I have been frustrated by church in recent years. Well, I guess I should say that I’ve been frustrated by church for the most of my life. It began with my parent’s Christian rock band in the 1970’s when churches would burn their records outside of the coliseums, while thousands of teenage hippies were joining the movement of following Jesus. These young, brand new Jesus freaks would leave the stadiums alive in Christ, but found a dead church outside of it. Every week the band would sing their hits and introduce young people to the God who literally received and accepted them as they were. But the churches they'd visit the next day would try to get them to cut their hair. My parent’s band struggled with a broken heart as churches were condemning their brand of music. Fortunately, as their band gathered momentum something amazing happened. The great Billy Graham came to their rescue when he started inviting them to play at his crusades, placing his stamp of approval on this ragtag Jesus-loving rock-n-roll band. But the damage had been done, at least in my heart.
Desiring Much More
My parents eventually left the band, became youth pastors and then lead pastors… and the movement seemed to cease. Of course we’d see glimpses of Jesus, but it rarely ran out of the church building and into our communities. And what this season in our lives did was place in me a longing to be a part of something great - a large movement of young people actually doing the faith, living this thing out.
I remember when all of this came to a head in my mind. To be honest this was not really a purely motivated exploration of my faith. At the time I had started getting caught up into some naughty things with girls, and I quite liked it. I'm mean, who doesn't? =)
Truly the Church was not pulling at me and I felt it had little to offer. However, in retrospect, I believe this journey in my thinking was completely from God. God knew I had grown weary of religion.
So one morning I had hiked way out into the woods by myself when this thought flooding my mind. “If this is the faith, I don't really want it. But if Christianity is like the Bible, full of riots and revival, then I’m in. But if it's not, then I’ll take parties and girls.”
I stood at the foot of this small trickling river and prayed for the real deal. Now in telling you this, it may sound like rubbish, but at that very moment a passage of scripture came flooding into my mind - Psalm 85:6-13 - I just knew it was from God.
I had literally no idea what this scripture said, but I just knew it was for me at this very moment. I ran a couple of miles through the forest towards my car and drove back to my college as fast as I could. Running into my dorm room I grabbed my Bible and opened it to the passage and read:
6 Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your unfailing love, Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
8 I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants--
but let them not turn to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
It sounds strange, but this was one of those moments; a real turning point for me. I read this passage and just wept. The scriptures spoke directly to my longing for more. The psalmist is asking God for revival, so that once again the people can rejoice in God.
Later that night I remember telling a friend how God had given me this passage earlier in the woods. But he just didn't quite get it - he thought it was a coincidence. I remember looking at him and saying, “Yeah, it might be a coincidence. It's likely that it in fact is. But if it isn’t, then this changes everything for me.”
Change of Gears
Last April we began a new ministry called Generation514. It has been all consuming for us and at times, extremely difficult, but we haven't felt this alive in years. Ultimately we are trying to raise up next generation leaders to instigate and influence change for the common good, all over the world. I’m so excited about it that I can barely sleep at night! One of the programs we are launching is, The Amazing Next Conference. It's for 8th-12th grade students - it's a regional gathering that is both highly intellectual and absolutely spiritual. A conference that engages the heart AND the mind and calls young people back to the movement of God’s work here on earth. Heck, there's even youth worker training at it. We just want to see whole youth groups go back home feeling like they just can't continue to function the same anymore.
We know that to make impact in this world, one must be intellectually savvy and yet completely empowered by the Holy Spirit. I just really believe that we have to get back to an early church brand of christianity. The cool thing is that this generation is longing for more than what they are seeing and receiving in the church… and so are we.
Our first conference is April 15-16 in Charlotte and then there are regions trying to bring it to them: Boston, Philly, Houston, San Diego, LA, DC, Tampa, and others.
I long to see a movement in my life time. This post-Christian world really needs one -> Not one that leads us back to religion, but back to the heart of Jesus. "Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?"