In my post about Todd Bussey’s influence on my life, I said that he will probably shock the world in Florida. That was intentional.
In high school, my summers were pretty jam-packed. Thanks to Scouting, we had a trek at Philmont and Summer Camp to look forward to. Marching band consumed many days and nights as we tried to put together a top-notch show that would (hopefully) rival those of Castle and Reitz. And our family would always squeeze in a family vacation during the Summer, too.
It was wall-to-wall action with little downtime. And it was just the way I liked it.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer…”
One of the first events of Summer was our church youth group’s annual trek to Summer in the Son at Kentucky Christian College (now known as Kentucky Christian University). Friendships were forged. Faith was challenged. Bonds were strengthened. We “koinonia-ed” all over the place. Lives were changed at Summer in the Son. When I look back on my faith journey, I see several Ebenezers – key landmarks that remind me of where God intervened in my life.
One of these Ebenezer Monuments occurred during the main worship service. A speaker, whose name I cannot remember, shared a story that changed the direction of my life. I’m going to do my best to retell it. Please note that I have made up the names and dates of this story. It’s not because I’m trying to protect the innocent. It’s simply because I heard this story back in the early 1990s and details like names and dates in this story are honestly a bit of a fuzzy memory. But I promise. It’s a good story. And it changed my life. It went a little something like this…
David vs. Goliath?
During the opening game of the college football season, the lowly Bulldogs of Tech Institute made a trek across the country to open their season against perennial powerhouse Panthers of Super State University.* To say the Bulldogs were the Underdogs was an understatement. The experts expected the Panthers to crush the Bulldogs by about 50 points. Easily.
The Bulldogs, however, thought otherwise.
And it showed. Super State University had a 100,000+ seat stadium full of fans foaming at the mouth in anticipation of the Panthers’ next victim. Like lambs led to the slaughter, or prisoners thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum, the Bulldogs were supposed to be intimidated. They were supposed to be shaking in their collective little booties at the thought of facing the Mighty Panthers of Super State University.
But they weren’t.
They were confident. They knew their mission. And they knew they had each other’s backs. The Bulldogs had spent their entire offseason preparing for this day.
Every day, without fail, practice would end with the Bulldogs’ coach gathering them together and asking, “The day we kickoff the season against the Panthers, what are we going to do?”
“Shock the world,” the team would reply in unison.
“That’s right. We’re going to shock the world,” their coach would respond.
Whenever they saw each other out in public, one would ask the other, “What are we going to do against the Panthers?”
“Shock the world.”
They practiced this ritual every day during the weeks and months leading up to that opening kickoff. When the players went to bed, they looked in the mirror and said, “What are you going to do against the Panthers?”
“Shock the world. You’re gonna shock the world.”
They preached this message to each other. They preached it to themselves. And you could tell on the practice field that these football players believed what they were saying. They believed what they were hearing. Everyone started to believe that even though the whole world believed otherwise, they were going to shock the world when they played against the Super State Panthers.
And they did. The Bulldogs shocked the world.
The Bulldogs entered the football stadium arm in arm. As they took their place on the sideline, they shouted to each other, “Today’s the day! We’re gonna shock the world!”
From opening kickoff, the Bulldogs dominated the ball. The stunned defending national champions had no answer for their speed. They had no match for their strength. They were stunned. The Bulldogs were supposed to just roll over and let the Panthers run all over them. But they didn’t. Instead, they punched their foe in the mouth and kept on going. The Panthers couldn’t match the Bulldogs’ confidence. They couldn’t match their swagger.
They couldn’t match the points on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs led from wire to wire. Their victory over the Super State University Panthers left the home crowd stunned and silent. News of this upset sent shockwaves throughout college football.
The Sunday morning headline on sports pages around the country?
The Bulldogs shocked the world that weekend. They were the underdogs. But with a shared cause and mission partnered with a whole lot of teamwork, they were able to turn the world upside down.
The speaker then reminded us that we had a shared cause. We were on the same mission. And if we worked together, we could turn our schools upside down with the message of Jesus Christ.
We could shock the world.
He challenged us to consider what our high schools would look like if we lived our faith in front of our family, friends, and fellow students. Imagine what that would do to our schools, our neighborhoods, our communities, and ultimately the whole world. The world would be turned upside down. It would be shocking.
The first day of school following this amazing summer, what were we going to do?
Shock the world.
We were going to shock the world. Whenever I saw Todd, I told him to shock the world. And he challenged me to do the same. It was our theme. It was our mantra. We had a shared mission. We were going to shock the world and nobody could stop us.
There were no headlines to shout our arrival. I don’t know if I really shocked anyone with the message of Jesus that following semester. And the world wasn’t turned upside down. Yet.
We were just getting started.
While the details have been fuzzy, the main thrust of this story has stuck with me over the years. When I dreamed of making movies, I even knew what I was going to call my movie company: STW Productions. Has a nice ring to it, eh?
Now, whenever I hear the phrase, “Shock the world,” I remember that I still have a job to do. Our work is not complete. Jesus has called us to be salt and light, pushing back the darkness, pushing back against the work of the Evil One. There are moments where the world feels extremely broken and horribly dark. The stain of the Fall has tainted so much and it feels like a losing battle. It is in those moments that I remember that I’m going to shock the world. So I get up, strengthen my resolve, and seek to display the message of God’s love, grace, and mercy through my actions. Because God knows we desperately need to see those actions.
We don’t need fake Jesus.
We don’t need a Jesus who is tied to a political party (or a nation, for that matter). And we most definitely don’t need the Jesus who makes me comfortable. The world needs to see the Jesus who stood up to the hypocritical religious authorities, introduced a revolution so revolutionary that the people in power were left with their heads spinning, and showed the world how much he loves us by spreading out his arms and dying for us. We also need to see the real Jesus who walked on water, caused the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the dead to come back to life. The world needs to encounter the living, breathing Jesus who burst forth from the tomb three days after his executed, fully alive and full of power, love, grace, and mercy.
That’s the Jesus the world needs.
Because when people encounter the real, living, breathing Jesus, their lives are changed. It turns their whole world upside down. So I’m trying to make a difference in my own little corner of life.
I haven’t given up. I hope you don’t, either. Because together, we will still shock the world.
*I swear I remember him saying the powerhouse was someone like Notre Dame or USC. But I haven’t found any evidence of a game like this happening that involved one of these teams. A game was eerily similar to this story during the opening game of 1995. I remember watching it and thinking, “Hey! This is a lot like the game that guy told us about back at Summer in the Son a few years ago.” But I can’t remember the team names in the original story. So I made them up.