I had two options going into this post...
Option 1: The safe entry (filtered)
Option 2: The honest entry (unfiltered)
Here's a fair warning: I'm going with Option 2, which means it's random, raw, long, and probably offensive. It's my attempt to process all that came at me this weekend. It was like trying to get a drink from a fire hydrant- as you can see from my notes (which will not look unlike this blog entry)...
I loved the "spirit" of the retreat. The weight I felt was not one of guilt or "10 more things I need to be doing to be a good Christian." Instead, I had the thought, "Following Jesus sounds like something I could do... I want to do. I know it will cost me my life, but it's the only smart thing to do with my life. Count me in."
Some of what brought this on was Dave Johnson's (our speaker) intolerance for Christian BS. I don't think that guy has a legalistic bone in his body. It came through in his teaching and definitely in the pattern of his life (I spent quite a bit of time hanging with him). I also feel that spirit of grace when I visit his church (Church of the Open Door in Minneapolis), which was part of the reason I wanted him to speak on our retreat. He's an earthy guy who clearly loves life. He didn't have a chip on his shoulder- he didn't come with something to prove. Love him or hate him- at least you know what he's about.
What's there to hate, you ask?
Well, he likes to drink, smoke stogies, drops an occasional "shit", talks openly about his marital struggles and about how he has battled to stay in ministry because leading the church is messy... those are things that are hard for the legalist to swallow. I didn't walk away thinking, "Cool, now I want to talk like him." But it was his desire to expose people's "straining a gnat" duplicity that I loved. He said, "I used to tell our staff all the time... 'If you don't say 'shit' I can't trust you'" Of course his point is not to swear more, it's to be real. Stop living a fake life where you smile all the time and pretend your life is together. This is a great example of our hypocrisy. We are actually offended by the word "shit." Ha. And yet we slander and gossip without a second thought.
I hope for the day when the "S" word in our ministry comes to mean "Slander" rather than "Shit". Which does more damage to our neighbor?
As for me, I can tell when I'm around my ministry peers who are just being crass out of rebellion. They drink and smoke for the same reasons. I see it all the time, and that wreaks of pride. In those contexts I'm extra careful of my words and I choose Coke. I want to be a rebel and not swear, drink and smoke. Then there are other contexts...
BTW: Growing up I thought two verses that clearly showed the "S" word (not slander) was sin was Ephesians 4:29 "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths..." I was pretty sure I could tell who was a Christian and who wasn't by whether or not they used this word. Good thing I didn't apply this verse to slander and gossip (words that actually hurt people), because I wouldn't be a Christian. I also used 1 Timothy 3 "be above reproach" to show why drinking and smoking and the "S" word were wrong. The mystery verse from Corinthians about "avoiding all appearance of evil" sealed the deal: drinking was at best unwise.
I definitely had some legalistic undercurrents flowing in my life entering college. Some of it I got from my parents, some from my church. Our church had a policy that elders couldn't drink. I thought, "That's the wise thing to do...of course church leaders have no business drinking." Then I got to college and my pastor (I won't mention any names...) was asking his 5 year old son to grab him a beer from the fridge. I also started reading my Bible, "What?!!! Jesus drank? Jesus did what with the water!!??
Christians are not normal. At least not the kind I had become.
It's people like Dave Johnson who remind me what it's like to be normal. What life looks like when you're not bound to religious rule-making and a slave to the opinions of others. What it looks like to taste grace in order to give grace. I felt like I had been around Jesus (the man who was labeled a 'drunkard').
The talks were prophetic for our ministry. By prophetic, I mean timely and effectual in ways I'm not sure we can even pinpoint right now. But looking back we'll say, "That had a huge impact on us." All of the talks should be available on the TSC website- click here- by the end of today). Here's a synopsis of them...
Thursday night: "Talitha Koum"... Jesus is calling us to come to life. Not just "get saved" but wake up to the life that Jesus wants for us. The question we need to ask is not just, "If I were to die tonight, would I get in to heaven?" BUT "If I were to live today, what kind of life do I want to live?"
Friday night: "Samson"...His character couldn't hold the weight of God's anointing on his life. This is a "must listen to" message for people who are feeling the favor of God on their ministry. It's easy to let this thought creep in, "The show must go on. We can't afford to slow down for a character check. Plus, God is blessing us, so we must be on a good path."
Saturday morning: "If we love one another, the world just might get a glimpse of God." I love his quote based on Philippians 4, "Forbearance should be the presenting issue of our lives as followers of Jesus."
Saturday night: "Power Over, Power Under Kingdoms" This talk was profound. If we want to be the aroma of Christ, we've got to adopt his strategy for life. You can't use a power over strategy (Let's become the moral majority and outlaw this sin...) to accomplish a power under (i.e. Kingdom of God) purpose. He used the example of Rome becoming a "Christian nation" under Constantine. I'm sure the Christian Right was feeling pretty good- they won! But they lost. We always lose when we fight this way (i.e. "Peter, put away your sword...we're using a different strategy which I'm about to show you... a cross). We may need to rethink how we approach the issue of gay marriage in our culture. We may need to question the assumption, "We need to win this culture war with more voting, lobbying, and sacrifice!" I'm not saying we shouldn't vote.
Sunday morning: Excellent talk, "Dying to Live": Jesus didn't just die on the cross so we wouldn't have to. He died on the cross to show us what it would look like to follow him. He was giving us the game plan, that only in dying will we live, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies..."
Dave preached out of his best friend's Bible: Dave Busby, who is now with the Lord. Busby was one of the most powerful speakers I've heard. He had some good Busby stories.
The breakout sessions were awesome.
One of the highlights of my weekend was watching students pour out of Tim Lubinus' session on "End Times." They were disgusted, angry, up in arms... "That was terrible. How can that guy say there is no anti-christ, rapture, great 7 year tribulation, and future millenium." Most people think they know what the Bible teaches on this because they read the Left Behind series. They built a theology on a house of cards. Pre-mil thinking is so "conspiracy theorish" to me. If you string all of these passages together, the flow chart makes perfect sense. I'm not even sure Tim's entirely right, and I know we're not seeking to land the plane on this issue as a ministry, but it's so healthy for our students to know that godlier and smarter people disagree with them.
Speaking of godlier and smarter people disagreeing with you...
Alex Tuckness led a brilliant breakout on God and politics. It was amazing; I hope the audio was captured so we can get it online. In the Q and A during his second session, someone asked who he voted for.... you guessed it. Not who most of you voted for. He had some brilliant (I know, I already used this word once. Back-off. When you find an apt word, you stick with it) thoughts on why we shouldn't be single issue voters. "There are a lot of ways to kill and oppress people." This deserves a separate post.
Erin Burmeister and Ranel Wallace rocked the "women only" session. They are quite the dynamic duo. I heard great things from that session...counter-cultural things for sure. But all things that must be said.
Paul and Jenni Sabino led the much anticipated "Finding a life partner" breakout. All I heard was laughing through the wall. (I know, hard to imagine with Paul and Jenni...) They are such a great team and a blessing to our church. Students walked away so encouraged.
Finally, Brandon Barker led one on "theotechnology" and Geoff Safford on "Is ministry for me?" It was so funny because Brandon had mostly all guys in his. He said he should've just called it "Halo 3."
The Anthem band led worship. Once again, God seemed to show up in our times of worship. I can't wait to record in about 7 weeks. God has inspired the team with some incredible songs.
After the whirlwind of the weekend, I jumped in a car with one of my guys, Vince (below), and headed to Omaha where I spoke at a friend's youth group Sunday night. I spoke on moral purity and led worship. It was a blast- one of my favorite topics.
Here are some other pictures from the weekend:
James and James were hilarious in the Saturday night talent show! Pusey's comedy routine in the middle of their song had me dying of laughter. It's not appropriate for this blog (after all I've already said, it's hard to imagine...). But it was hilarious.
Here were our judges: Randy, Paula and Simon. Despard was perfect in the role of Simon. He had some great Cowell lines. I hope someone hit "record."
Here's a picture of worship during communion with the table at the bottom of the picture. The papers were lies that people are tempted to believe. They brought them to the table, laying them down at the foot of the cross.
It was random to see these little girls driving their car around the hotel. Is this legal? They're so cute- there's no way the meanest cop could do anything to stop these sweet girls in their pink cadillac.