I attended the National Youth Workers Convention at St. Louis just this past weekend and I am trying to wrap my head around the things I took away from the conference.
By the way, see this cool picture of St. Louis? If you look out of my hotel window you saw the arch! Pretty cool. I left the hotel plans up to my cousin from La Croix, MS and he DELIVERED!
Okay, THOUGHT #1: There is something going on within the church which is more reflective of the larger culture. Some refer to it as post-modern, others as "emergent". There are those who embrace the change and others who strongly oppose it. Case in point, I was in a seminar with a well-known speaker explaining the emergent thinking going on within the church. During that discussion an audience member called the speaker a heretic! I couldn't believe it, myself. I wanted to start a Flatfoot 56 Irish-smackdown brawl right there! If you know that you strongly disagree with the speaker why pay the money to come to the seminar and throw verbal bombs like that one! But it is reflective of a greater issue within church history. Whether one wants to admit it or not, the church evolves in it's thinking and that is not always a bad thing. Yes, cults and extremist groups have spun out of the mainstream church. But if you look at all of the major figures of church history, whom today we now praise as reformers, movers and shakers, they were all labeled as godless heretics by the church in power at the time. Not to say that no one is above criticism. But what I am saying is that if someone breaks out of the mainstream way of thinking and comes up with a new way of looking at church and culture that challenges the old structures of interpretation then watch your back! I personally am glad to see those who are coming up with new ways of thinking about church. All to often the church is 20-30 years behind the times. It is about time that we engage the culture in its current context and analyze, critique and synthesize our current context into our faith.
THOUGHT #2: Redeem the culture, within the culture! I honestly believe that so much of 20th century was an embarrassment in how the church handled culture. We pulled out of the mainstream culture and created this ghetto sub-culture within Christianity with our own artists, musicians, writers, and film industries. They were made to entertain us and us alone. God forbid if a Christian musician collaborated with a "secular" artist to make a good song. (For those of you old-timers, "The Next Time I Fall" by Amy Grant and front man for Chicago, Peter Cetera). I am so tired of sugary, sweet, family friendly, so-called Christian crap marketed to the church. Of course the mainstream church has lost all sense of taste and has rotted it's teeth on the fluff of the Ghetto Church of Buddy Jesus. If you go to any museum and look at art prior to the 20th century, you will see a huge Christian influence dating back to the first century. Then Christian themes all but disappear at the 20th century. Because instead of engaging culture and trying to be a significant impact and influence with mainstream culture, the Christian community all but pulled itself out. A lot of this has to do with a horrible eschatology that corrupted the mainstream church. But I will save that for another blog! (Thanks to Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye we are still dealing with this even today.) The point in my ramblings is this: we need to engage mainstream culture and redeem it! Mel Gibson proved that it can be done. And he also proved that any real movie based on the Bible will most definitely earn a strong rated-R, and that is not a bad thing! Only when the grace, mercy and forgiveness of God is contrasted with the darkness of sin, separation, alienation and corruption will the true message of the Bible be truly appreciated, understood and received. Doug Fields spoke about ministry envy and I understood what he was saying but it wasn't until Hollywood producer Ralph Winter spoke that I fully understood Doug's message, because if I could steal any ones job it would have been Ralph's. What an amazing testimony of a man impacting culture and making movies that ask the deeper questions and explore issues that we all face, and contrast the dark areas with the light.
THOUGHT #3: I simply love the Skit Guys and I have never laughed so hard in such a long time as I did at their stuff. It is always great to have someone break through all of the seriousness of many of these themes at conferences and the situations that many of us find ourselves in and just make us laugh so hard we hack out a lung. I laughed harder at these guys than most of what I have seen on the Comedy Channel. And these guys make me laugh that hard without any other influences causing me to laugh more than I would normally laugh! I mean it is REAL GUT-BUSTING laughter! Not only that, but these guys are now in a commercial for Southwest Airlines. Once again, guys who are having a great influence on the church but are good enough, and talented enough to begin breaking out into the mainstream culture and having an impact much bigger and broader that just the church culture. Do it guys!
Well, that's my thoughts for now. I would love to hear yours!