By Jessica Brodie
COLUMBIA—Two thousand screaming teenagers packed the Township Auditorium, nearly every one screaming “Jesus” at the top of their lungs.
All around them, their peers were crying, laughing and singing, sometimes all three at once. A kaleidoscope of lights filled the hall and shot beams of color across the stage—red, green, blue and pink—while the pound of drums and thrum of bass blasted a wave of high-energy sound, urging the momentum higher and higher.
They were gathered for Revolution, a three-day youth spiritual weekend offered by the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church to draw young people into a relationship with Christ. And all of it, from the message to the missions to the lyrics to the words onscreen, had Jesus at the core.
“It was powerful,” said Chris Lynch, youth ministries congregational specialist and part of the event’s design team.
Held Jan. 27-29, Revolution drew about 2,000 youth and youth leaders from all over the state to Columbia to hear wisdom from youth minister Brock Morgan, worship through music from popular Christian vocalist Tauren Wells, engage in mission projects and connect with other Christian teens.
This year’s event had the theme “Re-Purpose,” focusing on Jeremiah 18 and his visit to the potter’s house. Jeremiah watched a potter work and rework clay, shaping and molding until it was just right. God said to Jeremiah, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” As the Revolution weekend taught, we are the clay, and we can repurpose ourselves to God’s way and God’s will if we allow ourselves to be used.
That message was communicated throughout the weekend in a variety of ways, Lynch said, through what he called some “really great moments.” Not only did Morgan preach about letting God lead and relying on God, but the youth also had the chance to engage in mission projects that repurposed old materials into something new and useful. One of the projects had youth cut plastic grocery bags into plastic yarn, called “plarn,” which will be used to make bed mats for homeless people. Another had the youth cut a pattern from milk jugs and denim, which will be sent to a nonprofit organization called Sole Hope and used to craft shoes for people in Third World countries. By the end of the weekend, the youth had made more than 7 miles of plarn and cut enough milk jugs and denim to make 125 pairs of shoes.
“We were very pleased with how the theme of repurpose was kind of a thread that wove through the weekend in everything we did,” Lynch said.
On Friday night, while Morgan preached, potter Elizabeth Blair, from Church of the Covenant United Methodist Church, Spartanburg, threw clay onstage to illuminate the message about how marred clay can be reshaped into something useful.
Many said the testimony from 14-year-old Brauer Dowd, a member of Hibben UMC, Mount Pleasant, was one of the more inspiring moments of the weekend. Brauer, whose story was lifted up onstage, had been to Revolution last year and loved it, but in October she was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Her immune system is compromised, and at certain points during her treatment she cannot go out in public. She badly wanted to attend Revolution this year, but it wasn’t likely that her levels would get high enough—higher than 600—for her to attend. She and her church and family prayed and prayed, and then came a miracle. Right before Revolution, she found out her levels were not only high enough to attend but remarkably high: around 1,200. It was the power of prayer in action, Lynch said.
Lynch said her story inspired many of the teens at Revolution, and many bought “Brauer Power” T-shirts and other gear to support a marathon her former youth director, Elizabeth Connell, is running to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Brauer’s honor. (Learn more at http://pages.teamintraining.org/ga/cmc17/EConnell.)
The weekend also raised $3,351 for the conference’s bikes initiative, an Annual Conference mission projects where youth across South Carolina will collect 1,200 bikes for people in need and $12,000 to ship the bikes through Bikes for the World.
‘I am with you’: Brock Morgan preaches on letting God take the wheel
There is brokenness and dysfunction everywhere, but in the midst of loss, God’s love will never, ever leave.
That was the message Saturday night from Brock Morgan, accomplished youth minister, author and speaker, who spoke throughout the three-day Revolution retreat on allowing God to repurpose our lives for Him.
Morgan shared stories of Tabitha, of Pete and of his own mother, each who faced heartbreaking rejection and pain, and each who found ultimate redemption and love in one thing: God.
Tabitha was a girl in the youth group Morgan led. She had a difficult home life. When Tabitha was in fifth grade, her mother married a man with a violent temper. His rage turned first to her mother and then to her. A judge removed Tabitha from the home after her mother chose to stay with her abusive husband instead of leaving him and making a new life with Tabitha. The rejection stung bitterly, leaving Tabitha a broken person and causing her to ask why her mother didn’t pick her—was she not good enough? She felt alone and unlovable.
Pete, a teenager, knew God, but he decided early on that he wanted to do his own thing. He followed his own path instead of God’s and soon made a catastrophe of his life. When he was a freshman in college, he finally had to realize he couldn’t do it on his own any longer. He was broken; he needed help.
And Morgan’s mother, a child piano prodigy and musician, was raised by her grandmother because her parents didn’t want her. They rejected her over and over despite her efforts to connect with them and make peace. Their rejection left a void in her heart, a pain she carried with her always.
All three of these people experienced rejection and brokenness, Morgan preached. But through a relationship with God, they are now whole and healing.
“God says, ‘I am with you. Will you let me help you? Will you let me lead you?’” Morgan said, his eyes filling with tears as he brought the message Saturday night.
Terrible things happen, Morgan says. That is a part of life. But God is with us, there to carry us through the storm if we will only allow Him to do so.
“The enemy wants to draw us in, steal our years, and he has his eye on the younger generation, Back in my day, the younger generation would rise up … but now the enemy is trying to steal the youth, get them passionate about the wrong things,” Morgan said—distraction through drugs, technology, inappropriate relationships and more. “Sin has taken us farther than we wanted to go, longer than we wanted to stay, more than we wanted to pay. It keeps calling us, pulling us back in.”
But God takes us away from all that. God washes us clean and gives us new life in Him.
Morgan said there are three kinds of people: those who see God working and stay in their seat; those who come and experience God’s presence and then go back to their lives unchanged; and those who come down to the altar and never leave, who allow God to keep shaping and repurposing them.
Then, inviting people to come forward and take a piece of clay as a symbol of the concept of “repurpose,” Morgan called all at Revolution to be the third kind of person: to allow God to be with them and lead them, to be the potter’s clay.
The next morning, Morgan reiterated his call for people to step into a new way to live—God’s way.
“You turn on the news today and see … we live in a broken, vile, judgmental world,” Morgan said. But as Christians, “We’re called to make a difference.”