Growing up in a Gospel Movement: The early years (part 2)
It was a conversation on the way to an out-of-state mission trip that gave me a ‘why’ and a passion for God’s people to be unified (read last week’s post here).
As I think back on my early days “Growing up in a Gospel Movement,” the time a bunch of youth kids experienced what we talked about in that old church van – that sealed the deal. When the youth groups danced like David in the Baptist Church, the “John 17 promise” moved from theory to present-day reality before my eyes.
TOGETHER, AT HOME, ON MISSION
It was March, and our youth group was packing up for a mission trip… to Eugene. Synergy: Spring Break Outreach 2012 was a mission trip to our community.
We’d join three other local youth groups, and stay at a camp and conference center on the edge of town.
As one big group, we gathered for worship and teaching from different youth pastors. They each had something fresh to share – a different perspective, a grace to impart, a new story to tell.
The first day we canvased the four corners of the community in prayer. Then we regathered to color a map with all the things we prayed. Words of hope and pictures of promise filled the map – where our feet stood and where we’d stand again.
The next day we volunteered with several service agencies – people of goodwill, serving the least of these.
The final day of the outreach, we hit the streets. With drinks and donuts in-hand, we prayed and shared with people at the downtown bus station, park blocks and skate park.
In those few days, more than 80 youth began to see “home” with new eyes.
We couldn’t live the same after going on a mission trip to our town. To this day, vivid memories come to mind when I pass those places.
We began to see one another in a new light too.
Growing up in a Gospel Movement, we saw we couldn’t do it alone. We saw firsthand how different gifts and expressions of Jesus are required to reach a whole, diverse community. We saw our diversity make our combined witness of Christ more complete.
IT WASN’T A ONE TIME THING
Several times a year, those youth groups and others would reconnect. It wasn’t about which church had the trendiest youth pastor or worship band. Though occasionally the cute kid in the other youth group may have been an afterthought.
We called them Campus Awakenings because we came together to worship and pray for our campuses and our generation.
Kids who went to the same school would run into each other. They’d be surprised learn other Christians from different churches went to their school. Faith would rise in their hearts as they’d ask God to use them together on their campus. They’d return to school with a new found comradery and confidence. Campus groups, outreaches and a bunch of testimonies came out of those nights.
It didn’t take long for those gatherings to become our favorite nights – like a big ol’ reunion.
In a Gospel Movement, friendship and common mission overshadow worship preference, attendance numbers, and all those secondary matters.
THE NIGHT WE DANCED LIKE DAVID
On the last night of the mission trip, our hearts were full. We’d seen God touch people on the streets, while we stood side-by-side new friends from other churches. We’d seen God use five people from four different youth groups just to love one person. He’d convinced us of the goodness and power in our unity, and our shared call to our community.
We worshiped in response. Youth began to pray impassioned prayers for our community – for revival and whatnot.
When we went back to worship, it didn’t matter if you were from the Baptist, Assembly of God, MFI or Non-Dom youth group, we all danced like David: Wild praise with stomping feet, flying hair, twirls and shouts . . . with all our might.
“And David danced before the LORD with all his might… David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn.” 2 Samuel 6
No leader stood up to say, “Now we’re going to get undignified. Now it’s time to dance like nobody’s watching.” It just happened.
We experienced what’s promised in the Psalms, and it provoked a might response. God commands His blessing in the unity of sons and daughters (Psalm 133). Our Father has to love it when all the kids are in one place – loving Him, liking each other, and getting along.
It might sound cliché, but that night – in the middle of pretty much a mosh pit – I took off my shoes. I was standing on holy ground:
God would move in our town. He would overflow through a unified people. Our community would never be the same. There was no place I would rather be, and no other people I’d rather do it with.
Growing up in a Gospel Movement, we saw it with our own eyes. As we gathered in unity, God gave vision for a grander plan – one too vast for one youth group. It was as if he waited until we were together to unveil a mission only a united people could undertake.
And why would we want to do it alone? It was much too fun to partner with friends anyway.
Some say, “There’s a generation up for grabs.” They say, “Millennials are increasingly spiritual, but leaving the church.”
But what if …
What if the genuine love and unity of God’s people will provide an authenticity my generation craves? Perhaps our unity is the counterculture force that will renew a commitment to the Body of Christ. And maybe, the idea of a grander call – to see God’s glory displayed in a region – will grip their hearts. It sold us.
And the move of God I’m writing about, it all started with a handful of youth pastors. They went first, modeling unity naturally and intentionally. They got together to pray and dream about what God wanted to do with the young people in our community – not just their youth group.
They were committed to passing on a way of living to the next generation: Living on mission where we call “home,” and seeing other believers as partners in that mission, not competitors.
And they were friends. They laughed a lot too.
Growing up in a Gospel Movement, I learned the way we live in unity impacts both the community around us and the next generation.
P.S. THANK YOU TO MY LEADERS
You loved each other. You were about the Kingdom. You celebrated the testimonies of other churches. You lived it. You brought us along. You created an environment where we grew up expecting unity to be a normal part of following Jesus, and partnering with other believers a default. It ruined me, and a whole list of my friends too – in the best way.
You’re the reason we grew up in a Gospel Movement.