Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Questions...(Youth Specialties Review)

This last weekend I went down to San Diego to the National Youth Workers Convention put on by Youth Specialties. Before going down I was looking forward to spending time with friends and learning about youth and ministering to them; excited to see how God would then continue to shape my philosophy of youth ministry during this weekend. I never expected to have my heart be challenged in such an amazing, yet difficult way.

During the Saturday morning general session, an all-too-familiar speaker walked on stage, Francis Chan. I had heard Chan many times before during my undergrad at APU, and yes, at times had felt the spirit move through his words but never like this. Chan had gone through a type of crisis of faith over the last year bringing him to the point of thinking of leaving his church and questioning if he was really a “Christian at all” and taking a leave of absence for a while. Confronted with questions of his own spirituality in light of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom, he wondered why if Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves why he was not and why his church as a whole was not. He wondered why when he and most of the American Church when coming face to face with the message of the Sermon on the Mount or Matthew 25 side stepped it by over-spiritualizing it, and not taking what Jesus said with much seriousness. This brought Chan to the conclusion that he could not truly be in love with God if he was not truly a follower of Jesus; which defined as a person who followed Jesus’ commands. Chan believed that the role of a Christian was to urge others to follow them as they followed after Jesus, as Paul did and urged many to do.

After coming to this conclusion Chan realized that he could no longer live his life as he had for so many years. Therefore, Chan sought to become what we believed was a true Christian, or follower of Jesus. After a few months Chan was asked to return to his old church by the leadership. Chan said he would think about it but only if they made a few changes in the way they ran the church. One such change was to stop a multi-million dollar building project which included constructing a new sanctuary. Chan instead believed that the church should spend much less money and construct an outside ampi-theater where the church would worship together outside, instead of inside a building. Another change Chan requested, believing that the church should love their neighbors as themselves; the church must give away 50% of all tithes to the church to help those in need.

Over the last couple of months the Spirit of God as been moving within me in a troubling way. It is troubling because God has been convicting me personally that neither myself or my communities of friends are doing much to live out the Kingdom in our lifestyle. I have really come to question if many of my, or my friends’, weekly and daily lifestyle practices are Kingdom driven or even remotely Christian driven, if you will allow me to make this distinction in light of Chan’s talk. As of late, and in light of Chan’s talk I have been asking myself questions such as: if buying $170 dollars worth of beer and liquor to celebrate a friend’s marriage is Christian Kingdom living? Is living in a house for two plus years but still not knowing your neighbors’ names Christian Kingdom living? Is spending a majority of my money on CD’s and going out on weekends Christian Kingdom living? Is not calling out a friend for hooking up with a random girl or encouraging a friend to do it Christian Kingdom living? Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying these things are or are not “good” or “okay,” I am just wondering why I or my community has not been asking these questions, because we should be! If we are not and we are just sitting around talking about the Kingdom we have bought into the lie that words are enough. To quote Thrice, “what have we (myself and my community) to show except the promises we never kept.” We have in fact let ourselves down. Can my life, can our lives, be more than just “flashing lights and sounds?” If “rhetoric can’t raise the dead,” I, and we, should be “sick of always talking when there is no change.” Let me, let us become followers of Christ. Let us become leaders. Let us be able to say as Paul did, “follow me as I follow Christ.” Let us see the Kingdom here, now.