Ten years ago today we were in full swing planning and preparing for what would be the first event called The O2 Experience. I was a youth pastor in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the vision was for a state-wide event geared at reaching as many people as possible with the message of sexual purity. Jennie and I had just gotten married and God had spoken to us (about as clearly as He ever has spoken to me in my life) about this while we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii. We felt burdened to warn this generation about just what is at stake when we abandon God’s designs for our sexuality.
When I say warn I don’t mean just that they might get an STD or pregnant, though those are certainly an issue and a part of what we talk about. In my experience consequence driven communication is not very effective if that is all you have to say. People aren’t looking for rules to live by, they are hungry for a reason to live for. The message burning on my heart isn’t “Don’t sin!” but rather, “Rise up and change this world for Jesus!” The warning I am referring to is that this calling on their lives to shine brightly and reach people can’t be unleashed fully without holiness. Our strength and sanctification are connected. Simply put, you cannot be powerful with out being sexually pure.
I feel not only strongly that I am supposed to give this message and put these events on, I feel that it would be sin to be silent. I feel that God will require the blood of those I am meant to reach from me if I don’t speak up. So for these past 10 years we have criss-crossed the country, from Montana to Florida, and from Colorado to California. The events have changed enormously in that time. Thinking back to the first one in 2004 that we put on it pains me to remember how ghetto it was. (Cringe.) Thankfully, in spite of our rookie status at production God moved in great ways. True to the original vision thousands drove from not only all over New Mexico to attend, we even had some youth groups bus in from surrounding states.
We returned to Albuquerque, where it all started, and had an event in the same room where the first one took place. Very special. Thankfully we have learned a thing or two over the years and the events have become fine-tuned and fully-loaded. The biggest change was in 2007 when we expanded it from just focusing on relationships by adding an explicitly evangelistic focus to the O2 Experience. That was when we began describing and approaching it as “a fresh look at life, death, sex and romance.” From that point on things really clicked. It was as though our airplane finally had both wings and we could take off.
Looking back over the past ten years and the events in all the cities I am blown away thinking about the thousands we have seen give their lives to Jesus and rise up in strength and honor, embracing God’s plans for their love lives. It is humbling to be a part of it and I can’t wait to see what is around the corner—starting tomorrow night when we finish this anniversary tour with an event in the mile high city, Denver, Colorado. Purity is worth fighting for!
For more information about the O2 Experience or to request an event in your city, please visit www.o2experience.com.