Is the Gospel Making a Run in High Schools? ‘The Jesus Club’ Author Says ‘Yes’
At a time when Christians in America who are living out their faith, especially within institutions such as public schools, often feel threatened, One Voice Student Missions has successfully established lunchtime Bible studies at more than 70 high schools in Los Angeles, other areas of California, and in other states.
It is because of youth groups such as One Voice that high school students in the L.A. area and beyond are being exposed to the gospel at a greater rate than many may presume.
Enter The Jesus Club.
Brian Barcelona, 26, who is the One Voice Student Missions founder and author of the book, The Jesus Club – Incredible True Stories of How God is Moving in Our High Schools, leads the youth organization by example, teaching Bible study in four L.A. high schools weekly. He said that his success in sharing the gospel is not so much about his own words or preaching style but the fact that he “shows up” on a consistent and regular basis.
In the book, Barcelona recounts that in 2009, at the end of Spirit West Coast, “a huge weekend event, with some of the best Christian bands and speakers from across the country,” he had an encounter with God during which he received his marching orders—It was like a stern order from a general to a soldier, yet His words also felt like a father asking his son for a favor.
“As I listened closely, the Lord said, ‘Brian, I want to release a movement that will save the high schools of America. And I want to use your life to do it. This movement will take your city. It will take California. So goes California, so goes the nation,’” writes Barcelona in the first chapter of his book. Farther on, he states, “God continued to speak: The movement I am about to release is going to restore prayer in public schools again.”
Barcelona told Together LA that students have many of the same issues today, such as drug abuse, gang participation, family problems, and emotional trials such as depression, as in previous generations, but also face a different problem.
“This generation faces a unique hurdle that no other generation has faced and that is social media,” Barcelona said. “Adding to their own problems, people are now going through other people’s feeds and seeing what’s going on in their lives. Studies have shown that this is the ‘loneliest generation’ ever but no one feels lonely because everyone is connected…If that makes sense. The relationships are not really that deep. That’s what I see going on at schools.”
When asked how he approaches high schools for the first time, considering that the current political climate includes a large adversarial component, he said, “I don’t think that there is as much hostility towards the gospel as there is towards religion. I think defining those two (gospel and religion) and separating them from the beginning and realizing that a religious agenda is not the same as living out the gospel.
“What we find in going into a campus is that we bring the Good News of the Kingdom,” he continued. “The Good News at its core is that we don’t have to be bound and linked the same as we once did. There is freedom in Christ. That’s not just modeled in a sermon or ‘Let me do worship in your school’ or ‘Let me go preach to all your kids.’ That’s modeled first in my response to how I will serve an administrator or my willingness to obey even some of the laws that already exist.
“Sometimes, it’s not even [about] laws, but confusion about what separation of church and state really means. When we go into a campus we are there to serve… whether they let me preach the first week or let me preach in 5 months, I’ll do whatever I can to serve that campus and to bring the love of Jesus onto that school.”
The Jesus Culture’s church and movement lead pastor, Banning Liebscher, states in an endorsement of Barcelona and One Voice: “I am so encouraged by the work that Brian Barcelona and One Voice Student Missions is doing to impact campuses across the nation. Nothing is more critical in this hour then to reach the youth of America where they are at every day. I am grateful for the heart and passion to lay down their lives for the next generation.”
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