It is officially camp season for me. This means that between now and the middle of August I will be difficult to reach and blogging will be at best sporadic.
I LOVE CAMP! I understand why most of my youth ministry friends have a sort of sick love/hate relationship with camp, but I love it. I'm working hard to change the things folk hate and working harder to amplify the things folk love. Next week I hang out with youth from five churches for "The Call" (that's our really cool theme that I came up with). It should be fantastic. Yesterday one of my parents asked if our event was connected with the "It's not a festival. It's a fast" event in Tennessee (still waiting for someone from here to check out TTSM). I had to say not really, but in my heart... I totally hope so!
My buddy Cameron over at Relevant Media covered the event and sent it out in this month's 850 words. In case you're not a subscriber, I've copied the entire article... ENJOY!
When we heard about The Call about six months ago, it sounded different. Instead of being hyped as a festival, it was billed as a day of fasting, worship and prayer. In a football stadium. In the July heat of Nashville, Tenn. And since one of the key things we’re to do with RELEVANT is chronicle what God is doing in our generation, I knew we needed to be there to see it for ourselves.
So, this past Friday, Adam Smith, Jesse Carey and I loaded up an SUV in Orlando and made the trek, having absolutely no idea what to expect when we arrived to downtown Nashville Saturday morning. It was a free 12-hour event, running from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. at LP Field (where the Titans play), but the advertising leading up to the event was a little less-than-descriptive: "It's not a festival. It's a fast." was the tagline. There were no bands listed, no speakers and none of the typical marketing information, so the event's drawing power was a complete unknown to us. Could it fill a stadium? And who would turn out?
Over the last few years we’ve seen massive declines at these Christian stadium events, especially with our generation. Most have faded away, and many of the ones still around have had big attendance drops. One notable annual event has gone from 80,000 attendance a few years ago to less than 20,000 this year. I just think that no matter how good an event is, once you attend it’s hard not to adopt a “been there, done that” mentality when the next one rolls around.
Most people are longing for something lasting and applicable to our everyday spiritual walk, rather than the mountaintop adrenaline rush of a stadium rally. There was a massive Call event in Washington, D.C., in 2000 that drew a reported and legitimate 400,000 people (I saw it with my own eyes) that were primarily ages 16 to 26. They subsequently held a few more stadium events from 2001 to 2003 that, though focused the same as the D.C. event, saw significant declines in attendance. And then they stopped. After four years, I was intrigued to see how this Call event would be. Would it be a retread of 2000, or something new?
When we arrived, we were immediately struck by the size of the crowd. In a 68,000-seat stadium, at 10:30 a.m. the stands were already 75 percent full, and the field was completely packed. The crowd was standing, fully engaged in passionate, vertical worship. None of this feel-good, me-centered stuff. It was worship.
The day was divided into three blocks—repentance, reconciliation and then revival. There was hardly any preaching, except for a few 10-minute teachings about key topics that were then prayed through. The prayer times were passionately led by pastors and nobodies. They were focused, personal and passionate. A new worship session would start every half-hour, led by different teams with very different styles. The day mostly followed this pattern for the 12 hours, though because of the different topics and themes being addressed, it never got old or felt redundant.
There was a fresh spirit at The Call. This 12-hour fasting, worship and prayer event in the stifling Tennessee humidity was not built for entertainment. It was for people who were serious about encountering God. It was for people who want to change the world. And, like one might expect, the makeup of the crowd was noticeably different from other events—the majority were college students and twentysomethings.
I was genuinely moved and impressed by what I experienced. I went in not knowing what to expect and left excited once again about what God is doing through our generation. The people there were hungry for God, passionate about impacting the world and sincere in their worship and prayer.
The good news is that it's not over. There are several more Call events scheduled around the country over the next year, and next August they will culminate in a massive rally in Washington, D.C. (They're hoping for a million people to come out. These people don't dream big; they dream huge.) Moreover, rather than just being experiential one-day events, The Call has set up training and action arms so people who are passionate about this lifestyle can act on it by pursuing callings in worship, the arts, social justice and prayer. It's honestly an amazing thing that's unfolding, and it's being fueled by people our age.
I think that’s why The Call was so strikingly different. There was no corporation pulling the strings; there was no profit motive (one lady donated all of the money needed to pay for this event); and there was absolutely no hype. Just tens of thousands of people, like us, who are passionate about God and changing the world. That's a pretty powerful combination. And something I want to be part of.
Author: Cameron Strang Cameron Strang is the president and founder of RELEVANT Media Group. Make sure to check out his new blog every Friday at RELEVANTmagazine.com.
I better get back to working on camp.