I want to begin with a haunting question, well a phrase really that was made last night about our enjoyment and excitement about being in youth ministry. Buddy Bell talked about the passion of enjoying what we do. I used to feel the unbelievable excitement about getting to do this work. I used to wake up and marvel, that I get paid to work with teenagers. Flash forward two years, and I lost the sense of wonder. I played the part when I needed to, but somewhere over two years of ministry joy turned into just a job. Last night through the Buddy’s words and the work of the Spirit in my life I am reawakening to the joy of being in ministry. I came here just about on the brink of hanging up my youth ministry hat. It’s not because I have had a bad experience, or faced difficult people. I guess I was at a place where joy was replaced by duty and wonder was replaced by worry about getting paid. Father forgive me for being more concerned about the size of my check than the lives of those you’ve called me to minister to.
Where do I begin. I had planned to attend the early morning devo time with Dr. Randy Harris. I over slept, so I waited around our room this morning and hung out with my little one and my wife. The morning general session was cool. I had never heard of Shane Clairborne before. Dude’s got dread locks and a scruffy beard, not the image of a regular pastor kind of guy. His message of revolution, actually taking the words of Jesus seriously about loving God and loving our neighbor was so insightful, so simple, and yet so profound. For Shane, Jesus is his constant pursuit, the joy of the pursuit, his best friend and the one who inspires his radical committment to be His hands and feet in this world. The world needs God’s people to embrace the missional mindset, to see ourselves as the church now, to see ourselves as the living embodiment of Jesus Christ in our families, in our communities, in the world. My wife bought Shane’s book for me. I am looking forward to spending time with his book and being challenged.
Class time is always special here at the conference. I went to Chris Seidman’s class on the Power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and then to a class about the connection of the Spirit to water in Scripture. Seidman is always insightful and his class was great. Two things stuck with me from my time in his classes. The metaphor of the flood as a picture of judgment and how NT writers ( 1 Peter 3:21) makes the connection or compares baptism to the flood, how when we go down into the water we are agreeing the world we live in, that our own lives are out of whack, they are messed up and we are inviting God’s judgment on us, and asking for renewal which is what the flood really did, cleansed the world of the yuck. Something else that I found interesting is the connection that Chris made with the image of the dove at creation, and then again at the flood with the Holy Spirit. Chris spoke about the baptism of Jesus and how the Spirit descencds upon him. And like the dove in the flood account, lands on the place where the water recedes. Jesus is the place where the water receeds, the place of God’s judgment, and source of renewal. Deep stuff.
I went to Jeff Walling’s class on the missional church. Walling is Walling. He asked us at the beginning of the session what has been the biggest curse on the church historically? Really the biggest curse has been the move away from house churches in the context of persecution to church buildings. Persecuted communities lived committed, for so many of our brothers and sisters have given up their lives for the sake of the gospel. Our language today in the church about going to church, to do church is dreadful. For we have allowed our mindset to be building centered as if the building is a holy place. We really have lost a sense of the holiness of the people. Jeff’s class was good and insightful and I am looking forward to tomorrow.
I also went to Don McLaughlin’s class on contextualizing the purity conversation in 2008. Don’s big premise was that our kids are so inundated with sexual images and temptations today, that it is a tough, cruel world our kids live in, and we shouldn’t try to ignore the purity issues in our churches or our world. Parents have to come to terms with the fact that all young people will struggle with sexual issues as an adolescent. We mustn’t abandon them in their struggles.
Tonight’s worship time was moving. I know that crying when you sing isn’t the tell tale sign of a good worship experience, but two songs tonight especially moved me and it has been a long time since a song moved me. As the conference continues I continue to feel God fill my cup.
I am looking forward to tomorrow.