Ron Luce is the founder and president of Teen Mania Ministries. Among many other things, he has been at the forefront of the Acquire the Fire youth conference, which have now morphed into the Battle Cry youth conferences. In this book, Battle Cry for a Generation, Luce sets out his ‘battle strategy’ for reaching the youth of this country.The book has some impressive endorsements from Josh McDowell (guru of anything related to Christian ministry to teens) and Jack Graham (former president of the SBC), to Kay Arthur (Precept Ministries and Bible Study author extraordinaire) and Chuck Colson who writes the forward. So, seeing the book at one of the Battle Cry conferences, I decided to buy it and see what had everyone talking.
The book begins with something of an intended shock-effect couple of first chapters. There, through voluminous statistics, song lyrics, teen testimonials, etc., Luce points out the incredibly negative influence society is having on our teens. In fact, he shows how the media and advertisers are marketing towards them like never before, dangling everything they shouldn’t have before their eyes to entice them to buy their products, leaving the companies wealthy and our teens emotional, physically, and spiritually sick. Luce leaves us wanting to know the answer for how to fix the problems we have seen.
Luce presents his plan in an appealing way (at least for most guys). The plan is presented as a ‘battle plan’ with militaristic terminology and imagery. I find this appealing because the Bible often presents our spiritual conflict as a war – Matt 11:12; Rom 7:23; 2 Cor 10:3; Eph 6:10-20; 1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7; Jas 4:1; 1 Pet 2:11. Other pastors and preachers, like John Piper, use this dramatic imagery to help illustrate and tease out the implications of such teaching for our lives (see especially his book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy).
Despite the appealing nature of his book’s themes and organization, I noticed something disturbing as I was reading – a lack of explaining Scripture. Luce hardly ever explains what the Scripture teaches about an issue, or applies that teaching to the problems facing teens. In fact, in a book that numbers 199 pages, Luce only mentions the Bible 31 times! Again, these not explanations of the Bible teaching either, they are simply proof-texts thrown on the back of a sentence or paragraph to support what we says, as on pg 56, where he cites 6 passages to show that God’s people are in a spiritual war. He doesn’t try to explain the significance of those texts’ teaching, he simply quotes them to prove his point.
But what is most disturbing of all is that I cannot find the gospel anywhere in the book! As far as I could find, the word ‘gospel’ is only used once. And it’s not as if he talks about the gospel without using the word ‘gospel.’ You cannot find any explanation of the Christian gospel anywhere in this book. That is, quite frankly, shocking. In a book on Christian ministry to teens, the gospel should be soaking its pages! After all, the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Paul says that gospel is so important that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal 1:8-9).
Then again, this may be the heart of the problem. Maybe Luce doesn’t believe the biblical gospel? I know those are strong words to write, but consider the only way he mentions Christ’s death is in an exemplary way. Because Jesus died in obedience to God’s will, so should we. In fact, Luce sees the heart of Christian commitment being death to self and life for God (pp 66-67). This is not bad! What how can we do this? How is it possible to die to ourselves and our sin when our hearts are sinful and only sin comes from them (Jer 17:9; Prov 4:23)?
The Bible teaches that …
1) Christ died as a sacrifice that appeased God’s wrath against our sins (Rom 3:25);
2) This allows him to forgive our sins and remain just, having punished our sins (Rom 3:21-26);
3) What’s more, when we confess our sins and turn to God with faith in Christ, we receive the righteousness of Christ that allows us to be in right relationship with God (Rom 4:1-5:1);
4) Having been united to Christ in his death and resurrection by God’s Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13-14),
5) we can then follow his leading and put sin to death in our lives (Gal 5:16-25; Rom 6:1-23).
In Luce’s book, I see nothing of Christ’s atoning death for his people’s sins, nothing of Christ’s righteousness for his people, nothing of the need to trust God for something we cannot do on our own, nothing of the true gospel. Luce does talk about God’s forgiveness, but never of the basis of that forgiveness. It seems, if we simply say we’re sorry and live like we’re sorry, then God will forgive us.
This is not simply an oversight in his book, either. Having attended one of the huge, stadium Battle Cry events, I saw his beliefs in action. During the ‘invitation’ time on the first night, hundreds of teens stood and shouted ‘I choose the cross.’ But again, Luce said nothing of Jesus dying for sins. The only time he talked about the cross, he showed it to be an example to us to die to ourselves as Jesus did. Thus, choosing the cross was choosing our own cross to die upon. Though, rooted in Jesus’ own teaching (Mark 8:34), it is nothing less than a distortion of the true gospel.
In the end, I can only believe that Luce is not leading teens to a true knowledge of Christ, but instead is a false teacher who comes in sheep’s clothing but inwardly is a ravenous wolf (Matt 7:15). If I am wrong, then I will gladly admit it! I would love nothing less than for Luce or someone from Teen Mania to respond here or elsewhere with an affirmation of their belief in the biblical gospel and then see them preach it as Paul did (1 Cor 1:23).
I am not trying to attack Luce on a personal level. I think his heart is in the right place. But I do think he does not understand the gospel and therefore is less than Christian. I do not write that with glee or delight. Instead, I write out of a deep concern for our teens who are caught in the mire of our culture’s sin. But what they need is not a call to pull themselves up by their boot straps and live better lives. What they need to hear is the powerful, life-transforming message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I sincerely disagree. As a part of Teen Mania Ministries, I have seen the upclose affects that Ron and TMM have on teenagers across the nation – both the immediate and long lasting affects. TMM’s mission statement is to “Provoke a young generation to a passionate pursuit of Jesus Christ and to take His life giving message to the ends of the Earth” – TMM is doing this day by day, and with God’s help, is doing it well.I would ask that you attend an event, come on a trip or get involved with someone who has, and see the change that God has brought into your/the others person’s life through the use of TMM as a vessel.Thank you for your opinion. You did a great job of sharing it without bashing a fellow beleiver – and I sincerely respect that.
thanks for the feedback, gabriel. i did attend a battle cry event last year at detroit. the overall event was good. (i especially enjoyed hearing steve saint and mincaye!) but again, what worries me is the absense of any mention of the atonement. how can you preach the gospel without saying that Christ died to satisfy God’s wrath againt our sins? Again, the detroit battle cry event could have been a fluke. but during ron’s message (and invitation), it just wasn’t there. there was much i appreciated in his message – about dying to self, living a life wholly dedicated to God, not playing games as a mere ‘follower’ of Christ. all of that is good stuff, but is impossible without the realization you cannot do it on your own. we need God’s strength and God’s grace to put sin to death in our lives. I don’t doubt that many of the teens are really excited after the events and may even see life change. my worry is that it will not last, if it is not based on a true understanding of the gospel. again, as you’ve observed and mentioned in your comments, my concern is not to ‘bash’ ron luce. my concern is the gospel remain pure, seeing lives changed, and Christ exalted and made supreme.
I have never personally met Ron Luce and so I don’t know his heart. I do pray that his heart is in the right place. I did once take a group of teens to a TMM event in Rock Hill, SC. The event was typical youth hype with loud music, drama, videos, and speakers. The set back for me was that Ron Luce was not a good speaker. In fact, not one of the speakers were expositors of the Word. They all used drama and multi-media to keep the teens attention. This is not a problem in itself as long as the gospel is being taught but sadly it was a Billy Graham type atmosphere with a push on “saying the prayer” for salvation.
Again, TMM does wonderful things for the youth of America and my prayer is that God will use TMM and Ron Luce to honor his Son. I simply did not find the event useful nor Luce a very good evangelist. These are my own opinions.
thanks for the comments, roy. i agree with you – i do not know his heart, but i do think its in the right place. like you, i am not all that opposed to excitement, drama, etc, as long as the message is sound. and therein lies the problem. i just couldn’t find the gospel there. it kills me to think of hundreds of youth serving Christ, but never knowing him! thanks again for your comments.
very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
thanks for the comment. what do you not agree with?
Interesting article. Like others have mentioned, I am very impressed that you did not slam Ron as many others who disagreed with him might have done. You did a very nice job criticizing an issue which troubled you without seeming to directly offend Mr. Luce. And I do agree with you that it might be better for Ron to have gone a bit more in depth on his salvation message and speaking on the gospel in his book, but I would not go so far as to call him a “ravenous wolf” or “less than Christian.” You must realize that his book was written to tell people what needs to be done to save this next generation, so his target audience is primarily those who already know and understand the gospel and do not need it explained to them again. He also most likely wanted to keep it short to keep young people’s attention. You can only fit so much in one book.
I happen to personally know Ron Luce, and I know that he is a strong, evangelical, Bible-believing Christian. He knows and understands the gospel very well. However, his mission is to call Christians to action to save the next generation. Yes, he is giving large altar calls and bringing many kids to Christ, but if youll take some time to look around his site, http://www.battlecry.com, you’ll see that his primary mission is to stir up others to go out and bring in the lost because he knows that he, nor anyone else, can do it on their own.
And if this helps you understand his ministries foundation a little bit better, here is a Doctrinal Statement of Ron Luce’s Battlecry organization as posted on the website:
“We believe the Bible to be the inspired, only infallible, authoritative Word of God. We believe that there is one God eternally existent in three persons: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His personal return in power and glory. We believe in the resurrection of the saved to eternal life, and the everlasting punishment of those who have rejected God’s forgiveness in His Son. We strive to contribute to achieve greater unity in all that we do within the Body of Christ.”
You can follow this link to see that text directly along with other things such as their mission statement and core values:
I hope what I say might help you understand Ron a little bit better as he is a great and powerful man of God who is looking to create a 180-degree turnaround towards Christ from the course the world has been taking.
thanks for the feedback. looking back at the article, i should have said his message (not him) was less than Christian. because i don’t know his heart or standing before God. my concern was only to critique what he says, not so much who he is (although the two are certainly related).
i have no problem with large alter calls or stirring up others to bring in the lost. what concerns me – even in your statement – is the implied disconnect between that and the gospel itself. the gospel is not a get into heaven message that you move beyond in your maturity. the message of the cross is what motivates and empowers believers to live as God’s people every day of their life. it’s the message that causes our hearts to rejoice in God and weep for the lost, driving us to tell others of Christ and his work (romans 10). this is why paul can say everything he taught the corinthians for a year and a half was rooted in the gospel (1 cor 2:2)
thus, the gospel should be across every page of luce’s book. how can you motivate people to share the gospel, if you don’t present the gospel? luce’s book really only dealt with the moral problems in society. am i concerned about those things? absolutely! but the solution is not to try to live better – that’s just cleaning the outside of the cup (matt 23:25). the solution is to allow God to transform our hearts so that we do not desire those sinful activities. and that doesn’t happen apart from the gospel.
i did look at the doctrinal statement after attending the battlecry event in detroit. and i would certainly agree with that it says. however – and this is my main concern – that’s NOT what he said at the event. luce never actually explained the gospel. he never explained that we receive forgiveness by the substitutionary death of Christ – that he paid the penalty for our sins. that being right with God comes through having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (romans 4-5). these things are basic to the gospel, and he never mentioned or hinted at them.
again, the cross was simply pictured as an example – Christ died in obedience to God, therefore you should die to your sinful ways and live for God. that’s no gospel. that’s a message of salvation by works. and so for all those kids who went down, thinking they were Christians, renouncing a life of sin, they have instead become gospel-hypocrites, thinking they are saved but really trusting in their own righteousness to make themselves before God. how terrible! the real gospel message did not come before the altar call, it came the next morning through steve saint and mincaye.
i know that many will point to the large numbers of kids who seem to have changed lives because of the battlecry events. but anecdotal evidence isn’t enough. the mormon church has thousands of people who live moral lives, but according to paul are still “dead in trespasses and sins . . . following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience . . ., carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (eph 2:1-3). why? because they don’t know Christ. they have never placed their faith in HIM for salvation.
i know many will disagree with me. and that’s fine – it’s america! but i want to be crystal clear on why i think if what i heard in detroit is his typical message, then few are being saved through his ministry.
I am doing some research on the Aquire the fire/Battle Cry Conference and the teachings of Mr. Ron Luce. I have great reservations about the methods that Mr Luce is using to convey a message that in itself is true; seems to lack the love of God and the teachings of Jesus. I began by reading, “Battle Cry For A Generation.” I believe that the warnings of the secular world views and secular lures are something that every Christian family should take seriously, discerning and conveying to their own children. Yet, rallying children to see these Secular Companies and organizations as, “Enemies, Virtual Terrorist and Pigs in the Pigpin”etc., etc. does not seem to convey to a lost world, the love of God. 1 Corinthians 13:1 says “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbol.” Verse 13:4-8 says, “Love is patient and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; Does not behave rudely, does not seek it’s own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the Truth; Bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, Love never fails.”
I believe that we need to be reaching teens, tweens and children of all ages with the True Gospel of Peace. We are called to make disciples, not soldiers. God is the One who does the work in us and through us and is the only One who completes the work in us. My heart for the next generation would be a restored hope in the reliability and trust-worthiness of the truth, the Word of God. That they would come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, who is only known through His Word. I believe that we need to be discipling our teens, tweens and children to know the love of God FOR THEMSELVES. You can not give away what you do not understand. Jesus said , “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How can we love our neighbor as ourselves, if we do not truly have a deep understanding of how deep God’s love is for us on a personal level with our Savior. His love for us does not stop at the cross and is not dependent on our performance whether our performance it is fruitful or unfruitful, His love for us does not change! This revelation of God’s love comes through trusting that His Word is truth. We need to take God at His Word, believing His eternal promises and that His Word stands forever and does not change. Jesus said that it was and is the Truth that sets us free, not our protest of what is considered evil. I believe that IF professing born again believers of Jesus Christ, as the body of Christ , could see ourselves as the victors that God sees us as; more than conquerors, the righteousness of God in Christ, no longer seen in His eyes as wretched sinners; we could rise up and be seen by the next generation the way that God means for us to be seen by a lost and dying world. I grew up not knowing who I was, not having any self esteem, not having any self worth, and I fell into a performance based religion. Then I was born again, God through His Abundant Mercy and Grace began to disciple me through His Word. Over a period of a few years, He began to reveal to me His incredible unchanging love for me and also began showing me that His love was not dependent on my performance. I began to meditate on who God saw me as and I mean to tell you that God has set me free from the condemnation and guilt over past sins. He began renewing my mind with what He feels about me and I have begun the journey of abundant living. I have been freed and now I can truly love people, especially lost people, like I never could before. Teens, tweens, and children of all ages need to know that God loves them and accepts them not on the bases of becoming a radical extremist, but because He is Love! Our first responsibility to teens should be to share the gospel with them, that God loves them, that Christ paid the eternal sin debt in full for them and He wants to have an eternal relationship with them. Everyone wants to be accepted and Jesus does too! If we teach these teens to stand up for their rights and speak out against whatever offends them everytime they pass by a shopping window in a mall, how are we teaching them to be any different from the way the world behaves. The Media is the biggest platform for speaking out and slandering the names of all kinds of groups and people. What are we doing that is any different? Why would they then look at these same Children of God, and want the Spirit of God that we profess? You can put the armor on children and tell them that they have a battle to win the souls of millions but that puts such a burden on their backs! Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are burderned and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If you want to help children who are cutting, using drugs, having premarital sex, etc….Share the love of God with them through the sharing of the gospel(good news) and disciple them! Then help them to get rooted and grounded in the love of God. It is the Word of God that changes hearts and renews our minds. Methods will have a large percentage of returning void, God’s Word wont! Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God. If Mr. Luce really wants to wage a war, he needs to wage it against an already defeated enemy called the devil! I have not yet read in his book any thing that is attacking the mind behind the deceived lost souls. I have only read so far in the book, but I would think that by this time, I should have seen more slander of the devil than what I have thus far. He seems to have forgotten Jesus’ words in John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ” I will be praying for Mr Luce, because he has a huge platform that can effect the tender minds of young people of all ages, but I have deep concern for a man that professes the same Savior as I, and attacks his own.
thanks for your comment, lori! God bless.
what is the purpose behind this exceedingly long convo on a man that you hardly know?
unless you should come and sit down with this man and talk to him in person and know hiw background, you can have nothing more to say that can be deemed as legit.
Dear opal montgomery,
I very much disagree. As he has stated many times, John is not attacking Ron Luce. He is attacking his message and methodology. Given that he’s read Luce’s book, attending his conference, and more, he has full right to critic Mr. Luce’s message.
Your argument sounds very much like what the media does to Christians all the time- that is short circuiting rational arguments via attacking the arguer’s so-called “inexperience.” I.e, “You have nothing to say about homosexuality if you’re not a homosexual.” Or as Rob Bell would say, “You can’t say anything about homosexuality unless you have homosexual friends.”
Please make sure your argument is sound before you call someone else’s entire well-reasoned blog entry “illegitimate.”
thanks for the response, caleb. i would agree with him, opal. i’m not taking aim at ron luce as a person, but the message/method he employs in this ministry. just as anyone could criticize my message from my sermon notes, blog, etc., so i think anyone in the public eye is in some sense ‘fair game.’ specifically, i am very hard on people who seem to distort the precious truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am a Catholic Youth Minister, and in the last few weeks I have recieved 2 phone calls about attending Acquire the Fire. So I have been doing some research on the ministry. I agree with your assesment of his message. Sometimes I find that Youth Pastors can develop a Messiah complex, in which it’s more about them and what they believe are the real problems with the world, rather than walking with the Youth on their journey in faith. And I believe that is our main function whether it be the 25,000 teens in a stadium, or 15 in a Youth Group some where, we walk with these teens on their path to deepen their faith, not neccesarily mobilizing them to fight against things that Ron says aren’t good. Now while I’m not going to show inapproprate videos to my Youth group, or play inappropriate music, I cannot shield them from the entire world. So it is our responsibility (along with most importantly their parents) to teach them how to make choices for themselves and encourage them to live their faith everyday. I have been in a few badly run Youth Ministries growing up, from a Congregational Church that had us praying for the souls of the Jewish people in front of a Jewish Temple, to a Catholic Youth Ministry that believed that we were all going to start speaking in tongues, and when a respected authority figure tells you something like, as an impressionable teen, you are going to start thinking that way. It’s sort of like training Christian robots that don’t ask questions and don’t talk back which is not faith at all. I doubt I will go to the Aquire the Fire event because from the things I have read and watched from Ron, I can’t help but think that he is just pushing his personal agenda rather than deepening the Faith of the Youths there to see him. As people in any Youth Ministry our goals are to facilitate full personal and spiritual growth. Jesus had a very clear cut message, love…no exceptions.
thanks for the wise words, brother. i agree that it’s important to help teach our children to make wise decisions for life in a sinful world (i think there might even a book in the Bible about that ;-) ) and i very much agree that parents should be involved in the discipleship of their children/youth. Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6 make this clear. An excellent place to start is a book called Family Driven Faith.
I am deeply concernd for my 19 yr old son. He is attending the Honor Academy of Ron Luce in Texas at this time. We had agreed to this after several acquire the fire and battle cry events. My son was to attend Liberty University in their honors program in the fall. At this time Teen Mania has asked him to stay to be mentored into leadership of a new Honor’s Academy somewhere over seas after completing this 4 yr trainning. Against what we as his parents want Teen Mania has not encouraged him to honor his parents. We are not going to support this decision. My son is adament God has called him to do this. We want what will best equip him for his future. “College” away from there. If you know anything that might help me reach my son please email me back.
My son is not behaving like we ever trained him up to be. Never has he gone against anything we have ever said. Really that is true….. He is not acting like my son. Like Gabe says, somewhat like a robot. He knows better…. Please help.
i’m sorry to hear about your son. it sounds like your son has a earnest desire to serve the Lord, and that is great to hear. i would begin by encouraging him about that. let him know that you and your husband are proud of him for that. then, i would offer him this bit of counsel . . . . encourage him to take the time to pursue a degree that will better equip him to serve God to the best of his ability. some asked me why i went to seminary. my response was, ‘i never want to look back and think i made silly mistakes, or taught wrongly, or provided poor leadership because i rushed into ministry without training.’ liberty would also give him a degree after four years, while the honor academy would not. furthermore, your son will be able to study with very reputable scholars at liberty. (luce’s ministry is endorsed by benny hinn, which scares me tremendously). finally, if your son is anxious to get into ministry, i’m sure that liberty would provide him many opportunities to serve God while he was studying there.
you might also remind him that a call is to be tested. after all, we are sinful and can often misread what we think is God, when it’s really our own impulses and desires. remind him that a call from God will never contradict the Bible. if you and your husband were unbelievers, the situation might be different. but as believing parents, your counsel should be important to him. if you think his decision is unwise, he should consider that you are older and wiser than he is at 18 yrs old. furthermore, he should seek counsel from his pastor. as great as he may think teen mania is, it’s not a church organization. God only promises to bless his church in the new testament. as good as some other groups outside the might be, we should always see ourselves under the authority and guidance of our local church.
i hope this helps. feel free to email me directly – johnbotkin [AT] yahoo [DOT] com. if you want to talk further. can i add you and your son to my prayer list?
Mr. Luce shouldn’t have to rewrite the whole bible in his books! As a young person, i’ve been taught in school that it’s good to use quotes to prove my points whether i’m writing an article, essay, whatever. I’ve read Battle Cry for a generation myself and i love it. it opened my eyes so much more to what is really going on in today’s society.
This book is about how to reach out to a generation; a generation who has actually HEARD of the Gospel, they just choose not to believe it. This book is to equip youth pastors and give a better understanding of teenage society. This book is not contrare to the Gospel accounts, it just gives a more modern view point of what is really going on.
who are you to judge Mr. Luce and what he believes? maybe you yourself should go back and read the Gospel and re learn how because Christ died for us we can walk out in freedom for our sin. though we were condemned and born in sin, Jesus paid the price that we can be free of that. it’s called repentance. we sin, we turn to God to clean us off. in this way of trying to be more and more like Jesus, we have to die to ourselves, our sinful nature, our flesh. maybe you have a sin in your life that constantly holds you back, we’re all human we all do; but your missing the gift that came on the cross by saying that we can’t die to ourselves and our flesh. it’s a constant battle, it’s a process.
hi noel, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. let me clarify a few things from my original post. when i say that the gospel is not talked about in the book, i am not asking him to rewrite the bible; that he should go over the entirely of the life of Christ. that is a meaning of the word gospel – an account of the life of Christ (i.e. matthew, mark, luke, john). but here i am meaning gospel as the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. in other word the message that the apostles were entrusted with, and every Christian generation must guard and proclaim for the salvation of sinners.
the gospel message can be sumamrized by 1 cor 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” as sinners we stand guilty before a holy God. nothing we can do can ever make us right with God. the bible says says even our best work is but filthy rags before God. we are born sinful and live a life of slavery to sin unless God himself intervenes (rom 3:10; eph 2:1-4). and this is what God has done. though he cannot just brush aside our sin, God must judge it, he chose to send Christ to stand in our place. he lives a perfect life of righteousness, then allowed himself to be crucified in place of sinners. so when we look, not to our own righteousness, but to Christ in faith for salvation, God does two things. first, he considers the righteousness of Christ our righteousness, and second, he considers our sins judged on the cross of Christ. in this way, we have the holiness with which we need to see God and the punishment for our sins has been met – God provides the way for us to be with him (rom 3:21-26). that’s the gospel.
that message of how sinners are made right with God is the foundation of our lives of Christians. but is not something we leave behind as we mature. from our motivation to holiness and the basis for our methodology in ministry, everything should flow out of the message of the gospel. so, that’s what i’m talking about when i say ‘gospel.’ and my point was, that message is strangely absent from luce’s speaking and writing. if he believes this, then he is a Christian and i rejoice in that! but if seems as if he is not teaching this. it seems like he is saying by simply repenting and seeking to live a good life, we are saved. repentance is important! it is how we acquire salvation in the first place and maintain our relationship with God. but repentance alone doesn’t save. God saves by forgiving our sins on the basis of Christ death for us. and our righteousness doesn’t bring us to God, Christ’s righteousness does. our holy lives, our good works are simply the fruit of God’s grace in our life and the natural response to what God has done for us (eph 2:8-10; rom 12:1-2).
i believe i can offer my critique of luce because i am a christian and he claims to be one. all of us, according to Scripture is accountable to God and one another. if i believe that he is speaking a message that draws people away from Christ and leads them to depend on their own good deeds to get them to heaven, then i have every right to speak out against that message.
i hope this clarifies things a little. feel free to add something more, or ask another questions. blessings!
Wow, …Talk about persecution for the sake of the”gospel”….
I tihnk a good clear definition of what the “gospel” is would be great, my thoughts go to Galation 3:8. This would help start, then we could look at Luke 4:18-21.
Ron Luce has done more for the generation of young people on the large scale than, in my opinion, anyone in a long time! He has brought a truth of a large scale attack on young people. He has by the leading of the Holy Spirit brought a vision to every youth group in the world to “double and disciple” every year.
Is this selfish, or promoting his own agenda by encouraging others to reach more student for the sake of the “gospel”.
You might not agree with the “method” but did not Jesus himself have this problem? “Mainline” religion opposed Jesus’ methods.
I am a youth pastor of 7 years and have had a renewal in my spirit to do “more” “fight harder” to bring the teens in my area of influence out of “Egypt”, out of the world.
Mark 9:40, “if they are not against us, then they are on our side.”
More time should be spent opposing other youth movements such as MTV, this has been a waste of good web space to try and condemn someone who is doing the best they can at reaching young people!
How sad it is to be used unknowingly or knowingly by the devil to pollute people about one of God’s chosen!
I think more people should do what Ron has done…stand up to the world and say…LET GODS YOUTH GO!
let me ask you a question: do large numbers equal blessings from God? in other words, can you look at a church and assume if they are large they are doing what they should and God is honored with the message that is being preached there?
my answer to that is no. in the ot, huge parts of the nation of israel (including some kings) followed false prophets. numbers do not equal ministry success. my problem is NOT with the methodology of the luce – this is important to understand. my problem is with the message.
in his sermon, Christ was the example, but not the Savior. the gospel says that first and foremost, Christ is the Savior (by his death we are made right with God), then and only then, does Christ become our example. luce doesn’t seem to get that, or is at least unclear about this in his preaching. and the great danger is a generation that is depending on their ability to resist culture and sin to get them to heaven, instead of trusting in the blood of Christ alone to get them to heaven.
“fighting harder” as you say is good, but only after you have first trusted more sincerely. faith comes before living; grace comes before holiness. that’s the bible teaching. for example, the calls to live a godly life in romans 12-16 come AFTER paul rehearses the saving mercy of God in chapter 1-11. and so he can say, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (12:1). it is because God has shown us mercy in Christ, saved us and brought us forgiveness of sins through Christ, that we are to now live holy lives.
it’s easy to get young people fired up for a cause, but are they actually getting saved? this is dangerous territory to be in. and it’s more than appropriate to question luce given the fact that he claims to be a Christian. it’s a no-brainer that the mtv culture is sinful and wrong. but are Christians being duped with a false gospel? that’s my concern.
Anyone who knows Ron Luce knows that when he preaches he does so with Sound Doctrine.He uses the bible when he preaches at every event such as BattleCry/ATF events and at Creation Fest.His book “BattleCry For A Generation” is not intended to re-write the gospels, but to wake up the church to the moral decay that is happening in our generation.
By the way if you really look in to Teen Mania Ministries you will see that every program is dedicated to reaching out with the love of Christ to this lost and broken generation.Programs such as Global Expeditions,Extreme Camps,Center For Creative Media,Honor Academy,TrueNorth Leadership Seminars and of course BattleCry/ATF Events.TMM mission statement is “To provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus Christ and to take His life-giving message to the ends of the earth!”.
By the way I am going to the Honor Academy in January.God Bless
From TMM website http://www.teenmania.com/corporate/index.cfm
Teen Mania’s Beliefs:
We believe the Bible to be the inspired, only infallible, authoritative Word of God. We believe that there is one God eternally existent in three persons: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His personal return in power and glory. We believe in the resurrection of the saved to eternal life, and the everlasting punishment of those who have rejected God’s forgiveness in His Son. We strive to contribute to achieve greater unity in all that we do within the Body of Christ.
Teen Mania is not affiliated with one specific denomination, but works with all denominations. Each year, youth groups from over 50 denominations attend the Acquire the Fire youth events. We believe strongly in creating unity within the Body of Christ. To truly make a difference on this generation, the largest teenage generation in history, we must partner together.
Teen Mania is committed to partnering with the local church by providing events, camps, and mission trips that facilitate life-changing encounters, leadership training for teens, and resources for parents and church leaders.
thanks for the stopping by, raymond (and for the info from the website). i’m not sure how to respond though because you didn’t anything specific from the discussion. as i said before, i think he is well-intentioned but seems misinformed about the gospel itself. and again, i’m not talking about the books of the bible referred to as gospels but the message of the gospel that speaks of Christ’s death for sinners. it’s that message (and only that message) that will transform teens and adults alike, bringing salvation and sanctification to their lives.
I have taken my youth group to many aquire the fire, and battle cry events, and I disagree with you. I have had kids come to know Christ for the first time, Grow their relationship with Him, bringing it to a much deeper place. I’ve had kids challenged to serve Christ, and try to win their generation. I have seen fire that has lasted for years in my kids. I have used Ron’s resources, and they have impacted my youth ministry.
The book wasn’t written for kids who were not saved. it was written for youth Pastors who hopefully already know the gospel story. And if you have ever read any of Ron’s other books, you would know that he has presented the gospel in meaningful ways repeatedly. Maybe he doesn’t do it like Billy Grahm. Billy Grahm is a personal hero for me! But Ron is tackling a very different generation, therefore has to do things differently.
i really do appreciate everyone who is more connected to the acquire the fire events posting comments here. dialog is always helpful! but i think that one of my points is being missed. regardless of who the book is being written for, the life-transforming message of the gospel should be its heart and soul. whether it’s a book on marriage, or anger, preaching, or youth ministry, or whatever, it simply cannot be a great Christian book without the gospel.
this has been my point all along. i’m not saying that luce is a bad guy or ill-intentioned. quite the contrary, i think he has a heart for young people that i great admire and respect. i just think that – based on his book and his sermon i heard – there is a confusion about the gospel that permeates his message and methodology.
John I agree with you.
As someone who went on TeenMania trips as a teenager and my experience now as a counselor for teens, I think you are right when you say that the ministry does not present the “how” to living out the love of Jesus in a fallen world. The teachings I received while there, and those heard by friends of mine who attended the Honor Academy simply emphasized the need to stand out and be as different as possible,. In a way that made you feel as though you had to keep track of your sins and condemn those around you. It presented no methods for reaching people with Christ’s love.
although i’m sorry to hear that about the teenmania ministry, i am glad that you shared from your own experience. what you’ve described would fit with what i spoke about earlier. thanks again for the comment.
some of you who have commented or have read through the discussion may want to see the practical application of what i mean when i speak about the gospel being the center of our justification and sanctification.
here’s a great article:
Click to access cvt_sanctification.pdf
and if you want more, a whole collection of material is here:
I was part of a youth group in the early to mid 90’s when “Acquire the Fire” was just becoming popular. I stumbled upon this article and was struck by this quote:
“…and so for all those kids who went down, thinking they were Christians, renouncing a life of sin, they have instead become gospel-hypocrites, thinking they are saved but really trusting in their own righteousness to make themselves before God.”
This was definitely my experience as a young teenager growing up in church being schooled by TMM curriculum and events. One of the most stressful years of my spiritual life as a teenager involved going through the devotional “10 Challenges of a World Changer” by Ron Luce. I spent the year feeling very intensely ashamed of myself for not being able to meet the “challenges” laid out in the book. Looking back on this time in my life I can see the negative effects of this “works based” approach. Even as someone raised in the church, the message of the gospel was not communicated to me through these TMM texts and youth conferences.
It was not until years later that I had my own personal reformation and finally understood 2 Corinthians 2:9 – “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
You have put into words things I have felt about this ministry for a while now but could never quite pinpoint. Thank you for writing this article!
thank you for sharing about your own struggles in the past. I’m glad the Lord led you to 2 cor 2:9! to truly grasp that salvation and the pursuit of holiness is by grace alone really is freeing isn’t it? thanks again for the encouraging post.
I find it heart breaking that we spend so much time pointing out what is wrong with each other and our doctrines. I wonder how many of us who are concerned about how the Gospel is presented and the purity of it are winning souls. How many lives are being changed and while I believe every ministry can and should grow in grace. How many of us are growing in grace of the ministry that the Lord has commissioned us each to do for him. I also wonder if we as Christians would spend as much time trying to find fault with others we are suspicious of for what ever reason trying to change lives for Jesus where would our nation be?
i don’t believe that theological precision and passionate ministry need to be mutually exclusive, richard. biblical history and church history show this over and over again. it’s fashionable today to say things ‘doctrine divided’ but love, friendship, and tolerance unites. the bible says this distinction is a false one. the church is actually built up and united and empowered for ministry by the teaching of God’s word – by doctrine and it’s application to life (eph 4:1-16).
what’s more, the discussion here is not about fine points of doctrine that are non-essential. what is at stake is the gospel itself – the message of how Christ saves sinners. the Bible clear says this is of first importance (1 cor 15:3). paul even went so far as to say that whoever preaches a different gospel than biblical one should be accursed (gal 1:6-10).
should we as Christians divide over non-essential issue? no! when we do disagree should we be gracious and loving towards one another? yes! should be above all else seek to maintain the purity and clarity of the most important message in all the world (the gospel)? YES!
I just want to say that I HAVE met Ron Luce, and have spoken with him intently on his beliefs and relationship with God.His intentions are not to steer the youth of this generation away from God. Nor does he try to ignore the sacrifice that was made by Christ on Calvary. Mr. Luce and Teen Mania Ministry strives to bring the lost youth of this country to the cross, and to share the message of God’s forgiveness with them. Ron is in no way a “fluke” or a “fake” as he continues to minister and help bring thousands to salvation each year. In my opinion, there need to be more people in the world who make the effort that Ron makes to further the kingdom of God.
I’m not impugning Luce’s motives. I’m sure he has very good motives. My complaint is with his message as I’ve heard him at one of his rally’s and in his books. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned someone is, what matters is what they do with Christ (Matt 7:21-23). Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.
I think this is a very valid point about the book in question. I’m an intern at the Honor Academy of TMM, and am constantly defending and contending for the biblical gospel – from staff and other interns alike.
My beliefs have changed dramatically since being here, and i have also seen a rather large turn among the other interns as well to the true gospel and other biblical truth.
I am noticing a turning back to Sola Scriptura causing lots of kids here to turn back to what the bible says alone. I would highly appreciate your prayers for everyone on campus with me – and myself.
Thanks for the post!
Soli Deo Gloria!
I just wanted to say that there is very sound truth to the facts you have presented with the article. I have been on 5 of Teen Mania mission trips, 4 of their ATF events and someone who is almost done with his 2nd year at their internship in Texas. I agree about saying I think that his heart is in the right place but to say that he is faithfully preaching the gospel in all these different facets of the ministry wouldn’t be honest(at least from the perspective of knowing the one true gospel through biblical exegesis from the Bible on what is the true Gospel). It is my opinion that the vast majority of people attending these events aren’t getting saved and if they are, it is because God is saving them in spite of what is being presented as the Gospel.
Nick and rimshots (great name), thanks for leaving some feedback from an “insider” perspective. I have been and will continue to be in prayer for Mr Luce and the larger ministry. Blessings, brothers!
My wife and I allowed our daughter to attend the Honor Academy 2008-09. Our daughter discovered that Ron Luce preaches a false gospel. Youth were ordered off the campus for duscussing theology. She knew more about the scriptures than those who taught them. Authority was given to 18 and 19 year olds without accountablility. False accusations were considered fact without proof to back them up. She was told by a staff member that the biblical form of accountablility didn’t work in the ministry our daughter was placed in,that the world standard would be applied. We felt deceived by the academy’s claims. We feel it does not represent Christ truthfully. Persecution will come to the American church because of ministries like this one.
I’m sorry to hear about the situation your daughter found herself in. I hope she can find a better outlet for her gifts and desire to serve Christ. Though it’s not an academy per se, conferences like the Rebelution and Next might prove more helpful in encouraging her with gospel-centered messages.
Thank you for your article. The church definately needs more discernment. Perhaps if the church showed as much discernment as you have, it wouldn’t be in the pickle that it is in with all of the false teachers and false prophets.
When someone uses discernment, it is always “how dare you judge” but we must judge (discern) what is being taught in the church. Why not hold each other accountable? Two or three witnesses are not needed when it is being taught from the pulpit or when it is out in the open (like a published book).
Thanks again. PS The gift of discernment is one of the most difficult gifts to have. You must have tough skin.
Thanks for the encouragement, Vicki. My skin has definitely toughened since I became a pastor ;-)
Hi Pastor John.
As a youth pastor it is essential to me when researching a youth event that the speakers, officials etc. Promote the gospel of Christ. So I can very much appreciate where you are coming from.
That being said, I do believe you are missing a main point that many here seem to be trying to explain. That point being that the main concern you have with Ron.(that he doesnt seem to promote a proper understanding of the gospel)..is in fact NOT the case.
As a speaker that publically addresses youth and parents on a weekly basis…I know that no single message or devotional I deliver can fully define my ministry. (I had one mother promise to keep her children out of our youth program because after hearing me speak a few times on sharing Christ with the lost she assumed that the church’s entire youth ministry was so focused on evangelism that we had no focus on discipleship…when actually the OPPOSITE was the case… (6 out of 8 meetings a month are discipleship focused)… and thus was my reason for preaching as God moved me and emphasizing the importance of evangelism! Perhaps you just have not seen the full scope of Mr Luce’s ministry. And misunderstand him just as the above mentioned mother misunderstood my church’s youth ministry.
Perhaps we can even see an example of this in our study of scripture. No single message or passage from any author of scripture can fully grasp every nuance of the biblical message of the atoning work of Christ. Instead this amazing message is related to us throughout old and new testements.
This is not to say that the gospel cannot be simple and one must be a biblical scholor to truly be a Christian. But on the other hand we must strive to understand Our Lord and his message to us by studying the entirety of scripture…not one single passage or a single book…etc.
So perhaps….you are doing the same to Mr luce and his ministry that has been done to scripture time and again…you are taking the bits and peices you have heard and drawn your own conclusions without really knowing the entire ministry.
Admittedly I dont know all of Mr Luce’s theology and before bringing my teens to a future event I will most certainly do some more prayerful research. (this has been a help… so thank you ) As said already, several here seem to have explained that the ATF messages by Luce and others do in fact promote the gospel that you describe and do not promote some “other” gospel as you fear.
However, your thoughts do serve to remind all of us in Ministry to be sure we promote a gospel of grace and not of law, a gospel of dependency on the atoning work of Christ and not on the work of our hands, a gospel in line with the truth we find only in teh Christ of scripture!
Thank you for you insight
just an apology to all for the run on sentences and spelling errors.
PB, I appreciate your comments about taking a person’s ministry out of context. Admittedly, I have a limited exposure to what Ron Luce does and says. And I’m certainly not perfect.
But Mr Luce committed about the worst sin imaginable for a preacher of the gospel the night I heard him speak – he got the gospel wrong. He wasn’t just unclear. He didn’t just present one aspect of the gospel. He turned the gospel of grace into the gospel of works. Paul doesn’t have much good to say about that (Galatians 1).
Let’s continue to strive together for discernment about the most important thing for the Christian faith (1 Cor 15:1-4).
From everything I have read about Mr Luce I stand by the opinion that you are taking his talk ou of context. Speakers make mistakes. Authors make mistakes. But to claim that Luce preaches a works theology after reading a book calling Christians to action and hearing a single message is a leap at best.
The message of the gospel that Paul preaches can not and should not be fully defined by a single book, chapter or verse of scripture. One could easily take a single verse of Pauls writings and completely misinterpret what he preaches. I believe this is what you have doen for Ron Luce and I think you need to be more open to that possibilty rather than doggedly stick to your guns on your stance with him.
As Christians we are called to continually grow in our relationship to Christ and the body of Christ. If you belive Mr luce has made a error it has then become your responsability to do you best to contact him and discuss the matter. Perhaps God has placed this emphasis on your heart not to criticize and call to question Luce’s ministry but rather to refine it.
None of us will reach the place where our ministry cannot be further refined and our presentation of the gospel cannot be improved until we see Him face to face. You, I and Ron Luce all fit into that description. I will be praying that God moves you to speak to Him and (opens the doors for that conversation) and that that conversation bears fruit for God’s glory.
You’ve made a mistake in reading the post and the comments. I’m not basing his understanding of the gospel on the book. Rather, I’m basing his understanding of the gospel from the 45+ minute message he gave at a national Battlecry conference. There, he called thousands of teens to become Christians but told them to do by essentially saving themselves – become right with God by dying to your sin and living moral lives.
There was NO explanation of the cross as the means by which we are able to be forgiven for sins and Spirit given to empower us to not to sin. In other words, he preached a false gospel of works and created hundreds of gospel-hypocrites who now think they saved and are still lost in their sins.
Based on that message, I then read through the book being offered at the conference and heavily promoted as the solution for the rampant sin among youth and the culture. In that book, there was no gospel only moralism. I was not looking for the book to explain the gospel, but rather to show its centrality in youth work. But it did not. Thus, I am drawing the conclusion that Mr Luce fails to grasp with clarity the message of the cross as the means of salvation and sanctification.
Does this make better since? I’m not trying to be unfair in any way. But for man who holds himself up as the leader of national youth event, I think he should be able to present a clear presentation of the cross of Christ right before an altar call. If not, then is irresponsbile at best, ignorant of the gospel at worst.
I did send a letter, but have not yet heard back from anyone involved at TeenMania. In fact, the only replies on this post from people who work wit Luce have been to say, ‘But look at all the good he does!’ My point is whatever fruit they think they see is false fruit if it isn’t based on the one message that alone that will save and sanctify. Charles Finney did not have a grasp of the gospel. And at the end of his life, he was amazed at how many of his so-called “converts” eventually left the Church and no real impact was felt from his ministry. I fear Luce will find himself in the same boat.
None of us are perfect, but we have been given a perfect message by which all that we say and do will one day be measured.
Thanks for the comments on Finney and the importance of the gospel, Vicki.
Good points John.
That is very unfortunate that there has been no repsonse to your letter. Your thoughts have definately given me pause when considering bringing my teens to a ATF event.
Vicky…I do appreciate your concern and comments. However, no Pastor can fully explain the gospel and what is necessary for salvation in EVERY sermon. In Our church we make a statement each week that if someone attending would like to learn more about Jesus or would like to recieve Him as Savior and Lord then they will have an opportunity to pray with one of our team members after the service.
Even in churches where an invitation to recieve Christ is given in each service, you will find that in most services where the sermon doesnt revolve around that decision, the invitation is very brief and not fully explained. In those churches as in my own, it is hoped that if God is working within the individual, that even if the message itself does not revolve around conversion, the individual with whom God is communicating will respond to the brief invitation.
There is a place for evangelism in the church service and there is a place for equipping the saints for service. No Pastor can fully excompass the gospel during every sermon unless He focuses each sermon on that message…and if he does so most often his people do not grow beyond infancy in the faith.
The Pastor’s calling is to equip the saints…therefore the PEOPLE (and the pastor) should be evangelising OUTSIDE the church. Sunday morning should not be the place we expect all our evangelism to be done. If this is the case we are most likely not sharing the gospel with the people who need to hear it. This is not to say that church people and Christians dont need to hear it…we ALL do….but we need to remember that Jesus came not for the healthy…but the sick.
PB (Pastor Brian)
Vicky, Finney did deny original sin as well as any forensic (legal) understanding of justification. Though he may not have emphasized love like Wimber, he did take the language of the courtroom out of his understanding of salvation.
It depends on what you mean by “fully explain” the gospel. It is possible to give a gospel presentation in 2-5 minutes that is sufficient for saving faith? Absolutely! But will that presentation exhaust the depths of the Bible’s message on God’s salvation of sinners? No.
Nevertheless, the pattern of the Bible is that the gospel is always intimately connected to any message to the lost and believers. Christians are told how to grow in their faith by the gospel. You never get past it. So for instances in the Bible we see –
Romans 1-11 (gospel), 12-16 (application)
Ephesians 1-3 (gospel), 4-6 (application)
Hebrews keeps cycling:
Hebrews 1 (gospel), 2:1-4 (application)
Hebrews 2:5-3:6 (gospel), 3:7-4:13 (application), etc.
– we could go. But my point is, the gospel has to (in some way) be at the heart of every message that is preached from any pulpit to any people. As a pastor I am called to equip and build up the saints. How do I do that? By preaching the message of the cross and all of its implications for life.
Do we do all of our evangelism inside the church? I agree with you, no. We are to going as we make disciples (Matt 28). Nevertheless, if we follow the NT pattern of “gospel preaching” to the saints, unbelievers will soon see the richness of the gospel even as the saints are built up.
John, I think we are saying/thinking much the same thing from different starting places.
I agree that each Service (not necessarily sermon) should have enough of the message of the cross that someone might come to faith in Christ during or after the service.
Obviously everything MUST focus and revolve around Christ.
and we are getting WAY off our original discussion here but thats ok. Anyway, I agree with you that if we are “gospel preaching” to the saints some unbelievers will be saved. (But this is becoming less and less common as we see church attendance in our nation dwindling…and less and less unsaved are visiting our services) However, I worry that the church has become satisfied with those few conversions that result from the Pastor’s sermon and have settled for believing that evangelism is the pastor’s job in the sermon and not their’s in life.
As a youth pastor I take no greater joy than seeing the teens of the youth ministry fall so deeply in love with Jesus that they cannot help but share the gospel in their everyday relationships!
When that begins to happen….the church begins to multiply!
I love to share the gospel in my sermons and talks, and pray with teens and adults to recieve Christ! But no less a joy is it to see a lay person being obediant to God and unashamedly share the gospel!
Like I said, I think in the end we see things fairly closely…we just approach it from different angles =)
Great comments and great post. You are ABSOLUTELY right when you say that Teen Mania preaches moralism and is not Gospel centered. I spent 2 years there and they almost destroyed me….I consider it a borderline cult because of the intense spiritual abuse they dish out. Check out my blog if you want more info.
Thanks for the comment, Recovering Alumni. I will check out the blog!
Also, for anyone who is wondering, when we moved from the DTS to here at Magnify Christ, some of the comments got scrambled. Right now, I’m not sure hot fix this, so just look at the date-stamp for the proper order.
It looks like I am showing up extremely late to this party, but I wanted to chime in. I was involved with Teen Mania for years. I will speak from experience when I say Ron Luce is passionate, inspiring, dedicated to reaching youth and tireless. He is not, however, preaching the Gospel or reaching people with actual truth. I believe he sincerely believes what he’s saying. It’s simply not the Gospel.
Thanks. No comment is ever too late!
I’m not sure if you’ll ever see this but I’d like to add my limited perspective.
I went to a WinterJam concert recently and there learned about Global Expeditions. While at WinterJam, we watched Skillet. Now… I am hesitant to share my opinion on this because I have only spoken of my feelings regarding Skillet to one other person. Plus, I do not feel that I have a strong Biblical back-up for my claim, but I do not like Skillet. They were scary and I felt that their general image and attitude did not reflect the image and attitude of Christ. Granted, one of their reasons for holding the image they do is so that they can reach the people who would not normally be drawn to Christianity and the images currently associated with it. But I feel that perhaps the ultimate message in their music is lost in that attempt to reach people by disguising it. I recently had a close friend who is not a Christian show me his music playlist and saw it was filled with Skillet. I mentioned that they were a Christian band and expressed my surprise that he’d have all their songs. He expressed HIS surprise that they were a Christian band and shrugged it off.
Anyway, why did I mention this? I somehow feel that there is a connection… something missing from the ministry to teens.The amount that the true gospel is shared with teens is discouragingly small. It seems almost like little pieces of it are presented at a time, wrapped in a shiny package so that it will be accepted, but hidden beneath layers and layers of tissue paper. The tiny gift in the giant box! So hard to find! Anyway, like someone said (perhaps you… it’s hard to remember after reading all these comments) just because God can make something good from something bad doesn’t mean the bad thing should be accepted.
The bottom line is that Ron Luce’s problem is not difficult to correct. It just takes an extra 3 minutes to include some *very* crucial information about the gospel and Christ.
I was a hardcore Teen Maniac about 16-18 years ago. I went to every single Acquire the Fire event I could. I went on a Global Expeditions Missions Trip. I even attended the Honor Academy. Ron’s persona on stage is totally different from how he is just in person. I walked by him one day while at the Honor Academy and I was thrilled to be so close to my hero. I tried to say hi to him but all he did was gruffly say, “Where’s my daughter?” That shattered a bit of the mystique for me but that wasn’t even the biggest issues I had with Teen Mania. Any time I attended one of these events I got so hyped up and I thought on fire for God. I pledged to live my life to please God and make sure I followed everything Ron said I should. I would go home and the hype would last for a couple of weeks maybe and then it just faded away. I would feel so terrible that I let God down and was not living how I thought I needed to. I thought by going to the Honor Academy I would figure out how to have that fire every day of my life. Boy was I wrong. I basically just learned that I would never be good enough and that it was going to be constant battle all my life. I eventually was kicked out of the Honor Academy because of things I will not go into and was just devastated. My dream was to be the next Ron Luce but he along with his organization rejected me. I lived for years in deep depression and still struggle with it today. I question all the time if any of that stuff was even real. Just a few years ago I learned that Teen Mania was dissolving and that they owed millions to a bunch of people and organizations. There was even an arrest warrant issued for Ron for failing to appear in court. I guess this kind of helped me a little in that I said to myself wow if this organization and this guy really had all these problems maybe it was a good thing I was part of it for only a short time. I still do struggle with my beliefs and wondering if Christianity is even real. I felt like more than help me become a better Christian this organization just smacked me in the face of how bad a Christian I was. Really the whole Teen Mania thing was wrapped up in the name. A lot of Mania but not much else. There was no substance. There was no reaching people where they were. They existed simply to get teens hyped up so that they would buy the merch and go on the missions trips to make money for the organization. Ron was a drug addict when he was a teen and I think he simply translated that into attention and adulation being his drug. I would walk by his office at Teen Mania HQ sometimes and he would just be screaming at someone who did something he didn’t like. I really questioned how he could be the leader of that organization who supposedly emulated Christ and was about love when he was so unChristlike. I feel like Teen Mania damaged a lot of teens and did more harm than good. There are many stories of teens who suffered permanent mental damage at the hands of this man and the organization. It just saddens me to think that so many have completely turned away from God simply because of a guy on a power trip.
I’m so sorry to hear about your bad experience with Luce and this ministry. To your point, situations like this are terrible because of the direct damage done to people like you as well as the bad name it gives to other Christians. I hope you are doing better these days. If you’d like to talk to someone more about these things, please send me a message through the About page. If you don’t feel comfortable talking, I’d like to send you book. I didn’t write it, nor am I associated with it. I just think it is helpful in reframing what the Bible teaches about how imperfect are made acceptable to God through Jesus. I hope it will encourage you. Praying for you!