This May in Orlando, Florida, the thirteenth and final Next Conference will held. What an incredible ride it's been! God has poured out so much grace on this event over the years.
It all began when CJ Mahaney and I attended a Passion conference led by Louie Giglio in 1998. CJ looked at me and said, "We need to be doing this for the next generation of students in Sovereign Grace." So we decided to go for it. I was assigned the task of organizing a team of volunteers to launch a national conference for college students and singles. I'll never forget the first volunteer meeting on the the floor of our townhouse living room (we didn't yet own furniture). Larry and Nora Earles were the first people to sign on to serve! And they've been at every one since.
The name and location of the conference has changed over the years. We started in 1999 with the name New Attitude (a carry over from a magazine I had published and a series of regional conferences I'd conducted). Then in 2005 when my friend Eric Simmons began leading, we shortened the name to Na because, let's face it, the only thing named New Attitude is a Patti Labelle song and a few hair and nail salons. Finally, in 2008 when Eric went to plant a church and my friend Grant Layman took leadership, we changed the name to Next (to emphasize the focus of transferring the gospel to the next generation).
The conference was first held in Baltimore (1999-2000), then moved to Philadelphia (2001), then Louisville (2003-2008), back to Baltimore (2009-2010) and finally Orlando (2011-2012).
Several years ago, I told CJ that I felt the time had come for me to stop leading the conference. I hoped someone else in Sovereign Grace would take my place and keep the conference going, but I felt that the Lord wanted me and fellow pastor, Grant Layman, to be focused on priorities in our local church. So last year (Next 2011) was our final year of leading.
But I'm glad that Sovereign Grace is going to have one final Next Conference in Orlando this May. The theme, which has been a mainstay at the conference over the years, is the importance of the local church. They've lined up Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, and Jeff Purswell as speakers with more to be announced. It looks like it's going to be a great time.
As this important chapter in my life closes, I want to take a minute to thank the people who made it possible. Thanks to...CJ and the leadership team of Sovereign Grace for giving me the chance to lead this conference over the years...Eric Simmons and Grant Layman whose leadership made it possible for the conference to continue and improve....Paul Medler and all the conference staff at Sovereign Grace who served so faithfully...all the hundreds of volunteers over the years who believed in the vision of this conference and gave generously of their time to serve students. And finally, thanks to everyone who came. Thanks for loving to worship Jesus and to study and learn from his word. I pray that what God deposited in you through this conference will continue to bear fruit in the years to come.
You can listen to all the messages from Next 2004 to 2011 here.
For information on Next 2012 visit www.thisisnext.org.