Shifting to a God-First Life

gwThis July 12-17, our once-every-three-year denominational youth conference, known as CHIC, will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee. CHIC stands for Covenant High (as in high school) in Christ. With more than 5,500 youth and leaders in attendance this will be one of the largest ever. You can view pictures and video highlights at

Better yet, engage the topics for yourself.

The theme of the conference is Shift, calling students to dive deeply into relationship with Jesus. Why Shift? It is the call to shift from a self-first life to a Jesus-first life.

Culture bombards all of us, and especially our kids, with self-first messaging. Covenanter Dale Kuehne, professor of political science at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, calls this the I-world, as in me, myself, and I. It is the emergence of hyper-individualism.

Ponder this. Thanks to technology, today’s youngest U.S. and Canadian generations have always known an environment where it is possible to be a demi-god. Today anyone can be the quasi-creator of one’s own private world to one’s own specifications. We can be quasi-omniscient through Google, and quasi-omnipresent through Facebook and other social media. We can seemingly be anywhere, connect with anybody, and access anything. It is hard to live a God-first life when we can be godlike ourselves.

But the I-world warps us because our basic human wiring is not designed for it. We’re designed for the r-world, the world of relationships. If God’s commands point us to where life finds meaning, the two greatest commands point us to relationship with God and relationship with others: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.

When we, even unwittingly, substitute the I-world for the r-world, collective values get skewed and individual experience ends up in disillusionment.

There is nothing more countercultural right now than Jesus saying, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NIV).

Jesus meets us right where we are, without pre-conditions. It is called grace. And then Jesus invites us on a journey to somewhere new. Jesus is not promising it will be easy—denying ourselves and picking up our cross never is—just that it will be worth it. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (v. 25).

Shift is about letting go of self and taking hold of Jesus and his ways—because it is worth it.

So, how about you? As you pray for the students, reflect on your own life.

  • Shifting to a God-first life. Is living with God and for God your defining rhythm?
  • Shifting your view of how God can use you. Do you realize God has given you abilities to make a difference in the world?
  • Shifting your perspective in order to see pain. Do you have the heart of God in seeing a spiritually hungry and hurting world?
  • Shifting your view of God’s big world. Is your world too isolated and small? Do you have a global perspective of where God is at work and how you can participate?

Next fall, congregations can also participate in a six-week, all-church series using the themes of Shift. Resources are available at

CHIC is a grand event that involves the efforts of all of us. Car washes, bake sales, donations, silent auctions—think of the tens of thousands of people who are making it possible for thousands of students to attend. Thank you! Keep contributing by praying for the spiritual fruit of CHIC. My prayer is that the fruit would extend even to your own shift to God-first living.

Follow Gary on twitter @ECCprez.


About the Author: Gary Walter has been president of the Covenant since 2008. He and his wife, Nancy, have three daughters and three granddaughters. When Gary was five, his mom told him he was old enough to make his own lunch. He made a sandwich from the only two jars he could reach: peanut butter and mustard. It remains his sandwich of choice to this day.


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