As I mentioned earlier, the live blogging gig was intense. It was a lot of fun, but I paid attention to the session speakers in a different way that I would otherwise have. One thing I did notice, however, was something God was doing through the people who independently listened for what the Spirit was saying to the Church, more specifically to her youth workers, and brought what I believe to be a prophetic message of gospel authenticity as one might display the facets of a jewel. Or, maybe, a 15-foot disco ball sending The Light into every corner, every relationship, every conversation.
None of the general session speakers brought “fluff” – each came with a passion for Jesus and for sharing insight into a more authentic relationship with Him. However, several brought messages that ought to be game-changing for the Church.
Soong-Chan Rah rocked the room’s perception of cultural and institutional racism and what the church might “do” with that. I know this was a challenge for many to hear, especially on the verge of an historic election wherein race and gender were part. In fact, an Asian-Irish-American comedian who appeared on that stage the following morning was dumbfounded by the lack of laughter at his poking fun at his own heritage and family. Clearly, people heard Dr. Rah’s message.
Andrew Marin stood before a room full of mainly white evangelicals and spoke heroically of elevating the conversation between the Church and the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered community. He repeated again and again his firm belief that the Bible is “the inerrant Word of God” while articulating in language largely unknown how all have sinned, how judgment is God’s and loving our neighbor is ours, and how those who have been cast out need Jesus too. I also attended Andrew’s seminar about answering the most common questions same-sex attracted people, who are justifiably jaded by their community’s treatment at the hands of Christians, will ask of a believer willing to have the conversation. Keeping those out of the realm of yes/no answers is the absolute key to changing the tide, and Andrew ably demonstrated how to do so without a single bit of compromise. He wants to turn the ship away from certain disaster to a life-giving conversation. Truly inspiring. I had some time to sit with Andrew, and am in process of putting together an article for YMX to appear before the end of the year. So, more on that in the future.
Francis Chan tackled us with a big pile of saltless salt, challenging the perception that more is better or more effective. A new, and more authentic, message that “numbers aren’t everything” – but one that could be heard and applied right now. One quote that hit me, “If you can’t make disciples, go make a big pile of Christians.” Ouch. His scriptural point blew me away, using the account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, and concluding, “I want people to walk away saying the Lord is God” (like the prophets of Baal did) “not that was a great message.” Total gut (or heart) motivation check.
Phyllis Tickle simply blew me away with a tsunami of information. Her noteless presentation of 2000 years of church history, documenting the significant events in cultures that brought shifts in the life of the Church… astounding. I’m going to have to read her book to do the talk justice! It was precise, concise, relevant, and an important reminder of two things: 1. history repeats, 2. we need to look at the big picture. And, the lady is just really funny, totally unpretentious, and really, really smart. Her book, The Great Emergence, is waiting for me.
And, chronologically last, an amazing confession from Marko (Mark Oestreicher) that the Lord so disturbed him that he scrapped the talk he had planned, reworked from the earlier venue of the NYWC, and addressed this thread of authenticity in life and ministry that had been drawn throughout the weekend. It was an amazing and raw talk that articulated a new intersection for ministry, that isn’t really new at all. Ministry happens at the intersection of communion and mission. He went on to give the characteristics of that intersection, that the intersection of communion and mission is small, slow, simple, present, fluid and Jesusy. The quote that stuck with me? “You absolutely have everything you need to be wildly successful in youth ministry and the stuff you though you needed is an absolute deterrent to ministry.” There was lots in this reletively short talk, including the world premiere of the text of an as-yet unpublished children’s story that Marko and his 10-year-old son, Max, wrote together… like it was tailor made for this very talk. I hope someday to possess a copy of that beautiful parable of relationship, a story about learning, about learning together, and learning to live into our given abilities to be our whole selves.
If you’re interested, any of the general session talks, and a huge number of seminars, are available for download, and can be purchased at http://www.ysmp3andcddvd.com/store.