In John 17:21–24, Jesus is recorded praying, “I pray … that all of them may be ONE, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world will believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be ONE as we are ONE.”
Follow 2023, The Wesleyan Church (TWC)’s International Youth Conference, was a beautiful testimony of many things culminating in our Wesleyan movement. It was a testimony of young people longing to follow the way of Jesus, be fully engaged in the Acts 1:8 vision of the church and be a transforming presence of ONE in the world. Clearly, the emerging generations are longing to be empowered by the Spirit, find their purpose and live out their calling.
The vision of Follow has always been to make room for the Holy Spirit to speak and to prepare hearts to say yes to whatever God asks. We had an incredible Follow team who prayed and planned everything around that vision of making room and staying in step with the Holy Spirit’s leading.
On December 28–30, 2023, over 4,700 youth, young adults and leaders gathered in the Cincinnati Conference Center in Ohio to seek the heart of God.
One new conference feature was a prayer area where participants could be prayed for or find private space to listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice. The first night, not only did multiple students, young adults and leaders use the prayer space, but the Holy Spirit’s work was so evident that a staff member of the convention center gave their life to Christ. A large prayer room, designed for group activities and creative expressions, housed a flood of students seeking inner healing and redemption during Davey Blackburn’s powerful narrative of trauma and God’s redemption. The second night saw an overflow of students at the altar expressing their need to depend on God to sustain them amid hardship in their story.
In addition to the prayer space, the Follow team offered a young adult track, leaders track, and free coaching and counseling for student ministry leaders. Through the ministry at Follow, hundreds of students and young adults made a commitment to follow Christ and many more experienced inner healing and deliverance.
Across TWC we are seeing hundreds of Next Gen ministries unifying, experiencing God’s presence and being moved to action. Impact Church in Lowell, Michigan, led by Jason Holdridge, made the commitment to be all in on Next Gen this year and brought 180 people to Follow. One-week later Impact’s young adult ministry loaded up another bus and headed to Passion 2024. Ministries like these are leaning on Jesus (the One) and living empowered by the Spirit to live as a transforming presence of ONE to the next generation around them.
One of the most special moments at Follow was when Rev. Santes Beatty, Follow’s director, handed the baton to Olivia Williamson, one of his former students, to give the calling invitation. Olivia asked for a response to kneel if the Holy Spirit was prompting students to pursue a calling in the areas of vocational, marketplace and global missions. Over 425 students kneeled to receive special prayer and went to the side of the auditorium to fill out an information card. On the card, these students were connected to a new web-based platform called Follow the Call.
Follow the Call is a place where students can learn to follow Jesus, find community and fulfill their purpose. It is a bridge for what is happening in our churches, camps, colleges and conferences by providing resources, one on one mentoring, and comprehensive follow up through the years to come. It is designed not just for students, but for the parents and leaders who want their students to live into their call. The resource is free and will continue to be built out with new offerings and opportunities.
“When you think that around one-tenth of the conference attendees responded to a call, that starts to feel pretty staggering,” said Rev. Santes Beatty, director of NextGen for TWC.
“We had participants from seven to eight countries in attendance, a DS roundtable, and (for the first time in recent memory) a young adult track that included 350-400 young adults,” all of which came together into an incredible tapestry of experiences with God that will live on.
At the end of the day, we want to see a generation rise and live into what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17–19)
May it be done in this generation and may we continue to be a unifying movement, making room for students and young adults to live fully into their calling.
Dr. Ed Love is executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship of The Wesleyan Church.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.