Lead>Defend Conference 2021; first in-person event since March

church worship service

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Lead>Defend Conference 2021 became the first in-person event that the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) has put on since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

High school and college students gathered from around the state in the annual apologetics and leadership conference put on by the College+Young Leaders Team (CYLT) at the ABSC. While the schedule and layout looked different compared to a year ago, the messages and purpose remained the same: to encourage and equip the next generation to share the Gospel confidently. 

Due to the pandemic and state guidelines, this year’s conference required masks and utilized two of Immanuel Baptist’s facilities – the main auditorium and the City Center – so proper social distancing could take place. With those in place, everyone was able to attend safely. 

The Kasey Earl Band led worship for those in the City Center, while Stephanie and Cory Epps led worship for everyone inside Immanuel Baptist’s main auditorium. Normally, several speakers would attend to speak on various topics, however, only three were chosen this year to rotate between the two venues. 

Alycia Wood 

Alycia Wood led a question-and-answer discussion with the main question being ‘Why do some people say that Christianity is intolerant and outdated?’ She let students discuss with their peers and openly discuss with everyone why people think this. She then concluded with her own reasoning behind this question and how students could approach and effectively share the Gospel through it. 

Wood is from Rochester, New York, and loves engaging with anyone who finds Christianity ugly or unbelievable. She has a degree in criminal justice and sociology from Roberts Wesleyan College and a master’s degree in social justice from Marygrove College. 

Mary Jo Sharp 

Mary Jo Sharp, who spoke at last year’s conference, talked about her journey to faith. As a former atheist, Sharp discussed how she came to know Christ and how her journey led her to where she is today. She talked about how students can explore their own faith to better understand and answer questions that might get posed to them. 

Sharp is from Portland, Oregon, and holds a master’s degree in Christian Apologetics. She is currently an assistant professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University. 

Frank Turek 

Dr. Frank Turek talked through two of four questions that are found in one of the books he co-authors, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist”, and found evidence to cross-examine with the questions, “Does Truth Exist?” and “Does God Exist?” to show students how they can do their own research and cross-examine questions they encounter in order to show evidence for their faith.  

Turek is a former aviator in the US Navy and an award-winning author/co-author of four books. He has a master’s degree from George Washington University and a doctorate from Southern Evangelical Seminary. He presents powerful and entertaining evidence for Christianity at churches, high schools, and at secular college campuses where there is sometimes hostility to his message. He has also debated several prominent atheists.

While this year’s conference might have looked a little different. The hope and purpose were all the same. We pray that students left with new tools and new knowledge so that they can engage their peers effectively and engage in an ever-changing culture for the Kingdom of God.

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