With Starbucks coffee in hand, Teen Mania founder Ron Luce has been on the plane and in cities nationwide non-stop for the past few months, raising up an army of teens for Christ and “banging the drum” to let pastors know of the young generation crisis.
He’s already visited 36 cities in less than 12 weeks to raise the crisis banner to church pastors and youth leaders about the loss of teenagers to secular America. And that doesn’t even include the Acquire the Fire youth events involving tens of thousands of teens and which are heading into their fourth conference this weekend. In between speaking engagements in two different cities – Baltimore and Philadelphia – on Tuesday, Luce gave a few minutes to tell The Christian Post how he’s keeping up.
Also with him was his daughter Hannah, 17, who has been traveling with him to several cities telling parents and pastors of the disturbing culture her generation lives in and with the same passion to save her own generation. The Christian Post also had a chance to speak with her before she headed out to Philadelphia with her father.
CP: You've been traveling practically everyday since August exhorting both youth and church leaders. How are you keeping up?
Luce: You know what? I’m doing fine. A lot of grace and Starbucks.
CP: You're looking at the thousands of youth that you speak to at the Acquire the Fire or Battle Cry events who are saturated by media. What was it like for you at that age?
Luce: Well, when I was a teenager, we didn’t have near the garbage. I mean we had rock ‘n roll, drugs and drinking, but now, they’re just submerged in the culture. It’s like holding them down under water; they barely get a breath because they’re being just buried by all these things that are just forces that are ungodly and unchristian. That’s why we’re trying to wake up the pastors and the leaders and say “now is the time to go do something.”
CP: You've been doing this for 20 years now, trying to tell everybody about the Generation Y crisis. At what point in those 20 years did you notice that people were finally starting to get it about the youth crisis?
Luce: It’s really the last two or three years when we introduced this Battle Cry campaign and said “we better all come together and we better all focus on young people or we are all going to lose.” So we put all the materials together to help churches double and disciple their youth group. We’re inspiring youth pastors and pastors to say, “Now is the time to turn [my] whole church towards young people.” And the Battle Cry for a Generation book came out a year ago, so we’re trying to say, “We’ve got a five-year window where most of these kids are in their 20s. We better all focus.”
CP: Who were some of the first persons to catch on?
Luce: A number of different ministries, like Chuck Colson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Joyce Meyer, and Kay Arthur, very early on said “Okay Ron, tell us what to do. What do you want us to do to help?” And it’s been very encouraging as they and the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals) issued a resolution saying “now we’re going to focus on young people and get all of our churches to do the same.”
CP: You said in the recent New York Times article that you're working hard, youth leaders are working hard, but still you're losing. You've reached more than 2 million teens and woken up this culture to the alarming trend of teen. Do you still feel you're losing?
Luce: It’s not that I’m losing; it’s that we as a nation are losing. Yeah, we’re growing, our ministry’s growing. But we can’t just look at our ministry. We have to look at what is happening with teenage America and go, “What are we going to do to turn this around?” Yeah, we’ve been in front of a lot of kids, but we have a lot of work that needs to be done in order to turn the generation around.
CP: A lot of evangelists who've preached to millions say they were inspired by Billy Graham to do what they do today. And you’re running one of the largest youth organizations now. Who was your model?
Luce: I don’t know. I look at some of the great ones of old Finney and Jonathan Edwards and Wesley and look at just what happened with their lives. Of course, Billy Graham is amazing as well. And so, I’m just trying to really focus on the young people.
CP: You just celebrated your 20-year mark for Teen Mania. What was your most unforgettable moment in the last 20 years of doing Teen Mania?
Luce: Probably one of the most exciting was our first stadium [Battle Cry event] we did at the Silverdome with 73,000 young people, and defying the odds for getting teenagers together for a weekend event like that. And now, we’re starting to see them all over the country and so we just need not just the events but to see the follow-up with youth pastors and churches doubling their youth ministries every year.
CP: Could you also pinpoint a memorable reaction from any of the teens that participated in the events?
Luce: I’ll tell you something that happened last spring time. While I was in the middle of my sermon talking about “come on, we need to rise up like an army and take this generation,” a kid screams out, “We’re your army! Lead us into battle!” And I thought you know this whole generation is looking for someone to lead them into battle and so that’s we’re trying to inspire pastors and youth pastors to do: lead them into battle.
CP: So by the end of the next five years, if you were to continue on the trend you’re on now, where do you see this generation at?
Luce: We’re praying that we’ll be able to get this whole thing turned around. We just want to keep serving the local church, helping local churches to rise up to capture the hearts of the kids in their communities.
A brief interview with Luce's daughter, Hannah, follows.
CP: Seeing your father preach with such passion to your own generation, what do you feel?
Hannah: It’s as much my passion. I see my generation and they’re being completely brainwashed by society, by the media and I see even their strategies … like they’re trying to blind my generation. That makes me mad; that makes me want to do something. I get excited. I get to come and travel with him and tell people that this is what’s going on with my generation. They need Jesus and they need life and they need freedom.
CP: Was this passion of yours self-driven or inspired by your father?
Hannah: It’s always been I think inside of me, also because of my family and also when I was in school, it kind of hit me. I saw people and heard things that they were hearing. At first, I just wanted to be like this relatable Christian but I realized only in radicalism – Christian radicalism – that’s not the word to say it, but what my generation needs is that radical Christianity. I saw some of my friends who aren’t Christian and I got so desperate and I was like “you need Jesus, you need the love of Jesus” and that’s when I realized that “oh my gosh,” this is what’s really happening.
CP: Were you ever saturated in that culture and you realized that’s just not how it should be?
Hannah: I think in my mind there started to be conformity. You’re drawn to things because it looks good. I started to be enticed in my heart and I still was Christian. I would go somewhere and I just saw my best friends and they were so radical and on fire for God and I realized there is this compromise in my life that I have to get rid of and I have to be radical.
CP: What was it like growing up in a Christian home especially under your father, Ron Luce, and also in comparison with other teens?
Hannah: I think at times it was frustrating because I felt like I can’t do what everyone else is doing. But then realizing how that has taken me to a place where I am passionate, I am strong and I love Jesus and I have not been brainwashed by the world. In my heart and in my mind, I want it to be pure. I want to see God. In some ways it’s been frustrating to me in my perspective, but then in comparison to others, this really helped me to see other people and to help them through things they go through because I don’t have to worry about my parents being divorced, or things going wrong or that I’m conforming.