- (Photo: Teen Mania Ministries)
Acquire The Fire kicked off its 2012 tour in Houston earlier this month and will be stopping at 25 cities in hopes of inspiring young people to go above and beyond the status quo for American teenagers.
"Normal's Not Enough," the theme of this year's tour, emphasizes the idea that young people were created to live their lives for God – not for sports, video games or other distractions – and that their lives should look radically different from the lives of non-Christians.
"So our hope is to provoke curiosity in young people that there's something better than normal that they can aspire to," Ron Luce, founder of Teen Mania Ministries and ATF, told The Christian Post.
"When they really understand what Jesus did for us ... and how messed up mankind was, and the price that he paid to rescue us, there's no possible way you can live a normal life and just blend in with everybody else anymore, because you're so completely grateful for what he's done that you don't care if you look like you're normal or not anymore. You're determined to, out of gratefulness, live differently."
One of the major hindrances for teenagers, says Luce, is their attachment to various forms of media such as the Internet, television and movies.
"What is normal right now is to be in a trance, a media trance, for hours at a time every single day. And that's what a normal teenager does," he said. The problem, he added, is that this "media trance" is rendering young people ineffective and is hindering their spiritual health.
"The hindrances come in many forms of media that ... just poisons your spirituality, poisons your passion for God and basically paralyzes you for the use of the kingdom of God," said Luce.
ATF events last 27 hours in all, taking up Friday night and most of a Saturday, and serve as place where young people can "detox from the world," Luce described.
"Over the course of the weekend it extracts them from the influence of the world, and the media and their peers long enough for them to really get submerged into things of God," he said.
Approximately 150,000 people attend Teen Mania Ministries events each year. ATF will likely reach 100,000 people by the time this tour wraps up in Council Bluffs, Iowa on May 12.
Following ATF's first stop in Houston on Jan. 20-21, many people took to the event's Facebook page to talk about the impact it had on their lives.
"I was broken before ATF, I can definitely say I walked out with a new view on God and life," Vanessa Botello said in a post.
In another post, Nakia Johnson shared how this past weekend's event in Richmond, Va., made an impact on the teens from her church.
"Our youth group shared with the congregation about ATF Richmond this morning and it was so powerful. They are stepping up and are excited about boldly sharing the Love of Christ. Thank you for your labor of love," wrote Johnson.
This year's ATF events feature many of the Christian world's popular musical artists (including Toby Mac, Thousand Foot Krutch and Lecrae), in addition to well-known speakers (like Luce and Samuel Rodriguez, president of The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference), although exactly which bands and speakers participate varies from one city to another.
ATF events might just seem like Christian entertainment to some, but Luce says the 2012 tour has been infused with good theological teaching, which is delivered through preaching, drama and other mediums that pique the interest of the attending youth. The tour will address important biblical issues like the nature of God, where people came from, the fall of man and why humans need a redeemer.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Teen Mania Ministries, the Garden Valley, Texas-based Christian youth organization that was founded by Luce and his wife, Katie, in 1986. ATF events have been around for almost as many years, and are just one of several ministries of TMM.
Luce says that he has avoided getting burnt out on ministry over the years by consistently praying and receiving "fresh life from God."
"We all are like sponges," he said. "Once we're wrung out we have nothing to give. We have to go back to Him to get filled up."