Youth worship service features Gamecocks QB Dylan Thompson, Brett Younker Band, Wofford Rhodes Scholar Rachel Woodlee, hunger advocate Davis Crews
By Jessica Connor
FLORENCE—What do you get when you mix a top college quarterback, a Rhodes Scholar, a 13-year-old hunger advocate, a leading Christian rock band and thousands of Spirit-filled youth and adult worshippers?
You get God-sized worship at Annual Conference.
That s exactly what happened at the Florence Civic Center June 11 when, after a full day of hunger mission work, United Methodists gathered for a youth-themed worship service that featured a host of big names to inspire and unite, all in the name of the Lord.
It was more than we ever expected, said Chris Lynch, conference youth staff person. When the bishop talks about a God-sized vision, it was just that “ a God-sized vision that became a God-sized reality.
The Gamecocks Dylan Thompson, junior quarterback from the University of South Carolina, served as keynote speaker, bringing his testimony of faith and commitment to Jesus before the crowd.
Thompson told the Advocate he was highly impressed with the turnout for the worship service and the S.C. Hunger Project mission event, held earlier that day.
It is awesome to see so many serving not just for people, but for Him, Thompson said. It s all about how can we show Jesus through what we do.
Leading Christian music artist Brett Younker and his band served as worship leader, bringing the crowd of teens, kids, adults and even the elderly to their feet to praise God through drum-pounding song.
Younker told the Advocate the opportunity for his band to lead worship was simply amazing, especially because the service included generations of people all there to praise and celebrate God.
That s the church “ it s not just young people, not just older people, it s everybody, Younker said.
Words from Rachel Woodlee, recent Wofford College graduate and Rhodes Scholar, and Davis Crews, a 13-year-old freshman who helped mobilize thousands to pack meals for Stop Hunger Now, rounded out the night.
Thompson: Step up for God
Thompson, who is known across South Carolina and beyond for being a top athlete not afraid to share his faith, laid his testimony before the crowd that night to thundering applause and encouragement.
While he grew up in church learning all the Bible stories, as a youth, he said he was a religious person who had no real relationship with Jesus. While he walked down the aisle to accept God at age 8, he lived more for himself than for God.
As a young man growing up, my whole dream was to play professional sports, Thompson said. I can classify that as a God-sized vision, but it had nothing to do with Jesus.
His freshman year in college, floundering while seeking his footing as a nascent player, he turned from what he had been taught as a child.
I rebelled against God, Thompson told the crowd. Freshman year, I did everything in the world, the whole college thing, everything you can think of.
Then in April 2011, he heard a pastor preach a message from Matthew 7:21.
Right then, he said, I was convicted. I d hurt God so much with my sin, (and I knew) it was only His grace that could save me.
Reading Matthew 4:18-22 for the crowd, Thompson said he d heard the passage all his life about Jesus calling Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John from their boats to be fishers of men, and immediately they left their boats and followed him.
I want to focus on the word ˜immediately, Thompson said. Jesus calls us in this life to be big-time performers. Not just hang out a bit and cruise and cruise and cruise. ¦ I think He s calling us to step up, whether we re age 6 or age 66. Everyone in here has a role to play for Jesus. Step up and get into these God-sized visions.
He said when he was asked to do a Bible study for his teammates, at first he was hesitant, thinking he was not qualified because he didn t know the Bible as well as he wished. But he stepped up and said yes, and from those Bible studies, 10 of his teammates have come to Christ.
It s not about what Dylan Thompson has done; it s about what Jesus Christ is doing through a person, Thompson said to roaring applause. God can do huge things through each and every one of us. I pray tonight that you ask God, ˜What are you calling me to do tomorrow so I can further impact your kingdom? Not the next day or next week, but tomorrow.
And then, he said, go and do it.
Woodlee: Finding God in the whispers
Woodlee shared stories about her mission adventures and admi
tted that in spite of being a woman of God and passionate about serving, sometimes she had a hard time embracing childlike faith.
I ve never been one of those people who automatically sees God s fingerprints all over my life, she said.
But then she realized she was seeking big moments, when all along, God was right there in the small.
God was there y all! she said. If you start looking for whispers instead of earthquakes, it will change the world. ¦ If you start looking at the world through a different lens, that still small voice in your heart, that s when you will start seeing God in your life. That will make all the difference.
In 2011, Crews was part of a youth group from Advent UMC, Simpsonville, who journeyed to Youth 2011, where he participated in a Stop Hunger Now meal packing.
On the way home on the 11-hour bus trip, we were held captive by the parents, who asked what we learned on our trip, Crews shared. I learned that 1 billion people in our world are hungry. Every day, 25,000 die from hunger. Every 6 seconds, a child dies of malnutrition.
That s when hunger advocacy seized him “ and the rest of his youth group. Upon their return, the youth group decided to host a Stop Hunger Now event at Advent, which eventually grew into a Greenville District-wide event, which in April 2012 resulted in the district packing a tractor-trailer load (285,000 meals) for the hungry.
They packed another 48,000 meals that fall, then this April, packed another Stop Hunger Now tractor trailer, and then hours before the youth worship service, finished yet another.
He encouraged those in attendance to step out on faith and do their part to help God in whatever way they re called.