Fuel for the Battle?

2007-05-18_000222.jpgI was surfing the web this evening before posting myself, and the train of thought amongst most of the bloggers I follow normally is that if outcry against the Battle Cry movement. You can read Tim’s thoughts, Stuart’s thoughts, Sandy’s thoughts, as well as an older one from Marko. (Sorry if I did not properly track back to you guys, I don’t get to spend enough time playing around on here.) You can also read an article from RS here, just remember that RS is notoriously liberal in its political views and narrow-minded when it comes to matters of faith, so read it with a grain of salt. So in lieu of my original post, I decided to weigh in myself on the subject. Please allow the thoughts to stir genuine thought inside your heart and mind, and if you genuinely disagree with my points, feel free to comment in an appropriate, Christ-centered manner.

Overall Battle Cry and Acquire the Fire are well produced, slickly oiled machines that inside the hearts of many teenagers every year. They are rather famous events that every year gather more and more teens and adults alike into their fold. They are an excellent platform for the message of Ron Luce, preaching against being branded and brainwashed by the evil in the media that surrounds us in our lives. He speaks against the message culture shoves at us, and calls for teens to rise up against the evils of this world. These would be decent, true messages if they were not incomplete. Instead Luce focuses on the message of warfare against the fleshly world around us, and stops just short of outright militancy against anyone who is wallowing in sin.

The message lacks love, grace and mercy. It focuses too heavily upon the justice portion of the gospel. Battle Cry and ATF events rely heavily upon generating an emotional response in teens to draw converts, yet where are they to back those teens up after the event packs up and leaves town? Sure they supply youth ministries with curriculum to use before and after the events, but the old adage goes “you win people to what you win them with.” Teens who are “converted” at events such as these are going to be looking for the same emotional high after the flames of the event die down. I have seen this happen countless times within ministries. Teen Mania (the ministry organization behind Battle Cry and ATF) almost seems to be the worst offender and driving force behind their often touted “4% of people will be Christians in the next generation” myth. (This myth has been dispelled a few times over. You’ll have to search for the studies, for I do not have links to them right now. I’ll try to update this later on).

I do realize that God is sovereign over all creation, and that all of these drawbacks to ATF and Battle Cry can be and are overcome by Him. But why put Him and His sovereignty to the test? Why continue to allow teens to be overly sensitized and encouraged to purchase merchandise after they have been instructed to not buy into merchandising and media consumption? Why ask teens to spend a weekend hearing how they need to think critically about their media consumption – nay, cut it out altogether – but not give them time during the event to actually think for themselves, much less breathe? Why should we take them to an event that relies little upon teaching students how to use Scripture (the basis for our faith) and more upon feelings of what we need to do to make God work in our lives? Why rely upon a spectacle to draw teens to Christ when we should be modeling an authentic faith to them every day and allowing our hearts, our faith our lives to speak the gospel to them?

We should seek a better opportunity for our teens. One that engages the mind as well as the heart, such as Wisdom Works’ Planet Wisdom events. We should model an authentic faith for our teens instead of relying upon events to change lies. We need to remember that the Christian faith is a journey of many, many steps, and not an overnight change. We will all fall. We will all make mistakes. We will all sin, mine no greater than yours, or than the murderer on death row, or the woman living in a homosexual lifestyle down the street. Let us love as Christ did, pulling no punches, but practicing grace and mercy wherever and wherever we can.

This, as I see it, is where ATF and Battle Cry fall short. The message is not necessarily a bad one, but it is incomplete.

This post is written with the knowledge and experience of attending one ATF event with a group, working in several ministries where ATF was a staple, and viewing most of the past couple of Battle Cry events via webcasts. I do not claim to know everything about ATF, Battle Cry, Teen Mania or Ron Luce’s heart. Take this all into consideration…