I’m sitting in the Indianapolis International Airport, waiting for a connecting flight to Detroit and on to Baltimore before returning home to Lancaster, PA. My husband and I are heading back from volunteering at the Cross Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. Cross is a missions conference held every couple of years over the Christmas break, aimed at college students to compel them to missions. The speakers included Kevin DeYoung, David Platt, Thabiti Anyabwile, and John Piper, among others. To say I was blessed by this event is an understatement. But it isn’t just because of the power team of speakers.
The participants, mostly young millennials, began pouring in to the Indiana Convention Center on Tuesday at noon, two days after Christmas, for registration. The conference kicked off promptly at four with a concert by Trip Lee, a Christian rap artist, who, by the way, ascribes to a Reformed doctrine. You don’t see that every day.
Over two thousand souls filled the seats (more than twice that on the last day, as another conference occurring in the adjacent hotel joined Cross for the closing), with another one hundred thirty volunteers working the event. Forty-two exhibitors lined the perimeter of the massive conference hall, exhorting each potential missionary to buy their books, join their team, or consider their seminary. The focal point of the hall was a bright, hip stage backdropped by a grid of metal conduit with Edison bulbs affixed at each intersecting pipe, the colorful Cross logo positioned in the middle. Changing lights altered the backdrop, sometimes making it look solid and static, and sometimes giving it a rippling tie-dye effect. In a word, it was cool.
From Trip’s kickoff there ensued four intense days of speakers, panel discussions, Q&A and breakout sessions, worship, missionary testimonies, and encouragement that began at 8am and didn’t relent until 11:15 at night. Missions was the focus of the conference, but the gospel was powerfully preached by each dynamic and compelling speaker. I felt like I was in deep space, not seeing the outside for four solid days and being enveloped in a marvelous bubble of solid teaching and beautiful Christian fellowship. I’m a little sad that it’s over. (Plus the food was amazing.)
With each passing day of the Cross conference, I was struck by the lack of empty seats at any given time. The doors opened each morning at 8, and kids came pouring through. Most of them held a water bottle, a phone, and a Bible. I worked the Help Desk, so I was positioned just inside the entry doors. From 8-9 am, a steady stream of two thousand college-aged kids milled about the exhibitors, talked in groups, found seats, or sipped Starbucks at the tables in the back. But when it was time for a session to start, every person was seated and ready. Journals or phones were out, pens or scrolling fingers were poised, and Bibles were ready to be opened. When the music started, all were on their feet, singing earnestly. When it was time to pray, all were bowed and the room fell silent. And when a speaker spoke, all eyes were fixed on the stage, glancing away long enough to jot a note or to tweet a quote. This attention and focus did not diminish from Tuesday afternoon to Friday at noon, when the conference concluded.
After each speaker, I was moved and blessed by the sound bites of conversation I was privy to as I walked through the hall to my volunteer station. “Yes, and I never thought of that passage in Romans that way!” “I know, I’ve heard others talk about that from John 11, but I never considered…” “John Piper was amazing! He’s given me so much to think about!” At the end of each day, I would make my way to my hotel via the skywalk that stretched above the main street in Indianapolis, overlooking the beautiful downtown of the state’s capitol. Walking through the hotel lobby at 11:30 pm, I smiled at groups of kids bunched together in small huddles, God’s word and journals opened, animatedly debriefing what they’d heard that day. Early the next morning, I would reverse my steps, passing lone participants having quiet time in a tucked away corner of the lobby.
I turned 55 last Monday. I can guarantee you this is not how I was spending my Christmas break 35 years ago. This week, I saw 1 Timothy 4:12 played out before my eyes: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” From now on, I’ll employ Philippians 4:8 when thinking of millennials. Because what I saw these last four days was true, honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and definitely worthy of praise to the One who calls and commissions. Let the Nations be Glad!