Together 2016: Pope Francis, Heat Stroke, and a Veggie Tales Rip-Off
This past Saturday (July 16, 2016) was the event that some promoted as being a once-in-a-generation event. It was called Together2016, and was essentially supposed to be a one-day event where Christians gather at The Mall in Washington D.C. for one of the largest American Christian rallies of the century. It included times of prayer, preaching, and worship. Organized by Nick Hall, the event featured the likes of Francis Chan, Ravi Zacharias, Hillsong United, Lecrae, Jeremy Camp, David Crowder, Andy Mineo, and more. The goal was to gather 1 million Christians in one location to show the world that we stand united for Jesus. Check out the following brief promo video to get a feel for the event:
You can also check out the website: Reset2016.com
With the event now over, here’s what we know. (Full disclosure: I wasn’t there. Hence this is a recap from a distance.)
What was the purpose?
The event was aimed at breaking down the walls that divide Christians and uniting us together for Christ. The website says:
Race. Class. Politics. Social media. Religion. The millennial generation is the most cause-driven in history—but our causes put us at odds and we create enemies of each other. The Church is paying a price. Young people associate faith with arguing and politicking. The message that Jesus loves us and offers a reset is getting lost in the noise. Jesus directly challenged a culture of division. He prayed we would be one—one family, one body. And He told us to love our enemies. Everyone loves their friends; it’s when we love those who aren’t like us that the world takes note. It’s time to come together around Jesus in a counter-cultural moment of unity and love for each other. The need for hope is too great to be pointing fingers at each other instead of pointing to Jesus together.
Who’s idea was this?
The event was spearheaded by PULSE founder Nick Hall, who does ministry outreach on college campuses. The idea of Together2016 was partly based on the theme Reset, which essentially refers to the work of Jesus as being that which can reset us (kind of like a piece of technology) and give us a fresh start. Somewhat confusingly, the event has another website to go along with the one I linked to above, this one with a focus on the Reset them. It is also worth noting that Nick Hall has a forthcoming book titled Reset which explores the same ideas.
What actually happened?
As someone who wasn’t in attendance I am relying on second-hand information here. But according to the event schedule on the website the day consisted of a combination of musical worship, plenary speaking, and times of communal prayer. Though the day was supposed to be 9am-9pm, it was shut down early due to extreme heat that caused roughly 400 people to require medical treatment. At least a handful of “discernment bloggers” jumped all over this as evidence of God’s judgment on the event.
Where can I get a first hand take on the event?
The easiest place is to ask anyone you might know personally who was there. Otherwise Garrett Kell provides a very concise summary of his own.
What was the most noteworthy thing that happened?
In my estimation the most noteworthy part of the event was that it was promoted by Pope Francis and from what I understand also included an address from him via screen during the event. Here is the promo video from him:
Why is this noteworthy? It is worth pointing out because the event—at least by virtue of the event organizers and those participating—was decidedly dominated by Protestant Christians. This makes it interesting that the Pope would want to jump on board with it. Although, Pope Francis has been noted to be far more ecumenical than many of his predecessors, so maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not that was a good move. (Hint: I don’t.)
Are there any other points worth noting?
I have no way to quantify this but I can’t help but feel like the event was founded too much on hype. That, however, does not mean that I think it was pointless. I certainly do not! I fully expect that it was a blessing to those in attendance and I pray that it has some lasting effects for thousands into the future. But as I see it the fundamental problem was how the event was billed. The website and promo video are filled with buzzwords that might be stretching it just a tad:
- “historic change”
- “a historic gathering”
- “catalytic change”
- “something unprecedented”
- “[this] is the day when this generation lays down what divides us…”
- “generation-defining day”
- “a historic event that will define our time and shift our culture”
- “change our generation forever”
- “massive collective moment”
Now, don’t get me wrong. If all of these above things prove to be true, I would be pumped. What Christian doesn’t want to see revival sweep across the land? I agree wholeheartedly that “Jesus changes everything” and that he is the hope for the world. For that I would lay down my life. But I’m not sure that basically equating the revival-stirring work of the Holy Spirit and the Together2016 event is a good idea. Few events can be billed ahead of time as being generation-defining or as having a cataclysmic change on the culture. We simply can’t control and plan for those kinds of outcomes. God does. Our job is just to be faithful. So it really wouldn’t surprise me if the event doesn’t have any noticeable lasting change on North American Christianity, but I guess you never know.
Got anything lighthearted to point out?
Definitely! Nick Hall is quoted as saying “On July 16, we came to fill the Mall. As we leave, we pray we may we go home to fill them all with the hope of Jesus”. He totally stole that line from Veggie Tales’ Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas. Or someone from his promo team did and failed to tell him. In that movie, Mr. Cashberger, who owns a large mall and is nicknamed “The King of the Mall”, has a humorous exchange with Bob the Tomato concerning the birth of Jesus…
Cashberger: You know, I may be The King of the Mall, but he [Jesus] is the King of Them All.
Bob: You’re both The King of the Mall?
Cashberger: No. King of Them All.
Bob: Of the Mall.
Cashberger: Listen closely. Them All. Two different words.
Bob: How can you both be King of the Mall?
Cashberger: We’re not! King-of-Them-All. Listen!
Bob: You’re saying the same thing.
Cashberger: I’m not saying…oh, nevermind.
And now you know how having children has messed with my head. 🙂