February 16-18 was our annual Disciple Now Weekend (always shortened to DNOW). This event serves as a local retreat for our 6th-12th grade students. They meet for multiple sessions of worship, small groups, and they stay in host homes. We do this event with several other area churches allowing us to have over 150 students gathered together during the main parts of the event. DNOW is non-stop from the moment it begins and is one of the highlights of my entire year.
Our theme this year was Relentless. This is centered around one idea: If you were put into a situation where you had to choose Christ, and by doing so you would lose everything-- maybe even your life--would you still do it? Through the weekend our speaker, Dave Atherton, challenged the students to “never settle” in their pursuit of following Christ and to “preach the word because the world needs a dose of truth.”
The last session focused on being broken before God. This session involved an activity where the students were given a note card and told to anonymously write their greatest challenge to them following God—their greatest distraction and deterrent. This exercise brought the students to dig deep into what they feel is holding them back. The youth pastors of this event collected the cards and pulled out a few for the speaker to read through later. What may have been an exercise for the students to measure where they were spiritually, became a difficult exercise for us as leaders. We read through every card—mostly thinking we’d pull out the “duds.” Reading through the thoughts and struggles of hundreds of our students is—exhausting. It is also a good reminder—even for those of us working with students every week. Our students’ trials are not bad Wi-Fi connections and finding prom dates. Our students wrestle with real and difficult doubts, sins, and pasts.
This session was followed by an invitation, and the majority of the students attending went forward and they prayed. They prayed alone, with their friends, with their leaders. When you’ve written your greatest obstacle is on the forefront of your mind and you have an opportunity to speak to God about it—it’s a difficult one to ignore. It was difficult, it was deep, and it was freeing. When the distractions are brought to God, then we can fully commit to being relentless followers of Christ.
I would ask that as it crosses your mind you would pray for our students. Pray that they have courage to overcome their distractions. Pray that they are not held back by the weight and guilt of their mistakes. Pray that they will be ready and free to relentlessly preach the gospel to all of those around them. Pray that the weekend’s verse “…for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and hear,” (Acts 4:20 ESV) becomes a constant reality for them.
We end Saturday night with a late-night worship session. The band comes out with high-energy songs, dance-offs, and goofy dances. It is one last opportunity for students from other groups to worship the Creator together—laughing, singing, and dancing.
There was also a purple gorilla—but that’s just how DNOW goes.