Youth Explosion lights up N.C. mountains
January 12 2001 by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent

Youth Explosion lights up N.C. mountains | Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Friday, Jan. 12, 2001

Youth Explosion lights up N.C. mountains

By Craig Bird BR Correspondent ARDEN - It turned out to be a quiet explosion. Powerfully quiet. Most of the evening the crowd at Youth Explosion in the Mountains on Jan. 7 gloried in its youthful image - loud music (complete with some "spiritual" head banging), lots of laughing and cheering, swirling psychedelic light shows.
A teen-ager is part of the overflow crowd in the choir loft behind the speaker's platform at Youth Explosion in the Mountains. Later, he was one of hundreds who responded to the altar call.
But at the end there was mostly silence. All that could be heard were the voice of evangelist Jay Strack softly explaining the spiritual options and soft footsteps as hundreds of people made their way to the front.

Members of Solomon's Wish, the Nashville-based Christian rock band that revved up the crowd two hours before, laid aside their guitars and drum sticks to kneel and pray - along with an estimated 2,400 other people who filled Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden to overflowing.

"And to think we almost didn't even have this event," said Milton Hollifield, executive team leader for the Baptist State Convention's (BSC) Mission Growth Evangelism group. "I just don't plan youth rallies in the middle of winter - especially in the mountains."

But barely six weeks ago, just after Thanksgiving, Hollifield decided God wanted a youth event prior to the BSC's annual state evangelism conference that was meeting at Biltmore Jan. 8 and 9. Even then, he anticipated a turnout of no more than 1,500.

Instead, teen-agers and their sponsors poured into the Asheville suburb from 123 churches as far away as Murphy (2 1/2 hour drive), Salisbury, Lenoir, Spruce Pine and points in between.

Approximately 150 young people responded to Strack's urging to "make a public commitment of your life to Jesus Christ" after he unexpectedly felt led to ask for no music during the time of invitation. Over the next 25 minutes, the group of 150 swelled to perhaps 300 as other youth rededicated their lives and adult sponsors came forward to counsel. The response overwhelmed plans to have counseling sessions in separate rooms.

"God did this, all of this," said Alan Scroggs, the lead organizer of the event. "He truly showed up here tonight."

But Scroggs, youth minister at Berea Baptist Church in Asheville, had expected God might show up.

"This all just fell together, God was behind it," he said. "Milton called me after Thanksgiving and my three first choices (for leaders) were all available! Solomon's Wish had a Friday night concert in Winston-Salem and was coming through Asheville anyway going home."

Strack was preaching Sunday morning in Orlando, Fla. (although he arrived barely in time to speak after his flight was canceled and a replacement flight was delayed); former Charlotte Panthers defensive back Derwin Gray also had an open date.

After an opening set by the Biltmore Praise Band, Solomon's Wish presented a mini-concert of high energy songs that climaxed with the crowd joining in an a cappella medley including "Sanctuary," "Holiness" and "I Love You Lord."

Gray, a two-time collegiate All-American at Brigham Young University and a six-year starter in the National Football League, shared his journey from the poor side of San Antonio, Texas, to athletic acclaim and wealth.

"My family put the 'P' in poor," he said.

"I was living my dream covering Emmit Smith and Jerry Rice, I fulfilled my major goal of sending money back to my family - lots of money," he said.

But partying and womanizing still left him empty.

In 1997, Grey realized that "Jesus loved me! And He loved me enough not to leave me in the same situation He found me in."

Strack shared his personal testimony of childhood abuse, a broken home, drug addiction and jail, only to find his way through to a personal commitment to Christ.

He spoke of three types of people - the victim, the villain and the victor - and how young people have a choice in which of these roles they can play.

"I hope the adults who come to the evangelism conference can keep up to what the kids had tonight," Hollifield said.

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1/12/2001 12:00:00 AM by Craig Bird , BR Correspondent | with 0 comments
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