Two decades have passed since one of the world's largest youth organizations had its start in Tulsa, Okla. After reaching more than 2 million teens and hosting nearly 450 live arena events, Teen Mania's founder says there's still a lot to be done.
"We started Teen Mania to raise up an army of young people who would change the world," said 45-year-old Ron Luce, founder of the national youth ministry. "There's still a lot of work to be done, but we're making progress."
Teen Mania is celebrating their 20th anniversary this weekend in Garden Valley, Texas, with their signature teen-savvy speakers and music.
Coming out of their first Battle Cry season, the first three of more than 32 Acquire the Fire events, and a front page landing on the New York Times, the young adrenaline-pumping ministry has much to celebrate in its 20th year.
Thousands of youth leaders and big name evangelicals have heard the urgent call to save today's generation from spiraling into a huge loss of Christians by the time they reach adulthood. Luce and Christian leaders like National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard and well-known leadership expert John C. Maxwell constantly pound in the claim that only four percent of teenagers will be Bible-believing Christians as adults if current trends continue.
They have called it a "crisis" and are touring cities nationwide nonstop to reach teens and tell pastors of the "horrifying" numbers, as Luce had put it.
"After doing youth ministry for almost 20 years, it became apparent that the urgency of reaching this generation is reaching an all time high point," Luce had said in an earlier interview.
Young Christian students are finding themselves to be the minority on school campuses where causal sex and risqué music are common, the New York Times report indicated.
Teen Mania's large-scale events draw tens of thousands of teens whose Christian faith plays center to the "Lollapalooza"-style rallies, as Time magazine described it. This past year, some 75,000 teens drew together at Teen Mania's first season of Battle Cry stadium events where they praised the Lord and rejected the prevalent MTV culture.
Counter-cultural rallies saw a new crowd of teens making a battle cry for their generation, which some describe as the largest generation, with faith-filled voices. Their protests were against the bombardment of drugs, alcohol, sex and violence that media has placed on today's youths.
More than 5,400 teens have graduated from Teen Mania's Honor Academy - a one-year training program in which teens commit and learn to live lives of faith, integrity and vision. Hundreds of them are now traveling in the annual Acquire the Fire tour which features such Christian bands as P.O.D., MercyMe, Pillar, Jeremy Camp, KJ-52 and Kutless. The tour kicked off in September and will go through May.
Acquire the Fire goes beyond giving students a venue where the Christian faith is common ground. It emboldens them to be "Branded by God" - the tour theme.
"I strip off the identity of the world," said Luce speaking in prayer for the thousands of teens at this year's first Acquire the Fire event in Amherst, Mass., according to the Times, "and this morning I clothe myself with Christ, with his lifestyle. That's what I want to be known for."