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CONWAY — Kaylee Searcy only had a short time to select topics most important to her journey of faith. Even with ten choices in front of her, the decision turned out to be easy.

“It wasn’t hard to choose,” the Harrison High School sophomore said. “I chose ‘The Search for Identity in a Gender-Confused Culture’, ‘Unashamed of the Gospel,’ and “Winning a Big War with a Small Army.”

On Feb. 25, Kaylee traveled 87 miles with her grandmother and two college students to the University of Central Arkansas Campus in Conway to attend the one-day Lead>Defend Cultural Collision conference. This annual, statewide event was sponsored by the College and Young Leaders Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. The conference draws high school students, college students and young professionals who want to learn how to be better Christian leaders and how to defend their faith in an increasingly secular culture.

Kaylee’s grandmother, Barbara Searcy, has been the Baptist college minister for the North Arkansas College in Harrison for 19 years. North Arkansas College was just one of the 22 campuses represented at the gathering alongside the 44 churches and 644 who registered.

At first, Kaylee said she thought the conference might be boring, but she enjoyed it.

“I did not know it would have such an impact on my life,” Kaylee said. After coming to the Lead>Defend conference, she feels more equipped to point people her own age toward Jesus, even those who are dealing with “real issues.”

This year, the Lead>Defend Conference tackled tough issues taking a different approach from a few years ago, said a recent University of Central Arkansas graduate, now young professional, 24 year-old Carson Leach.

“Two years ago, the Lead>Defend Conference was very vague,” Leach said. “It was just listening to talk about the need for apologetics and they scratched the surface. This year they’ve touched on culturally relevant topics–major issues for high school and college students (the gender thing and race)–these are big things talked about daily in class.”

Other topics addressed at the conference were atheism, materialism, pornography, sexuality, and racism.

“Christians and conservatives are bombarded in schools,” Leach said. “Me, personally, and a lot of my friends haven’t taken the time to look into these issues.” Going to the conference this year will help students, he said. “It will put things into perspective, sift through lies, nonsense and falsehoods.”

Keith West, student ministry volunteer from Parkhill Baptist Church in North Little Rock, said his church brought 6 students and 3 adults to the conference.

“This conference is helping our students; it’s helping us as leaders,” said West, a high school Sunday school teacher whose 15-year-old daughter also attended the conference.  “We come to church and grow, but we’ve got to live in this world around us outside these conferences.  The topics being discussed–they’re big topics, tough topics. I appreciate these leaders coming and sharing their time and approaching these topics.”

One of those leaders, Walter Strickland, Instructor of Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, introduced the main theme: Cultural Collision. He challenged millennials to consider two worldviews and to choose God even though that choice put them on a collision course with the culture.

“There’s a secular worldview and a Christ-centered worldview and these two collide,” said Strickland. “Our culture is full of people who have no place for God in their lives.”

Christians either are on a missionary encounter with culture or compromising their faith, Strickland said.

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