He was 10-years-old, listening to Michael W. Smith sing "You're All I Want," before 400,000-plus people gathered on the National Mall for Lou Engle Ministries' "TheCall DC" 22 years ago.
Fast forward 20 years and, as leader of Gen Z For Jesus, Aaron Custalow, like Engle before him, rallied students to pray, fast, worship and share the good news online with 40 million people during COVID lock downs in 2020.
Almost to the day 22 years after TheCall DC, Custalow and Gen Z For Jesus will reunite with Engle and collaborate with ministries Awaken the Dawn, One Voice, Jesus Clubs and UPPERROOM Dallas for a live gathering in Texas on September 3.
The event is multi-generational in scope, but it is still focused on people born during the late 1990s into the early 2000s, Gen Z For Jesus is about the One who matters most.
"We really want to make this moment about Jesus—not a personality or a speaker. We thought how beautiful it would be to take a sledgehammer to celebrity and platform Christianity," says Custalow, who follows Engle in calling youth to pray and fast.
Round-the-clock prayer and tent worship with Awaken the Dawn and UPPERROOM Dallas begins Wednesday, Aug. 31 leading to the stadium gathering at Comerica Center in Frisco. Teams will do prayer walks and outreach around the greater DFW area.
A Jesus Clubs student leader at the time, Custalow started Gen Z For Jesus after three days of prayer and fasting with a handful of his peers—including One Voice President Brian Barcelona—when the pandemic forced school closings in 2020.
"We came back to the table with things we felt like the Lord had spoken to us. I remember saying, 'I feel like the Lord is calling the youth of America to prayer and fasting. It's time for us to—not just reach Gen Z—but to empower it,'" Custalow recalls.
So, leaders agreed to launch Gen Z For Jesus on June 17, the day in 1963 when the Supreme Court ruled prayer and school-sponsored Bible reading unconstitutional.
Thousands of students fasted, prayed and posted #Gen Z For Jesus online videos that reached 40 million TikTok viewers over four weeks.
"A lot of kids who had never fasted reached out to us saying, 'I've never fasted before but my heart fills so alive,'" Custalow recalls.
A prophetic word from Amos 2:11 and Malachi 4:5-6 preceded Gen Z For Jesus. The combined verses revealed the Lord's desire to raise sons as prophets and youth as Nazirites in the spirit and power of Elijah.
As Custalow weighed the word given to him by a friend, a car with the license plate "Dial 211" pulled alongside them while they were eating outdoors.
"I heard the Lord say to me, 'In an hour of crisis you dial 911. I want you to dial 211, and call the next generation of Nazirites, prophets and leaders to action,'" Custalow says.
In the spirit of Elijah—turning hearts of fathers to children and vice versa—Gen Z For Jesus is about mothers and fathers like Engle empowering youth to consecrate their lives, and to boldly declare the gospel.
Multi-generational prayer, worship and evangelism will be key as young and old glorify Jesus—the main attraction, not speakers or worship leaders—on a shared stage at Comerica Center. Listen to what ministry leaders say about Gen Z: (5) Facebook
"There's good news about Gen Z because God is raising powerful voices for Jesus," Custalow says.
Like a 14-year-old San Antonio girl who will speak at Gen Z For Jesus, standing on the same platform as her parents and multi-generational leaders.
A still private and tender story, the young woman encountered the Lord and was delivered from a spirit of suicide while watching a TikTok video posted by Gen Z For Jesus.
She then prayed for her family, which immediately experienced breakthrough and revival.
Now a leader, the young woman hosted a Gen Z For Jesus tour stop in Texas during the summer of 2022.
Like the girl who came to the Lord through Gen Z For Jesus, Custalow was marked by the Holy Spirit at TheCall DC. Watch video highlight here: https://youtu.be/k5Ibx3NKUts
A youth and prayer leader a decade after TheCall DC, Custalow began to hear from the Lord and One Voice leader Barcelona about reaching high schools for Jesus.
On staff with a house of prayer that became Awaken the Dawn, Custalow focused on a verse from Colossians about an open door to preach the gospel. Artists drew names of Virginia-area high schools on a door at the house of prayer.
After praying for almost two years—on the day Billy Graham went to heaven in 2018—the first Jesus Club in Virginia drew 300 students, with 130 of them giving their lives to the Lord.
"I felt like the Lord was saying that day He was going to pour out His spirit for a student awakening unto a volunteer movement, and that a great move of evangelism was going to come on Gen Z," Custalow says.
One Voice is a covering for Gen Z For Jesus and Jesus Clubs, and Custalow and Barcelona work together in Virginia and Texas, respectively. UPPERROOM Dallas is located in Texas and Awaken the Dawn is based in Virginia. Lou Engle Ministries calls Colorado Springs, Colorado its home.
Steve Rees is a former general assignment reporter who, with one other journalist, first wrote about the national men's movement Promise Keepers from his home in Colorado. Rees and Promise Keepers founder Bill McCartney attended the Boulder Vineyard. Today Rees writes in his free time.
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