LONGVIEW, Wash. — "I remember the day when the love of God landed in our town / He took all the silent and broken hearts, fixed them up and gave them a sound / You had almost every different kind of kid from every different kind of social background / Taking all the cool they had and praising God, as He spun them around / When God came to town."
The lyrics by Gabriel Wilson, lead singer of a Christian band named the “Rock 'N' Roll Worship Circus,” recount a time when the Holy Spirit swept into the lives of teens in his hometown of Longview, Wash.
While doing a sound check prior to a performance in Las Vegas, Wilson began talking out loud to the band: "Remember back in the day ... when God came to town...." Although the song – “Gift of Cool” – was birthed in a matter of minutes, the 29-year-old singer-songwriter said it had been “brewing in me for awhile.”
Justin Rossetti, then a teen in high school, was one of many teens who lived the lyrics of the song, which is part of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Worship Circus’ latest CD, "A Beautiful Glow."
"I was brought up Catholic but when I turned 16 years old I wanted to be extreme," Rossetti, a local Starbucks employee, said. He tried hardcore drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and crystal meth before he started “mixing combos.”
Sporting “messy hair” and a T-shirt, he also hung out at “rave parties” where teens used drugs while listening to punk bands.
Meanwhile, a small group of area youth pastors, in praying for their youth, began to catch a vision for holding their own version of "raves" two to three times a month.
"We used our worship raves as an option for the teens to come to," said Greg Sanders, who served as youth pastor at Abundant Life Apostolic Church in Olympia, Wash., and is currently a worship leader in Colorado.
"We [the youth pastors] decided we needed to get outside our walls and we wanted to make a genuine impact on our youth.... We loved on those kids ... some guys came stoned out of their mind ... some had pink mohawks. But the churched youth would love on them. The [Gift of Cool] talks about the so-called freaks who got saved ... [as they] started to fall in love with the Lord."
“... And the people in our churches,” Wilson’s lyrics recount, “they were constantly amazed at the kids kneeling at the altar with their different fashion flavors / You had squares, preps, and skater punks, Goths and techno-ravers and the tattooed kids with colored hair / And they were all getting saved.”
"God was doing something really unique," said Sanders, who saw the lives of a couple hundred teens change. "A lot of lines were crossed." At the worship raves, football players, cheerleaders and golfers stood worshiping God in song next to punk rockers and graffiti artists.
"It brought tears to my eyes," said Todd Anderson, youth pastor at Longview’s Shekinah Christian Fellowship. "They didn't care what their friends thought of them."
Rossetti's curiosity and love of raves prompted him to attend one of the worship raves in February 2000.
"One night my friends invited me to go to hear the Rock N Roll Worship Circus with one of the best headliner punk bands, so I went," said Rossetti, now 22. "There were tons of people my age that I had seen around town. Then the Worship Circus got up and prayed and started [singing] worship songs and everyone was raising their hands ... something inside me broke open."
A few days later, Rossetti met with a friend from school who asked if he was saved.
"She put it so simply. If I believed there was a God and He forgave me of my sins, I should ask Him to be in charge of my life,” he said.
That night, Rossetti asked God to make Himself real as he went to bed.
"If Jesus was real, I wanted to believe in Him," Rossetti said. "I asked Him to show Himself to me. I told Him I wanted to believe in Him but I didn't. I asked Him to forgive me of my sins and wash me clean. I asked Him to come into my heart."
Rossetti’s prayer was answered. As if on a film projector, he could see his life crashing before him with smoke and fire. "I was freaked out,” but then he heard a calming voice speak the words of John 1:1, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me."
The next day Rossetti met with Sanders at Starbucks. After asking a number of questions, he gave his life to Christ wholeheartedly.
"I went home and threw away all the drugs and alcohol in my room," Rossetti said. "I threw away a stack of pornography and from then on served God."
“... Suddenly almost every kid in town had finally / Found the way to take all the gifts and talents and beauty they had and worship God every day,” Wilson wrote. “Man, you had all the high school parties, and / They were turning into worship raves / And the sounds of the underground in town had turned into praise.”
With the term "gift of cool," Wilson said he means any type of influence a teen has, whether he or she is a skater, punk rocker or a golfer. “It was amazing to see that all these different stereotypes were using their gift of cool to influence their peers to worship" and “to bring others to Christ.”
Popular kids also were among those getting saved, he said. “The very best musicians in the town were getting saved, and going to a drinking party was uncool.... [The] raves were packed with worshiping teens."
"It was exciting, but scary," said Anderson, who experienced the revival in his 50-member youth group. "We have an amazing talent pool in our small town and all of a sudden all the kids who wanted to be rock stars now wanted to be worship leaders. They came crying to the altar. All of a sudden Jesus was the ‘cool’ thing."
“... You think the 60’s had good vibrations? / Well, check out my generation,” Wilson wrote in leading into a chorus. “We will run and never stop / Yeah, we all will stand together / Taking everything we are / And then praising Him forever / Well, anyone and everyone, come and join us for a good time / We are breaking all the rules by praising God / With your Gift of Cool ... / When your people sing, all of heaven sings ... So sing! Is that cool?”
On their CD, the group describes the song as “Inspired by a move of God in our hometown of Longview, Wash. Lord, please use this song to encourage people of all ages to take their gifts and use them for the glory of Your name.”
Wilson said he hopes to begin a mentoring program with area youth pastors to help raise up the next generation of worship leaders in Longview, a town of 35,000 people.
"The talent pool here is scary," Wilson said. "We hope to meet with potential worship leaders once a month and mentor them. We don't want to be selfish about the talents God has given us."
In addition to Wilson, the band, which records for INO Records/Epic Records, includes Wilson's wife, Blurr, who plays keyboard; drummer Zurn Praxair; and guitarist Eric Lemeire, nicknamed "E." They are currently on a national tour with Delirious.
© 2004 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.