Resurrection 2018: Billups preaches 'work in progress' to 10,000

Resurrection 2018: Billups preaches 'work in progress' to 10,000

Rev. Rachel Billups: "The Bible speaks right into our real life." (Photo by Don Thomas)


PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Jan. 24, 2018) – Standing before 10,000 youth and leaders from 11 states, the Rev. Rachel Billups shared the Genesis story of Esau and Jacob along with her own teenage struggle to resist the stew of temptation.

“What’s in your stew?” Billups asked worshippers gathered in LeConte Center on Saturday night, Jan. 20. She mentioned cell-phone pornography, social-media racial slurs, substance abuse, or premarital sex as examples of “food that can trip you up.”

“The tired are tempted,” she said, explaining that “mountaintop experiences” like the Resurrection event that brought youth groups to Pigeon Forge can quickly fade, and it’s tempting to sacrifice your identity for the diversion Satan has “cooked up.”

“What matters is that Jesus Christ is right in front of you, telling you that you don’t have to continue eating the stew,” Billups said. “You have an identity in Christ. You are the beloved son or daughter of the living God, and all you have to do is put your stinking spoon down and receive the grace and love of your Lord Jesus Christ.”

On Jan. 19-21, Resurrection celebrated its 33rd year of powerful message and music, designed for middle-school and high-school students, with a United Methodist speaker and new praise band.

Billups, executive pastor of discipleship at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio, preached on the “Work in Progress” theme in eight sessions over the Jan. 19-21 weekend – four times each for two groups.

She was the first United Methodist speaker at Resurrection since 2014 (Andy Nixon) and the first female speaker since 2013 (Lisa Yebuah).

Worship music was led by I Am They, a five-piece, pop-acoustic band formed in Carson City, Nevada, debuting nationally in January 2015. The band’s name was inspired by John 17 and Jesus’ prayer references to “they.”



Worshippers praised Billups and the band for effectively and emotionally sharing the Gospel. Participants flooded social media with photos and gratitude throughout the weekend and after.

“Add me to the list of chaperones with a phone full of Rachel-isms,” said Tina Bailey, who attended with a group from Mars Hill United Methodist Church in Englewood, Tennessee. “Don’t eat the stew” and “God smiled when he made you” were “Rachel-ism” take-home messages for her group, Bailey said.

“[Billups] was very relatable to my students in Bland County, being from the country herself,” said the Rev. Kevin Richardson, pastor of Bland Circuit in Bland, Virginia. “Her devotional notes were also very user-friendly for this sleep-deprived pastor who thought he could hang in the trampoline park at 46.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Resurrection crowd sing like they are singing this year,” said the Rev. Brandon Berg, pastor at First United Methodist Church in Bristol, Tennessee. “I Am They encouraged the crowd to sing. They taught the melody, they sang with passion and authenticity, and reminded the crowd that this was worship and not just a concert.”

“#rez18 has truly changed my life and I’m so excited to go out into the world and spread the good word of our Lord,” Mason Williams, a student from Marion, Virginia, tweeted after Resurrection’s final session.

See videos of all sessions.



Attendance for Resurrection climbed from 9,300 registrations to about 10,000 when including “staff, volunteers, guests, production and live stream,” said Laura McLean, associate director of connectional ministries.

In addition to United Methodists from Holston Conference’s 874 congregations in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and north Georgia, participants attended from other faiths and states, including Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin, McLean said.

The Resurrection Design Team logged in 238 youth who responded to a call for full-time ministry. “Rachel did a great job of talking about the call to ministry,” McLean said. “If someone missed the chance to fill out a card, they can text C2M to 276-212-1889.”

The annual Youth Service Fund (YSF) offering totaled $17,853. Grants will be distributed from the funds in November, McLean said.

Resurrection participants heard updates from recipients of the 2017 YSF grants, including Mollianne Hubbs, coordinator of Holston's Sevier County Wildfire Response, and Whitney Winston, director of Camp in the Community.

Following tradition, a representative group from each of Holston’s former 12 districts shared their talents. Representing the Maryville District, youth from Seymour United Methodist Church spoke, played handbells and sang “Amazing Grace” in tribute to Bradley Gattis, a member who died in a car crash in July 2017.

“Everyone always knew where he was, because wherever he went a spirit of joy followed him,” one Seymour youth member said of Gattis.

“Seymour UMC just brought it. Not a dry eye in the house,” tweeted Brandon Deal of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. “What a great tribute to their friend #BradDog at #Rez18.”



Other churches representing their districts included:

  • Abingdon: Hunt Memorial UMC choir singing in honor of Addilynn UMC youth member with bone cancer
  • Big Stone Gap: Coeburn UMC, black-light ministry
  • Chattanooga: Chapel Hill UMC, black-light ministry
  • Cleveland: Broad Street UMC, soloist
  • Johnson City: Greenwood UMC, monologue/ dramatic poetry
  • Kingsport: Holly Springs UMC, singing solo
  • Knoxville: Christ UMC, singing solo
  • Morristown: Mt. Zion (Afton) / Panther Springs UMC, singing and liturgical dance
  • Oak Ridge: Concord UMC, singing and guitar
  • Wytheville: Rural Retreat UMC, singer and guitarist


Tazewell District was not represented with a talent offering. Representing participants from outside of Holston Conference was Brevard Wesleyan Church, Brevard, North Carolina, with liturgical dance.

Bishop Dindy Taylor, Holston Conference resident bishop, celebrated Holy Communion during closing worship on Jan. 21. New communion chalices were used this year, the handiwork of Jordan Graham of Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church in Knoxville. “She grew up going to Resurrection and Assembly,” McLean said.

A total 3,700 unique IP addresses signed into the live stream, McLean said. Videos of all sessions are now posted. 

Resurrection 2019 is set for Jan. 25-27.


Contact Annette Spence at


See also:

Resurrection celebrates 30th anniversary (The Call, 1/5/15)



Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.