On the surface, the recent Engage Youth Night may have looked like any other youth event taking place on any given weekend. But to some of us in attendance, this was a big deal that’s been a long time coming.
In the early days of Create Emerge, a small crew of us travelled to Thailand to document some of our first ‘good news stories’ of transformation. One day of filming was particularly long. We had captured so much: a succession of interviews with passionate young Thai believers while outside thunder crashed, lighting flashed and monsoon-like rain fell in buckets. It was all a bit surreal…and stinking hot and humid!
Later, while lying on our bunks, basking in the sweaty afterglow of our no-AC dorm room, we began verbally processing the day. Unexpectedly, the Holy Spirit began speaking to us through ideas, pictures, tears other prompts that seemed to say: “Pay attention, this is important.”
The vision was that of a missions event that would activate young people in Australia to follow Jesus with reckless abandon and launch many of them into a missions calling. I clearly heard the phrase “provoke them to jealousy” which I’d first read in Keith Green’s biography ‘No Compromise’. We brainstormed ideas of what that might look like, and then let it sit—for years—and moved on to what God was calling us to next. But it wasn’t forgotten and it became fuel for much prayer over the years.
South Coast NSW, 2009
Three years down the track, we’d ventured out on a mobilisation tour of Australia’s east coast which ended with us relocating our team from Perth to the NSW South Coast.
We didn’t recognise it at the time, but a divine appointment came when, a local pastor, rocked up to our office, plopped himself down in a chair and blurted: “So, tell me why you’re here. What’s God doing with you guys and why did he send you here?” That began a lengthy recounting of the story of how we felt God had spoken to us through Ezekiel 37—the valley of dry bones. To us, the bones represented a generation of young people who needed to hear a message of hope, love, and destiny. We believed the Spirit would breathe life into these bones and form an army filled with love, compassion, and purpose.
During that conversation, the pastor said something that still sticks with me: “I’ve been doing my own thing as a pastor for a long time, but those days are over. I just wanna find out what God’s doing and align myself with that.” Later, my wife and I looked at each other and agreed: “We could go to a church led by a pastor like that.” And so began our journey with our pastor and his elderly flock. It didn’t seem like the most likely place to impact the youth of Australia. But along the way, we were given opportunities to share some of our good news stories with the congregation, and little did we know that God had been using these stories to impact our church’s only teenager—Naomi. Naomi later went on to do a Discpleship Training School with YWAM, start a local chapter of Mission Adventures, and play a key role in both GO Fest and Engage.
Sydney, June 2015
Last year, after months of prayer and planning, we embarked on a four day adventure called GO Fest Sydney. In many ways, it felt like the culmination of all those prayers and dreams that originated back in Bangkok, but still we thought that maybe there was more to come.
Exactly one year after the opening day of GO Fest Sydney, Naomi and I met with a couple of local youth pastors—Cassie and Scott. They shared some encouraging reports about the impact GO Fest Sydney was having on their youth (several of them of had surrendered their lives fully to Jesus at GO Fest). Cassie and Scott were eager to keep the momentum going. In Cassie’s words: “It was totally clear that God had birthed something at GO Fest that launched us into creating an event in our area that was not only going to gather our youth, but position them to engage with the heart of our heavenly Father.”
And this is exactly what happened at Engage. Youth ministries from all over the region came together to experience sports, free food, worship, testimonies, and a most importantly, a call to radical discipleship. It was indeed a beautiful night of community and encountering Jesus on a deeper level.
There’s already talk of the next Engage…and the one after that. And so we wait with eager anticipation to experience the continuation of this good news story. We stand with local youth pastors who have grabbed the baton and are now running with the vision. Go team!