Welcome to Ground Zero
The night arrived and I was giddy with anticipation and quite nervous as well. I had never planned an event of this caliber. I had spent a couple months networking with local churches and leaders, arranging for sound equipment, chasing flighty teenagers around trying to get the bands to commit and figuring out their tech needs.
I did my best to convert the church basement into a nightclub atmosphere befitting of the name “Ground Zero.” I had parents and leaders from other churches to help with “crowd control” just in case anyone showed up.
Meanwhile, upstairs in the church I had many gray-haired folks wondering what in the world I was thinking inviting all of these “no good characters” into the “house of God” to play “the devil’s music.” Pastor Cheryl had my back, and was supportive of my efforts to draw the youth to the church — no matter what it took. But she was one of the few who really showed any support for my Revolution efforts at Bethel. The Sunday following the event the only questions I really got were along the lines of “Did the kids damage the building at all?” But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When show time arrived we saw a steady stream of teenagers coming through the doors. We made every student fill out a raffle form to grab their email address to put on our email list for alerting them of future Revolution events. (Yeah, now I know how that works!) The bands did their thing — loudly. The bands were mostly from Mound Westonka High School. But the word got out and brought in bands from Orono High School, North Central University and Bethel University as well.
My good friend Peter Herzog helped run the sound board and lights. Keri and some gals from church ran the concessions. My friend Jared King emceed the night, providing entertainment and doing drawings between acts. We successfully drew a crowd. In a church that had only had seven or so teens, we packed the room full of over 150 teens from every peer group — the punks, the goths, the preps and every other group.
They came to support their friends’ bands. They came because they had nothing better to do. They came because it was the only party in town. They came because they saw the parking lot full and were curious. They came because someone invited them. They came for a myriad of reasons I’m sure. But perhaps Acts 19 describes the night best: “The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there” (Acts 19:32).
Yes, indeed, “Most of the people did not even know why they were there.” That was OK, because I knew exactly why they were there. The Battle of the Bands had a few specific purposes that only a few of us clearly grasped that night.
The primary purpose was simply to draw a crowd and make some noise for the Revolution. I wanted to get the sleepy little church on the map, on the students’ radars. I wanted to get teens curious about this so-called Revolution without giving it all away at once. Like a good parable that gets someone thinking about something in a new way, I wanted to get teens thinking about church in a fresh way. I wanted to tear down some stereotypes as we welcomed one and all into our building that night. I wanted to keep waving the banner of the Revolution high, rubbing it in their faces a bit and getting students talking about it in the hallways at school.
So, as the crowd gathered around that tiny little puppet stage in the church basement, I grabbed the microphone to get my simple message across before we crowned the winning band and concluded the night. I kept it simple:
“There’s a Revolution coming to town. And it’s not about religion or going to church on Sundays. It’s a grassroots movement of ordinary radicals like you and me following the revolutionary Way of Jesus. So, if you hear rumors of a Revolution spreading throughout town, don’t be afraid. Grab a friend and go check it out! We’ll see you next time!”