “our differences will show others God's love and grace.”
THE CALLED OUT ONES
During the first plenary of the Saturday afternoon session, the speaker wondered if the church as we know it now, has a future, and concluded that “if we see the church as a living organism, it has full capacity to regenerate”.
He reminded the participants that “having a clear vision of our DNA, along with the Word and the Holy Spirit, will allow us to change, without betraying our traditions”.
“If you have chosen to be a youth leader for the audience of One, you received a good advice”, said Philip Yancey at the beginning of his talk. He then challenged the audience to ask themselves these 3 questions: “Whom do I love? What have I done with my life? Am I ready for what is coming next?”
Alex Sampedro closed the plenaries, talking about the church as a “community of forgiveness”, because “there will be no one in heaven who has not been forgiven”.
When “people do not want to know about the church, then let's be Jesus”, he said, knowing that “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
After the plenary, he invited the participants to share bread and the wine together, as a symbol of unity, commitment towards the next generation, and a church of those called out to be part of the mission wherever they are.
WORKSHOPS, FORUMS AND MUSIC
Besides the plenaries, the participants could enjoy a great variety of workshops, about topics like youth ministry, women leadership, Internet and social networks, arts, Bible study, apologetics, faith and science, communication, social action, among others.
There were also four open discussion forums, where speakers and participants could share ideas and points of view. They touched on youth and the church, church procedures, the influence of the church in society, and church planting.
Music was a very important part of the gathering, with worship times at the beginning of all plenaries, and music performances between the talks. Besides, a concert closed each day.