GYC President Asks Participants During Keynote: “Why Are We Here?”

GYC President Andrew Park gave the evening keynote address on Wednesday, December 27. [Photo: Samuel Girven/The GYC Record]

On Wednesday, December 27, the opening night of the 2023 GYC convention in Portland, GYC President Andrew Park posited a question during his opening keynote address: “Why are we here?”

The question, which he returned to multiple times throughout his 50-minute sermon, served as the foundation for his message and several other questions he asked the young audience. “Why do you feel you had to be at GYC this year,” Park asked. He pointed to the mission of GYC and its reason for existence—”to inspire young people to study the word of God”—as his answer, yet he also acknowledged that some might be at GYC for less pointful purposes.

God’s word, Park said, has “potent power.” This power is exemplified in Genesis 1 and John 1, where he said God’s “word” is shown to have properties attributed to it. As Jesus continued his ministry, as shown in the biblical book of John, his words began to be contrasted with his “signs”—the various miracles that Jesus committed.

Eventually, Park explained, Jesus’ became so well-known (as Park put it, he went “global”) that the masses began to closely follow him because of his mysterious acts. It highlighted the crowd’s obsession with that which is “spectacular,” he said. “They’re treating Jesus like a circus act … now, [he] must begin to correct their expectations.”

Jesus told the crowd in John 6, which had been asking for literal bread “so they can be satisfied,” that he was the “bread of life that came down from heaven” and the “bread is my flesh.”

In the seven years since Park was baptized, he said he’s seen many of his peers walk away from the Adventist Church. [Photo: Samuel Girven/The GYC Record]

Park pointed out that this was a perplexing answer for the crowd, who knew of Jesus’ humble beginning in Nazareth as a carpenter child. “Things just got tense,” Park said, carefully enunciating every word. “What is this man saying? This is lunatic. Jesus’ fame has reached an unprecedented level. People are being healed and fed—but now he is saying some perplexing things,” he said. 

At this point, many of Jesus’ disciples decided that the saying was “hard” and therefore stopped following him. It was the “signs and wonders” of Jesus that led them to follow him, Park said, but it was the words of Jesus that made them walk away. At this point in the biblical passage, Jesus asked his 12 remaining disciples: “Do you also want to go away?”

Paralleling his previous experiences at “large, exciting” religious gatherings with the biblical narrative, he said the “Bible could not compete with these events.” The things that made his “carnal heart smile” were far more appealing than “inconvenient truths” in scripture.

In the seven years since Park was baptized, he said he’s seen many of his peers walk away from the Adventist Church. “To put it simply, the church experience has failed them.” He said their life experiences—school, work, relationships—have “consumed” them, and “feelings have become the guide of their choices.” “When you choose to walk away because the church has failed you or because of your disappointing social experiences, we walk away from the scriptures that tell us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves,” Park said.

Multitudes followed Jesus because of his signs—his miracles—but only his disciples stayed because of his word, Park said, linking back to his original question.

Over 3,000 registered participants were set to attend the keynote address on Wednesday. [Photo: Samuel Girven/The GYC Record]

In the closing minutes of his keynote, Park painted a dispiriting picture and compared it to the biblical narrative of Daniel 1 and the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. “At this time, your peers have left. The church leadership has failed. There’s no vibrant community around them. They’re witnessing their friends give into the darkness. They have no mentors to help them. All of their experiences are screaming out: ‘Leave God, leave the church, look at your dreadful experience.’” Daniel and his friends, Park said, never asked God to show them a sign of his presence despite their dreadful straits as captives of a foreign kingdom. Instead, their attitude said God could deliver them, but they would still trust and serve him if he didn’t.

Park stated that many likely came to the conference with questions on their mind, such as what God would want them to see. As he closed, however, he said only you can assure yourself that you will receive the word of God—and not depend your faith upon a “sign.”

Samuel Girven is the editor of The GYC Record.

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