DCLA 2009 Kicks Off Triennial LA Gathering

Thousands of Christian teenagers have convened in Los Angeles for the 2009 DCLA celebration, which started Thursday with a "sweeping narrative of God's epic story" delivered by megachurch pastor Francis Chan.

DCLA is aptly named after Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles – the two cities where the event is hosted every three years. The year's theme, "Be. Love. Serve. Repeat," focuses on what it means to be created in God's image, how God's extravagant love for man can be lived out in the life of a teenager, and what a life of service looks like.

"DCLA is an opportunity for ... students to join in the adventure of learning how to live into the mission of God," event organizers say. "This is no Sunday school lesson or easy answer journey, but rather getting involved in God's amazing work of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of the world and everything in it."

While DCLA is geared toward middle school and high school-aged Christians, youth leaders will also be among the brew, attending optional seminars and sessions on spiritual discipleship. Sessions for youth include lessons on "discipline in discipleship," "facing our TV-reality self" and "straight choices in a crooked world."

The highlight of DCLA is the "Big Room Special," which organizers describe as "not a sermon, or a skit, or a video clip, but a sweeping narrative of God's epic story."

"[S]tudents will participate, interact and engage in this amazing story with speakers, drama, video and worship in ways unlike anything they've experienced before," they say.

On Thursday, Chan kicked off the "Big Room" with the story of Creation.

"We want you to understand that when God made this world, He made it good. That despite what you hear with the rest of the story, I want you to understand that when this world began, things were good," said the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif.

Chan was followed shortly after by Christian speaker and activist Shane Claiborne, founder of The Simple Way, who delved into the story of Noah and the great flood.

"The flood, I think, wasn't just the biggest act of violence, but the biggest act of redemption. It's kinda like pruning back the tree a little bit so they (sic) can grow a little bit," he said.

"God is trying to get rid of this infection into this world," Claiborne added.

In addition to the speakers, a host of Christian music artists are also part of the four-day line-up. Among them are Hawk Nelson, Starfield, KJ52, and FamilyForce5.

DCLA in Los Angeles concludes Sunday and will afterward head over to the Washington Convention Center, where another set of youth will gather July 10-13.

The current gathering is being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles.