Ten years ago today I was sitting in a room of youth leaders in the back room of a small church promoting our upcoming “When all hell breaks loose” conference. This particular Dare 2 Share conference tour was about spiritual warfare and evangelism based on Ephesians 6:10-20.
I’ll never forget when the pastor of the church we were meeting at burst in at about 11:30am and told us that all hell was breaking loose down at Columbine High School. He asked us to pray and we gladly obliged. Little did we know how bad the situation at Columbine was.
As the morning turned to afternoon the few of us in that room, along with the rest of the watching world, began to realize how horrific of an event had unfolded in the cafeteria, hallways, library and classrooms of that typical, middle class public school. in a matter of minutes Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold extinguished 15 lives that day, including their own, and the innocence of high school life in America was lost forever.
Rick Long and I went down to Columbine a few days later to pray with any teenagers who happened to be around the adjacent Clement Park. Suffice it to say that the place was a madhouse. Sure there were teenagers to pray with and for, but reporters from all over America converged on little old Littleton. It was like a national funeral was unfolding and Clement Park was where the graveside service was being held.
Questions of “Why?” and “How could this happen?” abounded for days, weeks and months after. But these weren’t the questions that I was struggling with. The question that plagued me for days after was “What am I prepared to do about it?”
I had been the preaching pastor at Grace for 10 years and had always done Dare 2 Share on the side. But God used this tragedy as a clarion call for me to focus on one thing, mobilizing teenagers to reach their world for Christ. In the decade since that tragedy this powerful mission still drives me, our board, staff, ministry partners and thousands of churches that have joined us in this quest to reach a generation for Christ.
Why is this misison so critical? Because I truly believe that right now there are disillusioned kids like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on every one of the 67,000 high school and middle school campuses in America. Who knows what will flip the switch for them to act on those feelings of abandonment and resentment with the same scale of violence or even worse?
What’s the solution? Gun control? More school security? Violence prevention programs? Faster police reaction times? Come on! While some may taut these things as the keys to preventing future shootings there is a deeper, spiritual problem that only Jesus can address.
What if Christian teenagers on every high school and middle school took the mission of Jesus as their very own? What if they reached and mobilized their friends with and for the gospel? I can envision lonely teenagers being sat with, listened to and loved. I can see kids like Eric and Dylan believing in Jesus or, at the minimum, feeling genuinely cared about by some fellow classmates. And that, in and of itself, could be enough to stop the violence from taking place.
Thoreau once said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, one hacks at the root.” Rapid response, controlling access to guns and other proposed solutions at best hack at the leaves of evil. But only the gospel attacks the root of it. It is Jesus alone who can change somebody from the inside out.
I can’t help but reflect on the inside-out transformation of my own violent family growing up. The Denver mafia nicknamed my uncles “the crazy brothers.” When the mafia thinks your family is insane that is a sure sign of dysfunction. But one by one my family members encountered the life-changing power of Jesus Christ and they were forever transformed, the root of evil hacked and severed once and for all.
I believe in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The question is does the church at large? Do we really believe that the key to solving violence, crime and hopelessness is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ?
As we look back and reflect on the tragedy of Columbine ten years ago today let us pray for the surviving victims and their families. Let us ask God for the protection of the teenagers on campuses all across America. But, as you reflect, I have to ask the question that the Holy Spirited prompted in my heart a decade ago…What are you willing to do about it?
Are you willing to keep praying for the youth of America after today?
Are you willing to mobilize a teenager you know to reach their friends for Christ?
Are you willing to join us in this quest to be a part of a sweeping spiritual awakening that will transform this nation, and especially her young people, from the inside out?
It is time to pray. It is time to act.