WACO — Students surged toward the altar so quickly, organizers threw chairs to the side to make room. Additional counselors were called forward. Youth ministers prayed with students, parents with young people and young people with each other.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas-sponsored Congreso, held at Baylor University, produced a record attendance of nearly 5,000 students, many of whom swarmed the altar to make spiritual decisions during the three-day weekend event.
In all, 731 young people made spiritual decisions, including 194 professions of faith in Christ. More than 300 students rededicated their lives to Christ, and 136 young people felt called to vocational ministry.
“I knew we would have a good attendance, but the Lord had bigger plans,” said Frank Palos, director of BGCT Hispanic evangelism. “We planned, promoted and prepared so that we would show up and God would show off.”
Congreso speaker Gabe Salazar, youth minister at South San Filadelfia Baptist Church in San Antonio, encouraged students to embrace the destiny God is calling them to and leave behind a legacy that glorifies his name.
“God called you,” Salazar said. “God wants to do great things through your life.”
No matter people’s past, God can and wants to take their lives in his hands, Salazar said. He can heal their hurts and use their stories to connect with others and grow God’s kingdom.
“God does things before we do,” Salazar said. “God doesn’t need our strengths. He doesn’t need our talents. He needs our availability.”
The other Congreso featured speaker, Sergio Ramos, ministry development director of Buckner Children and Family Services, echoed Salazar, encouraging students to study the Bible and cling to their faith.
“You can overcome limitations by developing a healthy awareness of the word of God and meditating on it day and night,” he said. ”When you allowed other things to get between God and yourself, you become an easy target for destruction that brings failure and disgrace.”
Ramos stressed God created each person uniquely. As a result, individuals have unique ministry opportunities placed before them. It is up to each person to follow God when those situations arise.
“God has wired you as his workmanship for spiritual greatness,” Ramos said. ”He’s created you with the unique personality and gifts and background and capabilities so you can touch and change lives for him.”
Stressing there are certain moments that define the kind of legacy a person will leave behind, Salazar noted God can use one person in mighty ways.
One person can stand out in a crowd and reflect the difference Christ can make in a life, he said.
“It doesn’t take your whole youth group to reach your campus,” he said. “It only takes one person.”
To take advantage of those moments, people must be willing to act upon what they believe, Salazar said. They must make a decision to stand with Christ.
“I believe for many of us, Congreso is one of those moments,” he said.
In addition to the large evangelistic response, students participated in more than 200 missions projects throughout Waco, ranging from picking up litter to block parties and community outreaches.
Students also gave a Congreso record of more than $9,000 for college scholarships.
John Hall is news director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.