They are only three letters, but the context associated with them has now become vast and varied. In this movement’s history, the letters G Y and C were an acronym for the General Youth Conference, Generation of Youth for Christ, and now currently Generation. Youth. Christ. Call it reinventing ourselves, adaption for the times, or whatever other incredible reason, these three letters have come to stand for something altogether irreproducible.
The movement started as an experiment in 2002, nearly 15 years ago to last weekend. A group of young adults from diverse racial and educational backgrounds were inspired by a set of ideals found in Scripture and best illustrated within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In this exceptional convergence of personalities, events, ideals, skills, and experiences, the experiment sought to be reactionary to the reactionaries and progressive to the progressives. Socially disturbed with the critical and derogatory attitudes of Christ-less Adventism, this prototype sought a tone centered on the character, message, and lifestyle of Jesus Christ. Cognitively dissonant with the contemporary, entertainment-mimicking models of youth and young adult ministry, this movement also sought to verify out whether young people regardless of background would appreciate and respond to His sobering claims within biblical Adventism.
Below is condensed version of one of the initial emails of GYC’s beginnings from December 14, 2001:
We are living in an exciting time period. And from reading SOP (Spirit of Prophecy), it’s inferred that young people will play an important part in the last days. And already there are things happening that just seem to coincide with each other, such as SPARC, Campus Hope @ Boston, Univ. of Michigan, Brown, Rutgers, UVA, UTN, Princeton, and a renewed revival among some members at Andrews and Loma Linda. There are still 7000 who have not bowed down to Baal.
Our vision is to unite all these groups in America and create a General Youth Conference. These would be only the serious committed Adventist students coming together once a year for one week and would be very different from a retreat or camp meeting. We would hold it once on the East Coast, then West Coast, then Midwest or something. Only the most willing dedicated, leaders from all over the country would meet, including HS, collegiates, grads, young profs, and young people.
Most importantly, it would be interracial. Not out of political-correctness, but out of worship for our Lord, we would want blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, what have you involved. Today, you see only each group doing their own thing. I sincerely believe God blesses interracial worships and fellowships more abundantly, because isn’t that what heaven is all about?!
We would invite the highest caliber of speakers and each would do a workshop for one week. This way, the adult speakers would be able to network, as well as the student fellowships and other youth.—not out of dating purposes, but out of contacts and guard tower stations. These workshops would be a pseudo-school of the prophets, where recreation and social activities would be very limited (but not eliminated), and where intense Bible studies would take place.
At this point it’s still a vision, so we dare not share it with everyone. But we are in the midst of contacting the speakers and getting dates for the winter of 2002. We are looking for about 200 people to come…
I see this as the beginning of a large movement with lots of work involved. But what work for God is not a joy? If you feel uninterested or think there is much work ahead, or just doubt the potential, we understand. But if not, please tell me what you think.
‘Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ 1 Cor. 15:58.”
What was used was instant messengers, newly introduced cell phones the size of refrigerators with buttons like ice cubes, laptops the size of battleships, and credit cards with no credit on them. What emerged was an expanding grassroots movement with exponential growth within its first five years. From two hundred to one thousand to four thousand, the growth was overwhelming and uncontrollable. Who did this? The greatest underestimation of young people is to assume they are not full adults and that other “adults” must be behind the scenes. And the reality of the matter is there was one: the Lord Jesus!
Eventually groups seeking these ideals of GYC were found in different localities of North America as well as nations around the world. The international scene of GYC has been persistent. Its dynamic is clear evidence that something is happening of which any simple human observation can explain.
Simply, they are biblical ideals. The ideals of Scriptural fidelity, exploration into the historical roots of Seventh-day Adventism such as the Spirit of Prophecy, their expression of these ideals in a practical and modern context for young adults, the philosophy of excellence and Christian cordiality converged into an annual national convention, an exploding network of global youth conferences, and the formal organization and natural growth pains of GYC. In subsequent years with each conventional cycle, GYC had embraced and/or revitalized further ideals such as:
1. Church and Professional Leadership Development – empowering young adults to change their immediate environments in the church and professional arenas for the furtherance of the Gospel
2. Christ-Centered Knowledge, Lifestyle, and Character – calibrating every component of the individual’s life and lifestyle for heavenly trajectory
3. Distinctive Role of Seventh-day Adventism in Christianity’s Timeline – understanding what the word eschatology means and its implications for the twenty-first century
4. Biblical Faithfulness in Application and Issues – rejecting the simplification of theological issues as rhetoric, but rather applying religious and spiritual rigor to the problems that face our church today from a biblical perspective
5. The Pursuit of Excellence in Academia, Professions, and Spirituality – raising the levels of expectation to their highest potential as a reflection of God’s hope in His people
6. Radical Discipleship – going all out for Jesus Christ while disregarding all social and cultural conventions that limit proper and biblical discipleship
7. Youth Ownership of and Respect for the Seventh-day Adventist Church Leadership – reeducating young people about the need for respect for biblical organizations, restoring hope in providing mentorship experiences with current leadership, and exemplifying how different generations can collaborate in today’s church for tomorrow
8. True Education – rejection of group think, but allowing a format for spacious individuality, obedient creativity, and a craving for righteousness
9. The Experience of Christ and Righteousness by Faith – underscoring, italicizing, bolding, superscripting, and subscripting the imperative centrality of the one and only Jesus Christ as Lord, King, and High Priest of our faith, and understanding what statements like this mean practically everyday
In the end, these ideals were distilled into a tangible experience with Christ as articulated by the “Spirit of GYC” in the About section of the GYC website.
There is nothing like an ideal that invigorates or infuriates the soul. But this is called passion. It is called conviction. When combined with truth and the Lord’s blessing, amazing grace is heard and seen in the air and around the world. With humility, these three letters G Y C have been greatly successful on some ideals, while dilatory on others. But after 15 years, it does not repudiate any of its past ideals, but only seeks to affirm them, vivify them, find new ones. The growth of GYC around the world, burgeoned since its adolescent beginnings, is clear evidence that the Lord Jesus is finishing up His antitypical work in the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary and will return to bestow the merits of His blood and judgment to those who await His arrival. Until then, may GYC continue to creating breathing space for the Holy Spirit, confidence of the judgement in Jesus, and reliance on the Father’s foreknowledge to unleash and inspire continual generations…of young people…for Jesus Christ. So Lord, help GYC.
-Justin Kim, GYC Board Member, Editor of Collegiate Quarterly / Ast. Director of Sabbath School, General Conference, Maryland