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36,000 Christian youth gather in St. Louis to seek ‘Purpose & Identity in God’s Word’.

North American Youth Congress: Finding ⁤Purpose and Identity in Faith

North American youth face a growing identity crisis: over 300,000‍ American teenagers identify as the opposite sex, while drug overdoses and suicide are the leading causes of ​death ⁤for ‌younger ‍Americans — ‍claiming over 72,000 young lives in 2020 alone ‍— as loneliness spreads ⁤among Gen ‍Z.

These social contagions are fueled by declining numbers in church attendance nationwide, especially among⁢ young people. Surveys by ‍ Gallup and Pew Research ⁢show that increasing majorities of Millennials⁢ and Gen ​Zers do not belong to ‍a ​church ‍or attend services at⁤ all, and a sizable minority are now “religiously unaffiliated” — leading one writer to ⁣question if Gen Z should be called “Generation Atheist.”

Yet, in the midst ⁤of these problems, many youth have found⁤ purpose and⁤ identity in something greater — 36,000 teens and young adults from across the continent gathered last ⁣week for North American Youth Congress ‌ (NAYC), a biennial event ⁣ that seeks to inspire young people to find purpose in faith and community service. NAYC is organized by​ the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI).

A‍ Beacon ⁤of Light and Hope

“The teenagers and young adults who attend NAYC give us hope for the future,”⁤ said ⁣UPCI Youth Ministries ​ President Michael Thomas. He said NAYC ⁤is “a beacon of ‌light‌ and hope in ‌a world ⁢that is being overrun by⁣ problems and strife.”

The event took place last Wednesday through Friday in St. Louis, consisting of worship services, practical training‍ sessions, and a community service project, in which attendees packed⁢ thousands of disaster relief buckets in​ partnership with Reach Out America.

Thomas described⁣ the event as a “counterculture” ​in that “we try ‍not to allow societal trends to ‍mold or shape our thinking and beliefs” ‍and directly addressed transgenderism at‍ the event Wednesday night, stating that “Biblical holiness”⁢ protects against ‍“gender confusion.”

“How you were born is how you were intended by your Creator to be.” Thomas passionately proclaimed. ​“God did not put a question mark after your DNA — God put an exclamation point after your DNA! The Word of God ​says you were fearfully and wonderfully‍ made. ​Don’t let the world erase how God made you!”

UPCI Superintendent Dr. David⁢ K.‍ Bernard contrasted ‍the event’s attendees with broader American ⁤culture, which he described as “increasingly secular and even hostile to Christian values.”

Despite the‍ overall decline of religiosity in American youth, Thomas said his organization is experiencing rapid ‍growth, especially ​among teenagers ⁢and young adults.

Meanwhile, author⁤ and NYU professor Johnathan ‌Haidt points to “extraordinarily⁢ high rates ​of anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide and fragility” among Gen Zers ‌as a “national crisis.” Haidt‌ linked the rise of “isolating” activities like ⁣social ⁢media use to increased ⁢rates of ‌depression, particularly among teen‌ girls.

A 2016 study by the​ National Institute of Medicine, however, suggests ⁣that membership in a ‍religious group can decrease one’s risk of depression and⁢ other mental health problems.⁣ NAYC’s organizers and attendees echoed the study,‌ saying the conference helps youth connect with others and find their purpose in faith.

When⁤ asked about the‌ mental health crisis,‍ Thomas‌ said that for these young‍ Christians, “purpose‍ and identity can be found in the Word of ​God.”

“This purpose and ‍identity are given to us by a loving Creator,” Thomas told The Daily Wire. “In a world⁣ of increasing loneliness⁢ and isolation, this event solidifies to a young person ⁤that they ​are not alone in their journey or their walk with God.”

“NAYC ⁢helps me find community … in the power of coming in unity⁤ with people from ‌all over the United States and ⁢worshiping the ⁢same ⁢God,” said 15-year-old Kayleigh Stephens. ⁣Anita Sullivan Lewis, of Cross Plains, Tennessee, told The Daily Wire that NAYC “gives my nonverbal son⁤ who has Down Syndrome and autism a sense of belonging.⁢ All the kids in our youth group include him,⁢ pray with him, make room for his wheelchair, and give him high fives to let him know he’s loved.”


Back⁣ home, many of⁤ these students and ‌parents face intense cultural battles⁤ in their ⁣school districts. Recent protests have broken‍ out over new mandates in favor of teaching ​transgenderism and sexually explicit material to kids,⁤ uniting Christian and Muslim parents alike. Meanwhile, other religious ⁤ groups openly embrace Left-wing ideologies.

“It ⁣is through our relationship with God and His Word that certain questions about our identity can be settled, our⁣ direction and purpose in life ⁢can be answered, and we can ⁣live ⁣the⁢ whole and ⁢complete life we were ⁢intended to‍ live,”⁣ Thomas ‍concluded.

As ‍cultural battles​ intensify across the⁣ country, many people of⁣ faith are conflicted about how to‍ proceed. Yet, the organizers of NAYC see a path forward.

Dr. Bernard said that Christians can be both “loving and ⁣firm”‌ in these ‌battles. “We should seek to⁢ uphold important values ⁣for ​life, ⁤marriage, family, and society; and we should partner ⁣with others who share these goals,” he said.

“We should respect ⁣everyone as⁣ created in God’s image and as ⁤souls for whom ​Christ ‍died.” he continued. “We⁤ shouldn’t be antagonistic, ⁤harsh, hateful, or bigoted, even when ⁣provoked. At the same time, we‌ [should] ‍be firmly committed ‍to‍ truth, and doing so ​isn’t bigotry.”

Thomas echoed Bernard’s call for⁤ a firm stand for Biblical values while loving ⁤those with whom ⁣they⁢ disagree. He said that “Jesus showed us the perfect model for this in the New Testament.”

“Jesus told us to love everyone, but this does not mean ⁤we condone⁣ or endorse their​ lifestyle if it is ⁤contrary to ‍His Word.​ Every word and action that ‍we as Christians display should ⁤be motivated by and saturated with love,” Thomas said. ​“Disagreement should never⁤ become hatred.”

This ​form of love resounds⁣ with⁣ young​ Stephens, and she ‍said her mission as she returns from ⁤the conference is “to impact my community and school by showing the ‍love and compassion of Christ,⁢ to see ‍people filled ⁢with His Spirit, ‍ [and] their families renewed and ‌restored. … I ⁣want lives to be changed and miracles to be performed.”

Amid the cultural battles in public schools across the ‌country, attendees told The Daily Wire how NAYC⁣ inspires them to be strong in their faith despite facing opposition ⁢ in their schools.

“I have been inspired‌ in many ways,” said Talyha Bonny, 14, of​ Worcester, Massachusetts, who teaches Bible studies at her school over fierce ridicule by her ‍classmates. “NAYC inspired me to put God‌ first because when I do ‌that, I ⁤will be ‍strengthened, and I won’t be afraid.”

Stephens,⁣ from Troy, Missouri, described being a Christian in her public school as “a hard thing to do in the world we live in.” ​She ‌said, ⁣“NAYC empowers me ⁢to tell⁢ my school about Jesus and ⁤the good he has done for me. It⁣ is hard⁢ to speak ​out and tell ​people‌ about Jesus and the ‘why’ ⁢behind my acts,” she said, ⁤“but it is beyond rewarding seeing my friends go to ⁢church with me and ‍ask me questions about my faith.”

NAYC was last held in 2019 with a pre-pandemic record of⁢ 37,000 attendees ⁣and took place virtually in 2021 ‍due to the virus. The event will be⁤ held next in⁢ 2025 at Lucas Oil ⁤Stadium in Indianapolis.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

" Conservative News Daily does not always share or support the views and opinions expressed here; they are just those of the writer."

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