The voice boomed over the loudspeakers and echoed down the Mall: "We're here to start a Jesus Revolution!"As cheers erupted from the crowd and the band swung into gear, swarms of young people began jumping and dancing in front of the stage, creating a divinely inspired mosh pit.But unlike the now-familiar stadium events for Christian teens, TheCallDC brought together grunge kids as well as their Baby Boomer-era parents for an all-day rally of prayer and fasting. A coalition of evangelical churches and youth ministries organized the event, held on the Mall in Washington on Saturday, Sept. 2.

Seeing lives changed

"We came here expecting God to pour himself out on America and to see lives changed," said Bill Anzevino, pastor of Christian Assembly Church in Industry, Pennsylvania, who attended the rally with his two sons. The event featured presentations by several well-known Christian speakers, an MTV-style Jesus video and performances by Christian music artists Michael W. Smith, Rebecca St. James, and several worship bands.Bart Pierce, senior pastor of the Rock City Church in Baltimore, Maryland, and one of the event's organizers, said TheCallDC came about because "compassionate young people who love God with all their hearts are tired of being pigeonholed and stereotyped the way America labels its youth."Pierce said such stereotypes—which portray young people as sexually promiscuous, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and apathetic—do not give today's youth the best rap. Pierce said, "These are kids who love God and love their parents—and have a passion to see their peers come to Christ."

Who's to blame?

Organizers said TheCallDC was also designed to urge parents to take responsibility for a culture that they helped create—an era marked by sexual freedom, drug use, legalized abortion, and increased moral relativism."We keep blaming the kids but we left them with this legacy because we took the boundaries out," said Cindy Jacobs, president of Generals of Intercession (a prayer-focused ministry) and a member of TheCall's advisory board. Jacobs urged parents to repent and to look at their children's hearts."Many children have never heard an adult say 'It's what's inside that counts,' " Jacobs said. "It's not the piercings. It's not the tattoos. It's Jesus Christ."Elizabeth Leggatt, 18, of Cleveland, Ohio, said she was touched by parents' willingness to repent and to take responsibility for their own generation. "A lot of people think [teens are] just bad," said Leggatt, who sported a nose ring and plans on becoming a full-time missionary. "But many of them have fallen into what was set down before."Organizers for the event said TheCallDC was the result of a vision shared by young people and church leaders to take part in a national event that would be the catalyst for "a massive youth revolution" like the Jesus Movement of the 1970s, only involving two generations.The gathering was based on the summons in Joel 2:15-18 to "declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly—bring together the elders [and] gather the children." Lou Engle, associate pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, which spearheaded the event, said his own involvement with the historic 1997 Promise Keepers rally in Washington sowed the seeds for the Labor Day weekend event.

Article continues below

Charismatic evangelism

The event drew support from across the evangelical community, including such well-known Christian figures as Josh McDowell, Bill McCartney, Pat Robertson, and Bill Bright, who serve on TheCall's board of advisers.The organization has a significant charismatic orientation. At the Saturday event, the speakers included controversial televangelist Benny Hinn, criticized for his theology and claims of miraculous healings. One event organizer said that word of Hinn's involvement had spawned a number of angry phone calls. But despite arriving with a cadre of bodyguards, Hinn kept a relatively low profile, praying that God would anoint those gathered "with fire from heaven.""How many of you sense the anointing on you?" asked Hinn. "Wave at me!" At one point during Hinn's address, a row of people fell over, apparently "slain in the spirit."The event was an emotional one for participants, many of whom cried as they prayed for their nation, families, and friends. A particularly poignant moment came when Darrell Scott, father of slain Columbine High School student Rachel Scott, talked about the influence of the Columbine massacre in drawing people to Christ.Rachel's death, as well as that of Cassie Bernall—whom witnesses said was gunned down after affirming her belief in God—has caused scores of people to turn to Christ. Scott was joined onstage by Columbine High School students who handed him a torch that was in turn passed to the audience.In an interview with Christianity Today, Scott described his daughter as "very bubbly" and a young woman who "couldn't contain anything she believed.""She was very creative with how she witnessed," said Scott. "She targeted the weary and built a bridge of friendship." Scott said he now tells Rachel's story to crowds of more than 3,000 people, five times a week, and has developed a Web site to discuss some of the redeeming themes emerging from the Columbine tragedy."Rachel used to pray, 'God, I want you to use me to reach the unreached,'" said Scott. "God has answered that prayer, not in the way we wanted, but her life has been multiplied hundreds of thousands of times."Event organizers said they hope to equip students, emboldened by the stories of students like Bernall and Scott, to be effective witnesses on their own school campuses.During the event participants received interactive CD-ROMs that refer users to the Web site. Rich Manley, president of Campus Wave Ministries, said the site was designed as a networking resource for Christian students, and would contain reports on follow-up rallies planned in 40 cities. News from the events will also be broadcast on a future nationally syndicated radio show."It will report from the front lines what God is doing in the schools," Manley said. "It's another way to spread fire and plant seeds."

Article continues below
Related Elsewhere

Learn more about The Call, contact the organizers, or read some quick testimonies participants shared online.Read The Washington Post coverage of the event, " Fervent Calls for a New Society" and " Youths Heed the Call to Gather."Read Darrell Scott's speech to the House of Representatives, or learn more about Columbine Redemption, Scott's Web site for discussing redeeming themes of the Columbine tragedy.Other Christianity Today stories about youth include:Revival at Public School Stirs 100 Students to Conversion | Fellowship of Christian Athletes presentation continues for hours. (May 9, 2000) Retailers Marketing Martyrdom to Teens | Littleton massacre now merchandise opportunity. (Dec. 12, 1999) 'Do You Believe in God?' | Columbine and the stirring of America's soul. (Oct. 4, 1999) Tough Love Saved Cassie | How the Bernalls helped Cassie break with old friends and build a new life. (Oct. 4, 1999) 73,000 Teens Pledge Responsibility | Youth gather in Michigan to declare they will 'live with honor.'(June 14, 1999) Youth Like Pope; Question Teachings | 20,000 teens turn out to greet the pontiff in Saint Louis. (March 1, 1999) The Class of '00 | These "millennial" teenagers are forcing the church to rethink youth ministry. (Feb. 3, 1997)

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.