The Church of the Nazarene is a global church with hundreds of thousands of members scattered across the globe in places like Brazil, Haiti, Poland, Jordan, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and around 158 other world areas. But growing up in a small farming town in southwest Lower Michigan, I had very little idea of the beautiful diversity of our global church. Even though our church talked about its international presence and our pastor preached about topics like diversity and living our lives on mission, I’d never had the opportunity to experience those realities for myself.
For some attendees, NYC is a part of their family’s story of faith. Their grandparents attended, their parents attended, older siblings attended, and now they’re finally arriving at the doorway to their NYC rite of passage. But this wasn’t my story for a couple of reasons, one being that our family was poor and couldn’t afford to send me to an event like this. The greater barrier, however, was that our local church never encouraged us to go. And so, it wasn’t until I was serving as a youth pastor that I was finally able to experience NYC for myself in Houston, Texas, in 2003.
I remember feeling intimidated by the size and scope of the event. Prior to NYC, I’d never taken our teenagers to a gathering larger than around 600 people, and now we were about to embark on a 2-day cross country journey by tour bus to a city nearly 2,300 miles away—a city where we would find ourselves immersed in an ocean of over 8,200 people from all over the country and all over the world. And while it was intimidating, more importantly, it was inspiring.
- It was inspiring to watch our church give sacrificially to support students who couldn’t afford to attend NYC on their own.
- It was inspiring to hear from powerful speakers like Deirdre Brower Latz as she challenged us to expand our imagination of what God might want to do through our life together.
- It was inspiring to serve alongside students in Houston neighborhoods badly in need of compassionate assistance. And upon our return, it was doubly inspiring to be approached by these same students as they challenged our church to serve our own community as the city recovered from a devastating tornado.
- It was inspiring to watch the missional hearts of students grow into hearts with a passion to serve not only their own community but around the world in places like Mexico, Guatemala, Croatia, and Africa.
- It was inspiring to see one student embrace a call to teach underprivileged youth in the urban core of Chicago and then to follow that call to Tampa, Florida, where he continues to teach at-risk students and helps to lead worship in a local Nazarene church plant.
- It was inspiring to witness a timid young man in our youth ministry step into a call to pastoral ministry, to encourage him as he left for Olivet Nazarene University later that fall, and now to see him serve the very congregation that helped send him to NYC nearly 20 years ago.
All of this to say, the impact of NYC goes far beyond the impact of the event itself—like seeds scattered on the ground. The seeds that are sown through NYC continue to bring a Kingdom impact—30, 60, and often 100 times what was originally sown.