Tony Cummings brings the low-down on LIFE 2 THE MAX organised by Crusaders.
It was in 1900 that Albert Kestin, taking a walk in the park, came across a group of schoolboys who answered Kestin's query about why they weren't in Sunday school by telling him Sunday school was boring. Their response so challenged the on-fire-for-God Kestin that he began an organisation, Crusaders, which was to grow into one of the most significant youth ministries the Church has ever seen. Down the decades Crusaders has been responsible - through its camps, evangelism and youth worker training programmes - for seeing hundreds of thousands of young people walking the narrow path of Christian faith.
Yet despite their tireless efforts, the Crusaders and the other youth ministries in Britain today face a young generation the majority of whom are staggeringly uninformed about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. One wonders what Albert Kestin would find on a stroll in the park today. Young lads crowing over their latest sexual conquests? Teenagers working out where they could score some more E? Or a gang of young people hurling profanities at the "religious nutter" who has the temerity to speak to them of God? British youth is today, as all now recognise, in a desperate spiritual state. So it's heartening that the Crusaders - with their patron Sir Cliff Richard and their president Steve Chalke - have recognised the enormity of the task ahead and set out a five year strategy to tackle this spiritual crisis head on. Matt Summerfield, the executive director of Crusaders, enthuses, "The vision is for Crusaders 'to release an army of radical young people who are committed to taking the Gospel to the generations that don't know Jesus Christ.' Why an army? Well, the Devil isn't playing games. The last time I looked he was launching an all out assault on this generation of young people (Ephesians 6:12). He knows his fate and wants to ensure he takes as many young people with him as possible. I believe that God is calling us to raise up an army out of dry bones once again (Ezekiel 37). We all know that the best witnesses TO young people ARE young people. When non-Christian young people see the amazing difference that God has made in the lives of their Christian friends the message cannot be ignored."
So how will this thrilling vision be achieved? "The fundamentals haven't changed," admits Matt. "God is still looking for a people who will seek his face and get serious on their knees in prayer. I'm sure God would much prefer we spend more time talking with him than planning the next exciting youth meeting."
Not that Crusaders is ignoring the role of the big event. In fact, they have now organised a weekend event described as the "ultimate youth festival." Matt fills in the details, "We have an event from 21st to 23rd September in Tatton Park, Manchester, and the title of that event is Life 2 The Max. It's based on a motto we have within Crusaders based on John 10 verse 10 where Jesus said, 'I have come to give life and life in all its fullness.' We're communicating a clear message, that the life that Jesus gives is the best life, there's nothing that compares to it, it's life to the max. This event is an opportunity for young people to come together with their leaders and discover more about this maximum life that Jesus offers us, giving them the opportunity to respond and be discipled, but also have some great fun and fellowship as well
"It's open to Crusaders and non-Crusaders. Every youth group in the country is invited to come and we're very excited at the prospect of seeing 3,000 to 4,000 young people there enjoying the weekend and all the things we've laid on for them. Our main headliners on Saturday night are the Tribe. We've got bands like Quench, Squint and Coastal Dune. Steve Chalke is coming to speak on Sunday morning. We've got the comedians John Archer and Tim Vine to provide some great entertainment. We have the finals on the Saturday of a Crusaders national talent contest. We have a 5-a-side football competition, inflatables, a fun fair and lots of different seminars both for young people and leaders. A whole variety of things for people to enjoy and hopefully also be challenged by."
Matt is clearly excited by the potential of Life 2 The Max and his
enthusiasm is catching. I conclude our conversation by asking him what
he hopes Life 2 The Max will have been able to achieve? "I think the
thing I'm most looking forward to in the weeks following Life 2 The
Max will be receiving testimony from young people saying, 'In the
festival I felt for the first time I met with God and God has
challenged and changed my life and this is now what I'm doing for
him.' This, at the end of the day, is what it's about. We pray for big
numbers, we pray that everyone will have a wonderful time. But it's
the long lasting fruit, it's the knowledge that people's lives have
been transformed by the living God. I look forward to those
testimonies with great expectation."