One of the great highlights each year in the East Tennessee area is the unveiling of the Christmas lights in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Typically, this falls on the same weekend as another bright spot on the calendar—the Tennessee State Youth Retreat sponsored by Tennessee Christian Education Board.
This year’s theme “Defend17” was taken from 1 Peter 3:15. We specifically felt the urgency of this topic as the Christian faith continues to be attacked, and young people constantly deal with their own private doubts.
Aaron Pontius, youth pastor at The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville and founder of the GROUNDED apologetics conference, keynoted the weekend with warm-hearted Scriptural messages that fed our souls and challenged our minds. His special guest Pedro Saxo also deeply connected with the almost 300 in attendance as he shared his testimony. Pedro came to Christ through a multitude of difficulties that eventually convinced him of the truthfulness of the Gospel message and the reality of the person of Christ.
On Saturday night Troy Sadowski, long-time NFL tight end and former football star at the University of Georgia, shared his powerful testimony of how God saved him. Throughout the retreat, Ryan Lewis led us in musical worship. To God be the glory, we know of at least two students who surrendered their lives to Christ and repented of their sins.
As noted, this weekend is such a highlight each year. You may wonder if this is something your church should participate in, or to state it differently, why do so many raise the extra money, build this into their yearly calendars, and ask volunteers to give up a weekend at the start of some of the busiest months of the year?
Here are a few reasons why you should attend in 2018.
- This retreat is centered on Evangelism and Exhortation. The Word of God is preached, and people are called to follow its commands.
- There is a tremendous amount of Encouragement and Enthusiasm. It is thrilling to be around young people and adults excited about serving the Lord! It is a time to be Equipped. Whether it is a just some ideas shared with others or the training during the sponsor session, you can leave with great ideas and helpful material for your ministry.
Make your plans now to help your young people and sponsors attend the retreat, November 9-11, 2018. It could be a highlight of their lives…not just in 2018, but for all of eternity.
About the Writer: Rodney Holloman is assistant chairman of the Tennessee Christian Education Board and pastor of Hardin Valley Church.