Last week I shared again in a wonderful time of ministry in Phoenix. It was my third visit to the Valley of the Sun over the last 16 months. My primary purpose has been to be with my dear friend, Jeff Gokee. Jeff is the executive director of PhoenixONE, one of the most hopeful and exciting movements of the Spirit that I’ve personally witnessed in my travels across the U.S.
The mission of PhoenixONE is to be a unified movement of local churches who come together as ONE to reach 20-30 something’s for Christ and connect them to a local faith community. PhoenixONE began about two years ago and now reaches over 1,000 people every other Tuesday evening in downtown Phoenix.
After completing his B.A. at Moody Bible Institute Jeff Gokee originally moved to Phoenix to help plant an urban church. After a series of setbacks he joined the staff of an area mega-church and, after several more years of pastoral ministry, was led to pioneer this ministry to reach out to the generation that has dropped out of religion and stopped attending church in the largest numbers of any previous generation. Millennials (1982 – the present) are the smallest generation in number and the least influenced by Christianity. (They attend church at a rate of less than 10% from all the data I’ve seen!) They are also the most hungry for spiritual reality of any group of people I’ve ever encountered. The potential for a huge move of the Spirit among millennials is obvious but the seed is not being sown effectively into this field. Jeff, his staff and board, understand this and have developed a working model that is reaching young adults with the power of the good news of Jesus.
PhoenixONE meets in historic First Presbyterian Church in downtown Phoenix. (They will be in a new location in the city in 2013 because they ran out of space and parking!) I have watched the attendance and ministry of PhoenixONE grow firsthand. Each time I have been there the crowd is larger and the interest is more obvious. Young adults are coming to Christ each week and churches are catching the fresh waves of a movement of Christ in the valley.
I was one of three presenters last week. Another was David Wraight. David is the International President/CEO of Youth for Christ. Youth for Christ is an interdenominational, Christian-based youth organization that operates in around 110 countries worldwide. I had the joy of sharing dinner with David, and his lovely wife Jenny, before PhoenixONE convened last week. David is the author of The Next Wave: Empowering the Generation That Will Change Our World (NavPress, 2007) and gave a stirring challenge to the young adults to become the people who sacrifice themselves to change the world. His arrows found their way directly into my heart. I received a “recommissioning” of my own heart and vocation to empower this generation for unity in Christ’s mission. Never have I been so deeply challenged to see how my own vision links with partners like David and PhoenixONE. These brothers see what I see and have invested their lives in empowering young adults to be the generation that will truly change the world.
PhoenixONE is a mixture of worship, fellowship, inspiration, motivation and opportunity. It does not exist to be a substitute for the local church but a movement that reaches young adults and sends them into area churches with the support and vision they need to become effective disciples in local contexts. This is the real genius of this work. It does not supplant the church but it renews it by reaching and sending converts back into the churches of the area. Many churches are slow to get on board but nearly 20 are active in their support for PhoenixONE and almost 200 have young adults directly associated with the movement. All week long I met with friends and pastoral leaders throughout Phoenix. I see a move of the Holy Spirit in the desert and I believe Phoenix will become a place where we see a growing movement of the Spirit in the next few years.
Why is PhoenixONE so effective? For starters, Jeff Gokee is a man of integrity, passion and clear vision. He has been tested by fire and is even undergoing deep suffering as he serves. He is a man who loves deeply and is profoundly relational. We met because he read my book, Your Church Is Too Small, and then wrote me an email. I phoned him the day I read this email. A growing relationship was instantly begun. Jeff has proven to be a young man that I deeply love and trust without the slightest hesitation. He truly gets it and he knows Christ and profoundly loves him. He loves his wife and family, does not covet money or fame, handles leadership as a true servant and honors other people before himself. I believe Jeff will be among those men and women who will bring about real (deep) change in the next two decades. He is ready for the “next wave” and is in the right place at the right time.
ACT3 Network exists to empower men like Jeff Gokee and movements like PhoenixONE. This is why you will find PhoenixONE listed as a resourced partner on our new ACT3 Network website. ACT3 exists to “empower churches and leaders for unity in Christ’s mission.” PhoenixONE is doing that mission of unity and models exactly what I dream about happening all across America.
I will be going back to work with PhoenixONE again on January 12th. Our very first Unity Factor Forum will, quite appropriately, take place at historic First Presbyterian Church under the sponsorship of PhoenixONE on that Saturday. If you live anywhere near Phoenix I hope that you will register and attend this event. I believe it will be a great new beginning for ACT3 in 2013. As we identify our partners, in a social and spiritual network of leaders and churches, we expect to see “great things” from God.