Hundreds of college students from more than 40 churches in Southern California gathered in Artesia from April 28 to 29 for the fifth annual SOLA Conference. More than a dozen pastors from several different churches work together to organize the conference for college students each year.
This year’s SOLA Conference revolved around the theme, “Here We Stand: Always Reforming,” and focused on three of the five Latin ‘sola’ slogans that emerged during the Protestant Reformation as crucial elements of the Christian faith: sola gratia (grace alone), sola scriptura (scripture alone), and soli deo gloria (glory to God alone). This year also marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
“It is our prayer to see collegians united around the essential reformation doctrines which affirm the authority of scripture alone, salvation by grace alone – through faith alone – in Christ alone, and to live for the glory of God alone,” said the SOLA Conference organizers.
“Not only do we want to see a generation united around the gospel, we also want to see collegians continue the spirit of the Reformation, which declares that the church is always reforming,” they continued. “As the culture continues to change, the church must be faithful to respond in biblical, contextual, and relevant ways.”
While the meanings and history behind the ‘solas’ were emphasized during the general sessions, the ways in which they can be applied in modern daily life were explored during a panel session and breakout sessions.
Resonate Church pastor Ryan Kwon, Living Hope Community Church’s college and teaching pastor Steve Bang Lee, and author and speaker Joshua Harris were featured as the main speakers during the conference, each exploring different ‘solas.’
Ryan Kwon spoke during the first night on the topic of “grace alone.” Speaking from Isaiah 54:1-10, Kwon noted that people: 1) are spiritually barren, and 2) pursue after “lovers” other than Jesus. However, he said, God’s grace alone allow them to transform from spiritual barrenness to having spiritual life as born-again Christians, and God, by his grace, continually and graciously pursues after them despite their pursuit after idols.
God never deserts his people, and his grace “empowers us to live a victorious life,” said Kwon.
“God is not ashamed of you,” Kwon added. “In fact, he sings over you and he is so proud.”
Steve Bang Lee emphasized the importance of submitting to the Bible as the ultimate and final authority during the morning session of the second day, as he spoke on the topic of “scripture alone.”
“For all of us this morning there is a question,” said Lee. “Is God’s Word final in your life? Do you live in a way where scripture stands over as supreme, as the chief voice of your life?”
Even Jesus, who is God and the Word in flesh, submitted to and obeyed the scriptures, Lee said.
Yet, in order to live in such a way that reflects the authority of the Bible over one’s life, he added, one must actually open up and read the Bible.
“If you deleted all of the Christian content in your brains other than the Bible itself, what would be left?” Lee posed to the collegians.
“The reformers were not trying to change the world – they were just trying to go back to the Bible.”
On the final night, Joshua Harris spoke on the topic of "glory to God alone." He emphasized that “God has done all the work of our salvation,” and that that is the reason God alone deserves the glory.
Many times Christians may fall into thinking that glorifying God means having to achieve something great, he added. Instead, “share stories of your weakness,” Harris said. “Show your scars.”
“We cannot save ourselves,” he went on. Glorifying God “is saying, ‘We do not have what it takes, but let me tell you about Jesus.’”
Meanwhile, the conference also included smaller sessions which explored more specifically how those ‘solas’ could be applied in today’s context.
Breakout sessions focused on topics such as understanding identity in Christ, transgenderism, and embracing the church, among others. A panel session explored questions Christian collegians may have regarding certain ‘gray area’ issues such as alcohol, consumption of media, marijuana, and relationships.