OneDay03 provides forum for college-age Christians

May 31, 2003 | By Linda Leicht

Some people call them Generation X, Gen Y or the Millennials.

But if the estimated 30,000 at OneDay03 are representative of college-age young people today, they might just be called the Jesus Generation.

The event, held over Memorial Day weekend near Sherman, Texas, drew people ages 18-26 from every state and a handful of countries. They hung out with fellow Christians, camped out in a thunderstorm and spent 14 hours in a single day listening to speakers and music, and praying.

No alcohol, no drugs, no skinnydipping.

“I want to have a genuine time with people of my generation,” said Aaron Fortson, 23, who drove to OneDay with three friends from Springhill Baptist Church in Springfield.

Members of this generation, at the crossroads of their lives, are giving Christianity a chance, organizers said. And the people who minister to them see a passion that sets them apart.

“There’s a spiritual dilemma of collegiates in America,” said Louie Giglio, the person behind OneDay and a youth ministry called Passion. “We realize spiritually we are in a very difficult time on the campuses of the nation.”

Giglio, 44, has been involved in campus ministry for 18 years, since he was barely out of college himself. He understands what motivates this generation—music, being with each other, outrageous experiences and clear limits.

Music was an important part of the first OneDay, near Memphis, Tenn., in 2000. That event produced a CD, “Our Love is Loud.”

It was that CD that first drew Corey Carver of Snellville, Ga., to OneDay03. Carver, 26, is a potter and his ceramics were part of the art exhibit at OneDay, which actually spanned 3 1/2 days.

But it wasn’t the music that impressed him once he arrived.

“They don’t just speak my language,” he said of the people at the event. “They are my brothers and sisters.”

Bryan Campbell, 21, a student at Southwest Missouri State University, drove to the event with Fortson. He was drawn to OneDay by another millennial mantra—experience.

“Everything about (OneDay) is designed to allow a person to experience a living God,” he said. “To me, nothing’s more exciting than that.”

Josh Garrett is the campus minister with High Street Baptist Church and leader of Midnight at SMS, a popular music and prayer event on campus.

“What I’ve learned about the young adult today,” he said, “is that theirs is a very experiential type of belief.”

Experience requires reality, Garrett pointed out. “They have to see it to believe it.

“But it takes a willing spirit,” he added. “These kids are willing to let the power of God infiltrate their lives.”

Clay McGranahan is the lead pastor of New Works Fellowship, a “Gen-X church” in Rogersville where experience is an important part of worship. New Works uses multimedia—from live music to video clips—as well as hands-on involvement during worship services.

Like the tattoos and body piercings that were easily spotted at OneDay, some of those worship experiences can put off people in older generations, he said.

“With this generation, nothing is taboo,” said McGranahan. “They’re searching for what are the lines (they are) supposed to be living in.”

There were plenty of lines drawn at OneDay. Besides the expected no-nos—no alcohol, no drugs, no cigarettes—the students were told to segregate themselves by sex in their tents and in their “prayer triangles.”

In their new book on the generation and their spirituality, “Millennials Rising,” authors Neil Howe and William Strauss say college-age students today prefer clear rules set for them.

Combine that with the need to express their religiosity in flamboyant, audacious and even ironic ways and you have a typical scene at OneDay03.

A young man with stringy long hair, covered from shoulders to ankles with Christian-themed tattoos, bowed his head in prayer as he carefully kept his trash from blowing away.

A boy with bracelets, a nose ring and a white beaded necklace, wearing baggy blue jeans and a trendy red T-shirt, prayed intently, his eyes tightly shut. In a sign of respect, he held his ball cap in his hand.

The speakers drew applause as they challenged their audience to sexual purity and a willingness to suffer, even die, for their faith.

The musicians held the crowd in sway with heavy bass beats and screaming guitars as they led them in lyrics such as “Oh, my Lord, you’re returning.”

Tom Beaudoin, a Gen-X theologian who teaches at Boston College, a Catholic school, wrote about that spiritual irreverence in his book “Virtual Faith; the Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X.”

His book encourages churches to make sure their “religious tradition maintains its irreverent possibilities.”

Springfield’s Campbell called it the “barbarian way out of civilization.”

“Christ,” he stated, “was a revolutionary.”

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