“It’s a change. It’s different.” These were the words of the hilarious Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercial parody that advertised the long-awaited ICMC East 2017. And like the words above, the conference was definitely a departure from years before. It was not held on July 4th weekend. It was not the usual Thursday through Sunday schedule. It was not even held in a renowned, bustling city. It was different indeed and many are saying that it was one of the best ICMCs ever.
The conference was held at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. While there were not skyscrapers, those who attended were surrounded by the ancient Blue Ridge peaks. Ridgecrest is known for its mountain paths and various recreational activities provided by its unique terrain from hiking to fishing and even frisbee golf—it was a wonderful place for the students to have a great time. The vibe felt more like a retreat than a conference. And while there were no 4th of July fireworks, the atmosphere of the ICMC was electric with the energy of over 1400 students preparing themselves for the spiritual wars and battles of the coming semester. The theme was “Alpha/Omega” and the focus was on how great our God is. The main sessions were explosive with the combination of moving worship and three powerful, God-centered sermons: Lord of Lords, The Fear of the Lord, and Kingdom Come. The vigor and inspiration in that conference hall was almost tangible, the shouts of the students were a testimony to their rising excitement and eagerness to please God and change the world.
Saturday was a day of classes where ministers all over the East Coast were able to teach and train and prepare the students for works of service in God’s kingdom. There were ministry mixers and One Year Challenge opportunities and HOPE Youth Corps classes. The split sessions were challenging and impactful—the men’s class had a special treat with several ministers performing a Haka with all the oomph and enthusiasm and tongue wagging that only hype, young, wild men could accomplish. And though the final sermon was Sunday morning, the conference didn’t there. The students stayed and enjoyed the cool weather of the mountains and the recreation, and Sunday night they danced until they couldn’t dance anymore. Ridgecrest provided food all weekend and even through Monday morning, so that’s when the students left. After the departure of the students, the young ministers got together for their annual young minister’s time. Of all the excitement and energy in the hundreds of students being together, this young minister’s time was something that the future of the ICOC must be built upon. It was a time of teaching, but so much more than that. It was a time of building relationships, building faith, a time of yielding in humility so that the ministers rising from this next generation can operate from a foundation of love and trust. There was no sense of competition or a desire to be in control—just young ministers learning from each other, getting open, being vulnerable and figuring out how to change this world together. Though it was certainly different, ICMC East 2017 was a powerful example of how different doesn’t mean worse. It was a memorable, challenging, and inspiring time for everyone who attended, from the student to the minister. Now that it’s over, its impact will be felt through the hundreds of disciples who had the fire of conviction lit in their hearts as they head into the battlefield of their campuses. There is where the fight is real. There is where the convictions and the hype of the conference turn into actions and stories of faithful men and women who practiced the words that touched their souls. There is where the world is changed. This semester, and all the semesters to come the world will see the Alpha and the Omega through the campus ministries of the ICOC. To God be the glory.