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LITTLE ROCK – Millennials question. Not content to simply adhere to the status quo, they think through their own questions of faith and want to be equipped to answer non-believers’ questions about Christianity, too.

The second annual Feb. 27 Lead/Defend conference was sponsored by the College + Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention and the Baptist churches of Arkansas with additional funds coming from the Cooperative Program and the Dixie Jackson offering. The gathering provided a safe place for students to ask questions and find answers. Close to 650 high school, college students and leaders attended the event at Geyer Springs First Baptist Church.

“The greatest moments of spiritual growth can come as a result of being open and honest about your questions,” said main speaker Derek Melleby from Lancaster Bible College in Pennsylvania.

Throughout the one-day conference, students considered questions such as: Are you spiritually ready for college? What is college for? What is truth? How can we engage a skeptical culture? What do we do with a culture that not only accepts sin but celebrates it?

“All of these questions to the Christian faith are not new,” Melleby said. “They’ve been around for thousands of years.”

The years 18-25 he considers critical years. “How will you approach this life chapter to be the kind of person you want to be, the kind of person God wants you to be?” he asked. “Be intentional. Think it through.”

Another main speaker, Ricky Chelette, executive director of Living Hope Ministries, spoke about seeking sexual wholeness in Christ. He asked, “How many of you know someone struggling with sexual identity?” Almost every hand went up.

“Today’s culture says, ‘God must be okay with my gay,’” Chelette said. This culture believes people are oriented toward sexuality. “Our orientation is not toward sexual expression; our orientation is toward sin.” Based on the rich young ruler who based his identity on money in Matthew 19, Chelette said, “God gives us what we don’t deserve and didn’t earn to call us away from our identity to sin and into our identity with our Savior.”

In addition to hearing the main session speakers, students attended smaller breakout sessions.

An international student from South Korea, Gyuhwan Park, said he’s excited to live out what he’s learned by taking it back to his campus at the University of Central Arkansas. “I want to share the gospel with other international students–as many as I can,” he said. “I need to step forward because I can be shy and in-going; but with this conference, I feel like I became more positive and more confident and more brave about sharing my faith. “
Abigail Aguilar attended an afternoon apologetic session, “Spot the Lie,” given by Bill Newton from First Baptist Hot Springs. “I’ve always known I believe in God, and I know why I believe in God,” said the Southeast Arkansas College student. “I just haven’t been able to express it–until now.”

Also, over 25 booths were set up in the church with representatives from the International Mission Board, Baptist collegiate ministries, Camp Siloam, seminaries and Christian colleges. If the students visited five booths, they received free books. High school scholars took home Make College Count by Derek Melleby and collegiates received Live Life On Purpose by Claude Hickman.

Next year’s Lead/Defend conference is slated for Feb. 25, 2017

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