The absence of something might seem like an odd thing to write about. But given that we spent a year trying to figure it out, I thought it might be helpful to give a little bit of an insight into why we’re not doing something, which we really thought we would.
In early 2018, the leadership of Soul Survivor approached Youthscape, alongside two denominational youth organisations (Elim Limitless and Vineyard Youth), to ask if we’d consider launching a replacement youth event for their Summer festivals. The idea was that we would take a week each. Vineyard and Elim both had established events that they would scale up - and they agreed to do so. For us, this would mean inventing something completely new.
We spent a long time thinking and praying it over. Then in Summer 2018, it felt like God very clearly spoke. We got a vision and some big ideas for a different kind of youth event - and we started to make some tentative plans. At the National Youth Ministry Weekend in November last year, we announced that intention to around 900 gathered youth workers, and received a very positive response. Planning continued.
Some parts of the puzzle were frustratingly unresolved though. We didn’t have the money we needed to get something like this off the ground from scratch, and we didn’t have a venue. Despite our best efforts, we had been unable to secure the right setting for the event. Still, we assumed these and other issues would be resolved. Until they were however, we couldn’t commit to launching the event. In May, things came to a head. With time running out to be able to announce this new event at this Summer’s Soul Survivor festivals, we held a day of prayer and fasting as we sought to discern an answer. In the same week, we received three, very specific answers to prayer around our practical needs - and those answers were all ’no.’ This felt to us like a clear message from the Lord - that it was not right to go ahead with an event in Summer 2020.
This was a crushing disappointment to many of us who had been dreaming, planning and working on this vision for the past year. But at the end of the day, it came down to obedience. We knew God was saying no, and the only right response was to obey him.
As we’ve reflected on this from a spiritual perspective, we’ve been reminded several times of the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. God clearly spoke to Abraham, telling him to take his son up the mountain for sacrifice. This must have been an impossibly difficult thing to hear, yet Abraham obeyed God. When he reached the place of sacrifice, God spoke again, this time providing an animal sacrifice to stand in Isaac’s place.
Did God speak on both occasions? Certainly. He said both yes, and then no. We find ourselves in the same situation now, and in all honestly, feeling as confused as Abraham probably did. But like Abraham, we can only obey what we believe the Lord is saying, and wait to see what he has in store next.
We’re excited to be able to support the various organisations who are going ahead with a new or expanded event for young people in 2020. We also know that it’s not right for a Youthscape Festival to be among them. For now, we’ll keep our ears and hearts open to hear what God says next, and in the meantime, continue to do everything we can to serve young people and their leaders in our town and across the UK.