Evening session includes call to mission, dramatic storytelling and exploring our real identity
By Connie Faber
Following another fun and wacky opening segment, Stephen Humber, the Named 2015 host and a USMB pastor from Omaha, Neb., led the audience in an opening prayer that the crowd spoke in unison. It was a unique way to bring us into the “meat” of the evening session that concluded with the youth groups taking communion together.
Humber introduced Ricky Sanchez, a missionary to Southeast Asia with MB Mission. Humber told the audience that in the 15 years that Sanchez and other MB workers have been in the region, they have seen the church grow to include more than 80,000 believers.
Sanchez told of his conversion and call to mission work. He spoke of his desire to respond to the call of Romans 10:14—“And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
“I want to challenge you to take a stand tonight to serve in mission,” said Sanchez. “Some of you are feeling that call to mission.”
Sanchez invited anyone to stand who wanted to make such a commitment. It appeared that between 65 and 70 people stood to confirm their commitment to “living a missional life,” as Sanchez described it. The missionary then invited the group to “pray out” like Thai Christians, which meant that everyone prayed aloud at the same time for those standing.
Sketches deliver powerful message
Students listened attentively to the thought-provoking sketches performed by One Time Blind, a drama troupe from Detroit, Mich., that had not been highlighted in pre-conference publicity.
“Stories open us to what God wants us to do,” said Ryan McCullough, who along with his wife, Laura, and Drew and Kat Smith comprise One Time Blind. The quartet’s sketches creatively explored the ways in which Satan gains influence in our lives.
Later that evening the audience again watched a video of four individuals reading the conference Scripture text, Matthew 16:13-18, as a reader’s theater. That’s when most of the group realized the readers were One Time Blind. They had created the video specifically for the Named 2015 sessions.
Who God says we are was the focus of John Richardson’s Saturday message. In this text, Jesus gives Peter a new name. “Names are important,” said Richardson. “Our name as ‘Christian’ means Christ-like. Our character and actions should line up with the character and actions of Jesus.”
Richardson listed several Scriptures that tell Christians who they are in Christ and noted that the Named 2015 program booklet listed more than two dozen verses that speak to who we are in Christ. “Our problem is not knowing these things,” he said. “It’s living as if these are true.”
Quoting Romans 1:21, Richardson said that identity is corporate as well as individual. “Our identity is us, together. There is diversity in unity; it’s beautiful. We are part of a unified diversity.”
Richardson reminded his audience that they are part of a larger church body—Mennonite Brethren. “Our Mennonite Brethren family is making a difference locally and globally,” said Richardson, listing several distinctives of the MB faith: peace, reconciliation, community, etc.
“I’m Mennonite Brethren because this family fleshes out what it means to follow Jesus better than any other I’ve seen,” said Richardson.
Whose voice are you listening to?
Living out our identity in Christ personally and corporately involves following Jesus and listening to his voice. “It is impossible for there not to be a change in our lives when we follow Jesus,” said Richardson. “He wants to make us new; he wants to restore.”
As Richardson was talking about how difficult it can be sometimes to hear God’s voice when other loud voices are part of our lives, one of the One Time Blind actors, wearing sunglasses which indicated that this actor was portraying Satan, joined Richardson on stage and began talking over Richardson. A second actor speaking as Jesus soon joined the first actor on stage and Richardson stepped aside as the sketch unfolded.
For several minutes, “Satan” and “Jesus” debate one another and simultaneously talked to the audience. “Satan” accused the audience members of lying and other sins while “Jesus” said repeatedly how much he loved each person. The actors’ voice grew louder and louder until finally “Jesus” said to the audience, “If you are tired of his (Satan’s) voice, stand up right now.” And the entire room stood. Then “Jesus” said, “I think it's time for you to go, Satan!” The audience cheered, clapped and called out to “Satan” to leave, which he did.
“Where there is light there can be no darkness,” said Jesus. “Remember this moment—when you stood up against the voice of the devil and took a step to learn your true identity in Christ.”
Richardson returned to the stage and spoke of the importance of choosing who to listen to. “You personally and consciously had to decide who to listen to,” he said, referring to the sketch. “That’s when you could clearly hear what was being said.”
Using several stories, Richardson emphasized the importance of tenaciously removing sin from one’s life. “Do whatever it takes to get rid of the things that separate you from God,” he told the crowd.
A clip from the movie “Blood Diamond” in which a father reminds his son, who was stolen by soldiers and turned into a killer, of his true identity, and a short story about walking down the street emphasized the importance of choosing which message one listens to.
“In a world where we are given corrupt messages of who we are meant to be, Jesus overcomes them all. Jesus tells us to come home. Jesus says, ‘I am your father,’” said Richardson.
Richardson asked the students to take out the identification card they had been given Thursday evening and to look at the side that read: true identity. He reminded the audience that, “the voice of the adversary is in our lives” and encouraged the students to fight that voice by listing specific descriptors of their true identity in Christ and then sharing what they wrote with others.
“If you want to be exactly the same this Monday as you were last Monday, don’t tell anyone,” he said. “But if you want things to be different, tell someone—even tonight.”
For All Seasons returned to the stage to lead a final worship song, “Great are you Lord,” that emphasized the love, light, hope and restoration found in God. Richardson’s closing prayer asked God to “stir something inside” this generation. He reviewed the instructions for taking communion as youth groups, and the groups left the ballroom to share the bread and juice and to reflect together on the day.
Also on Saturday
- Fresno Pacific University was one of the Saturday night session guests. Thursday night the audience learned that Named 2015 speaker John Richardson is a FPU alumus and two nights later it was Richardson who introduced Bobby Martin, an FPU admissions counselor and alumnus. Martin described the university’s goal as empowering leaders and transforming lives. A video testimony by Dante, an FPU student, told how those goals played out in his experience.
- Both Ministry Quest and USMB announced the winners of drawings.
- The audience enjoyed a video recap of the conference to date.
- Ty Herington continued his quest for identity, this time appearing as Darth Vader and Katniss from The Hunger Games.” Just be yourself,” was host Stephen Humber’s advice.
Saturday afternoon was scheduled as free time for Named 2015 attendees. Some students explored 16th Street Mall and other Denver tourist attractions while others stayed around the 1,100-room Hyatt Regency enjoying the indoor pool and other features.