July 7, 2006
VICTORIA, BC - A citywide youth evangelism thrust is fostering a
new sense of shared vision and purpose among churches to reach
teenagers for Christ.
Developed by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada
(BGEAC) and launched in 2004, Epicentre is a
yearlong, seven-stage initiative that helps Christian teens build
relationships with God, share the gospel and counsel those who
choose to accept Christ.
"It's given us a wave to ride and we're riding it together," says
Andy Moore, youth pastor at Glad Tidings Victoria. There's a
tremendous sense of unity among youth leaders, among students from
a variety of churches."
The climax of Epicentre is
ignition, a crusade-like "big-event" to
which teens who have been through the training can invite their
non-Christian friends. In Victoria, that will take place September
30 and feature Will Graham, son of Franklin Graham.
Organizers hope to attract upwards of 6,000 young people. "Every
church we've spoken to that has teens in it is saying 'yes' to
ignition, says Moore.
"I am defiantly going to be bringing a lot of my friends," says
Emily Yeats, 18, a member of Epicentre's youth
"Kids don't want to go to church. They want to go to a
concert. And we're really putting it out there like
that. But you still have the main message of salvation, and
you still have a worship service."
Dion Collins, youth ministries manger for BGEAC in Calgary, says
while the organization will make every effort to connect new
believers with a local church, their primary goal is to guide young
people into a personal relationship with Christ.
"And my contention," he says, "is that when they have a
relationship with Christ, then they're naturally going to want to
get together with other Christians and share what they have-and
well, that's a definition of what a church is."
Scheduling ignition for late September
was deliberate, adds Moore.
"Our leaders are fresh, students are excited about a new season of
life-and here's this new introduction to Christ. And now we
have the whole school year to work toward discipleship and
Collins says Epicentre's phased approach
recognizes the fact that one event is not enough to impact young
people whose families and peers have little or no church
"We found that a lot of people really…have no idea what it means
to be a follower of Christ," he says. "And there's no way you can
develop something over a period of two hours that will give them
all the tools and the information they need about Christ."
But it also reflects the determination of churches to make up for
their failure in years past to evangelize many of these teenagers'
parents-the so-called "lost generation."
"Most church youth groups are larger right now than they were 20,
25 years ago," says Collins.
"They're putting more emphasis into youth ministry, into
children's ministry. Twenty years ago, very few churches had
children's pastors. Now many churches do."
Still, if Victoria's churches had been offered Epicentre even two
or three years ago, Moore says, "I don't think we would've been
ready, I think there were still some key youth pastors and some key
students that were either too young or too green I their
positions. But now it seems to just be the right timing for
something of this magnitude."
Yeats predicts ignition will have a profound impact on Victoria's
teen population long after the event.
"Our city is such an upbeat and lively city, I think they're just
going to want that and I think it's going to change a lot of
things," she says.
Already, Moore is picking up a "trickling of reports" of teens who
are winning people to Christ. "And if I'm hearing about one or two,
"he says, "I'd have to suggest that there's many others."
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada