“Ty, your presentation made me angry,” the young woman said, her brow furrowed. The large beams of the auditorium towered over them as they talked, like a mini cathedral.
This was the first international ARISE Intensive, hosted by the Seventh-day Adventist university in Germany, Friedensau, which was surrounded by the lush greenery of springtime. When registration opened, all 300 event tickets quickly sold out, over half of them going to teenagers and young adults under 35. So our team was excited and nervous to see how the program would be received. Now here was this woman saying she was mad.
“Oh, what made you angry?” Ty responded gently.
“Ty, your presentation made me angry,”
“I was raised in the church,” she said. “But I’m just now hearing this message for the first time, that the Bible is a story that points us to Jesus!”
She was referencing what Ty preached on the first night of the intensive: Scripture isn’t a rulebook God uses to control us. It’s a single story God is using to liberate us. This woman was joyful to have discovered that the Bible is so much more than a bunch of rules, random stories, doctrine, or a creed, and simultaneously angered that she had never heard the message this way nor had experienced its influence until now, despite growing up in the church.
There is much discussion today on how to keep young people in the church, and the statistics don’t look good. Yet, at this most recent ARISE Intensive, we learned that maybe the big problem isn’t that the world’s pull is just too strong and secularism too alluring, but rather that we aren’t preaching the gospel, and when you do preach the gospel, young people show up.
In case you don’t know, an ARISE Intensive is a condensed version of Light Bearer’s full length discipleship program, ARISE. Over one weekend, Ty Gibson and David Asscherick, with other instructors occasionally joining, take attendees through an overview of the whole Bible as a single story of God in His love coming to rescue each of us.
We had been planning this intensive in partnership with the Seventh-day Adventist Church conferences and unions in Germany and the Friedensau team since mid-2022. We spent hours in Google Meets, and now the weekend had finally arrived.
On the first night, Ty spoke on the importance of story and how storytelling is in our DNA as humans, so it naturally follows that if a God of love wants to communicate with us, He would do so through a story.
As the weekend continued, David and Ty reframed the whole Bible as a single story divided into seven chapters: Pre-Creation, Creation, the Fall, Covenant, Messiah, Church, and, finally, Re-creation, always keeping the content centered on Jesus and the gospel. And the result was powerful! Here’s how Pastor Christoph described the weekend’s impact:
Some people who signed up for the intensive at one point didn’t want to come anymore because they had given up on church. During the weekend, though, they decided to come back to church. Two people decided before the weekend that they didn’t want to have Bible studies anymore. At some point during the weekend, they decided to have them again. For some people, this weekend totally reshaped their thinking of God, from a judgmental and hard God to a God of other-centered love. Many faith stories were rewritten during this weekend.
The young people crammed into the hall, lining the walls and sitting on the floor…
As Ty and David taught about God’s ancient love that is the foundation of reality, how the Sabbath is full of grace, where evil came from, what happened at the cross, how to navigate the Old Testament, and much more, the connection and momentum of the group began to build and the Holy Spirit worked on hearts. After the sessions, people came up to share how much they were touched by the messages. The Spirit was moving!
And the crazy thing was that this group was not made up of a bunch of 60-year-old saints. These were young people not attending a free event. They paid to listen to these messages.
On Saturday night, as I walked from the auditorium to a hipster-looking warehouse that had been turned into a fellowship hall where the attendees were gathering to hang out, a young man stopped me to thank me for the work Light Bearers has done. His face was solemn as he told me Ty’s messages had given him a new love for God.
On Sunday evening, we had a live Q and A time in the hipster warehouse. Forty plus questions had been submitted over the weekend, ranging from “What do I do when I’m feeling distant from God?” to “How does God’s love address the LGBTQ+ community?” The young people crammed into the hall, lining the walls and sitting on the floor only a few feet from me as I asked Ty their questions. The hunger for truth—for Jesus—was palpable.
After we finished, a teenage girl with long, wavy hair and braces came bouncing up to me, eyes shining, and said, “That was amazing! You answered so many questions I’ve had.” She later told me she’d been feeling a hunger for something more spiritually fulfilling for the last year.
On Monday morning, as we closed, David preached on what it looks like to be a good gospel storyteller, Ty painted a picture of the beautiful eternity future God has in store for us, and together they gave a charge to the attendees to go and tell the gospel story in their own spheres of influence.
Before closing prayer, our worship leader, Markis, led us in a final song of praise that had become a theme throughout the weekend: We’ll see You break down every wall / We’ll watch the giants fall / Fear cannot survive when we praise you.
The church does face many walls. Some of them, though, are not as high or strong as we think. Maybe we need to challenge ourselves to preach the gospel more to young people, show them how it’s relevant to their lives, and we will watch those walls come tumbling down.
If you’d like to help reach young people around the world with the gospel, we’d like to invite you to become a ministry partner.
Allie is a 2012 ARISE graduate and on-staff writer and communications assistant for Light Bearers. She is fascinated by the intersection of faith and the creative process and enjoys poetry. When she’s not watching a good movie with her friends, she enjoys narrating life with mediocre accents.