A Less Eventful Upper Room Experience
You would laugh if you saw what our first youth group gathering looked like. On an unusually warm Indian summer night in September, our “youth group” huddled together for the first time in our own upper room, much like the first followers of Jesus did in Acts 1.
It was a stuffy smelling room the size of a large walk-in closet off-shooting the choir loft that had been converted into a mini-movie theater of sorts. We’re talking three rows of seats only five seats wide. I’m embarrassed thinking back at how “cool” and “hip” I tried to make that first kick-off gathering. I even rigged up a disco ball, and cranked my laptop through some old speakers to energize the room as they arrived.
I think there were maybe nine who showed up for that “Open House/Meet & Greet” with Jeremy and Keri. While the youth casually lumbered in with very little expectations other than see what Keri and I were like, I carried with me into that room years worth of pent up excitement and passion to invite young disciples to join the adventure of discipleship I had been experiencing since my dining room experience.
After chowing down some pizza, we gathered in that awkward little upper room so I could at last cast the vision and offer the invitation to join me on an exciting adventure together. I used the Acts 17 story mentioned above, showed a Lord of the Rings movie clip and then with as much gusto as I could muster told them to buckle up for a wild ride together. “We are starting a Revolution!”
My mini call to enlist in the Jesus Revolution was met with blank stares and palpable silence. It’s as if I hadn’t said a word. I wondered if all they had heard come out of my mouth for those 15 minutes was the Charlie Brown “Wah wah wah wah wah wah.” (I soon found out that this was how most youth pastors feel every week after every talk.) So, we finished our pizza, called it a night and went home.
I was back on the road to Emmaus with the two disciples, only this timing feeling what they felt before they encountered Jesus: “They stood still; their faces downcast” (Luke 24:17). I was defeated. My hopes were momentarily dashed. My balloon of excitement that had been slowly inflating for some five years was abruptly popped with a single moment of apparent defeat. How would this group become the harbingers of a community-wide Revolution? There was no way.
To make matters worse, I came to realize later that about half of the kids who did come that first night were forced there by their parents who said they needed to at least meet the new Youth Director. By the second week our revolutionary community had dwindled to about six disciples.
We continued to gather together weekly in the upper room for a month or two. But we saw no tongues of fire coming down on our gatherings. We were a small, shy, quiet lot; at first glance, we were not the ideal building blocks for a community-wide grassroots Jesus-movement.