On September 1, 2023, just seven miles from our home, Coach Joe Kennedy of the Bremerton Knights knelt silently on the fifty yard line and prayed for ten seconds after a football game.
He had been prevented from doing so for eight long years as he fought for the right to pray in public in our once faith-based nation.
I admire Coach Kennedy, though I’ve never met him. We need more people like him.
We need more average Joe’s who are committed to Jesus.
The battle in our world since the Fall has been a clash between the forces of fear and faith.
The current U.S. cultural civil war, swirling around the alleged corruption of the Biden family and the weaponization-of-government against former President Trump, can be depressing. Much media coverage caters to anger and fear.
After Labor Day, I will devote various articles to the cultural civil war that is blazing hot in America. But too much of that emphasis unwittingly gives in to demonic tactics.
We need more doses of hope, and none is greater than the current youth awakening.
I have spent my life working with young people on a global scale through Youth With A Mission and now Faith International University. I was a product of the original Jesus Revolution of the 1960s and 70s.
God is doing it again.
World Youth Day
Here’s the history from former Ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich:
World Youth Day began in 1984 with Saint Pope John Paul II. That year, the Holy Father organized a gathering in Rome on Palm Sunday to mark the Youth Jubilee of the Holy Year of Redemption. While just 60,000 were anticipated to attend, more than 250,000 pilgrims from all over the world came to participate.
Moved by the experience, John Paul II hosted another celebration in 1985, which welcomed 300,000 young pilgrims to Rome for prayer, catechesis, and a large gathering in Saint Peter’s Square.
Later that year, on December 20, 1985, Pope John Paul II announced the institution of World Youth Day.
In describing the purpose of creating World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II said in an address to the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia, “All young people must feel accompanied by the Church: that is why the whole Church, in union with the Successor of Peter, feels more committed, at a worldwide level, to the youth of today, their concerns and requests, their openness and hopes, to respond to their aspirations, passing on the certainty that is Christ, the Truth that is Christ, the love that is Christ.”
Since its institution nearly four decades ago, countries including Italy, Argentina, Spain, Poland, United States, the Philippines, France, Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil, and Panama have hosted World Youth Day. The impact of these gatherings throughout the years is abundantly evident.
Speaking to the National Catholic Register, past participants of World Youth Days recounted their own life-changing experiences.
Catholic Voices’ CEO Brenden Thompson recalled his first World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia in 2008, which he reluctantly attended at the behest of his mother. “I expected little,” he said, “and got something unexpected and life-changing: the gift of faith.”
Father Bjorn Lundberg, a priest serving in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, recalled becoming “aware that we were being called by God” while on a bus from Seattle to Denver for the 1993 World Youth Day. “John Paul II wanted us to witness to the truth about life and faith. It made a deep impression on me, as I was about to start college.”
Pope John Paul II is one of my heroes.
On August 10, 1995, after our King’s Kids team shared the Good News of Jesus in Albania and Macedonia, the kids performed by invitation for Pope John Paul at the Vatican before 15,000 people. The pope then greeted the crowd in seven languages. No pictures were allowed.
The next day as we were ministering at the gate at the Rome airport, an “angel” came and handed me two large photos of our performance. I share the amazing story of Kings Kids and their part in the youth awakening today in my new book One Small Life which will be out in a few weeks.
Now back to World Youth Day.
On August 3, 2023, young people from more than 190 countries gathered to grow their faith. Pope Francis shared an inspiring message of hope and love.
Speaking to a crowd of 500,000 youth just three weeks ago, Pope Francis said, “In God’s eyes, we are precious children, and he calls us each day in order to embrace and encourage us, to make of us a unique and original masterpiece whose beauty we can only begin to glimpse.”
In a world that reduces each of us to social media and algorithms, the pope declared, “God’s heart beats uniquely for you.”
Many other events that week sponsored by the Catholic Church inspired the kids in their faith. They included a prayer walk led by the pope (Way of the Cross on the Hill of Encounter at Eduardo VII Park), a healing service at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, and an evening vigil and mass communion (Eucharist).
Complimenting the Catholic youth gathering, The Change Lisbon also took place in Portugal’s capital city on Friday evening, August 4 at the soccer stadium “Estada du Luz” which means “Stadium of Light.” The sports venue was sold out with young people from all denominations committed to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).
The 65,000 plus young people came to worship Jesus, commit to preaching the Gospel to a new generation, prayed for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, focused on millions of kids at risk (Malachi 4:6), and launched a decade of evangelism by “missionary disciples.”
Speakers included Jonathan Roumie, the actor who portrays Jesus in The Chosen, and Lonnie Frisbee in the movie Jesus Revolution, Nicky Gumble (developer of the Alpha course and the You Version Bible App), Bill Johnson (Bethel Church), Mike Bickle (IHOP-KC), Lou Engel (the Call), and Heidi Baker (Iris Ministries).
Pray for the “fruits of Portugal” to blanket the world with God’s love and truth.
Recently, we’ve watched the tragic fires on Maui, Hawaii nearly level Lahaina and kill over 114 people (toll could rise to over 1000). One of my students, Josh Duinker, who leads a sports ministry there, is helping with relief efforts and told me that young people have started a 24-prayer watch on the island while hundreds are meeting the needs of those who lost everything.
Before the tragic fires, God was moving on the island. Greg Laurie, whose story is featured in the Jesus Revolution movie, has a satellite church on Maui (Kumulani Chapel) that has baptized 2000 young people over the past seven years.
I’ve previously written on the “Jesus Revolution 2.0” that has been sweeping through this generation. Baptism signifies death to self and public commitment to Jesus. Young people are flocking to God’s call in this generation.
Even close to home.
Last night a local Young life leader told me God moved in unusual power in this summer’s Christian camps. And two weeks ago, hundreds of people flocked to our local church campus that houses four congregations for a joint outdoor service. Sixteen young people were baptized amidst joyous worship.
Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
So how about the ends of the earth?
The SEND is a youth awakening movement committed to making missional disciples at home and abroad. They recently kicked off August 5 in Reading, Pennsylvania on a four state mobilization tour. Catch the passion below.
Next stops are Grand Rapids, Michigan, September 2, Boston, Massachusetts, September 16, and Nashville, Tennessee on February 3, 2024.
Don’t let the darkness scare you. Look with faith at what God is doing.
A fresh youth awakening is underway.
May it envelope the entire earth as the “waters cover the sea.”
I’ve never been big on conspiracy theories though the blocking of the JFK assassination papers from the public makes me wonder what’s being hidden. Fortunately, in the the next life, everything will be revealed (Luke 12:3). I’m sure we’ll be shocked about “what really took place” in history.
I do believe in one conspiracy the Bible describes and is caricatured in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness:
The devil and his demons conspiring to destroy human beings.
During the past one hundred years, if I were the devil, what would I do?