DCLA '09- Pre-Nassau trip – Post 3

Prior to this year’s mission trip, we attended Youth Specialties’ DCLA.  It was fantastic and one of the best events any high schooler could ever attend.  I encourage you to consider attending DCLA 2012 (?) and book a mission trip with Next Step Ministries for the week after. This was my third time here in DC and having gone as a student and twice as a youth pastor, I honestly think this was the best one yet.

In fact, it’s been pretty interesting for me tracing back some of the history of DCLA.  As a high school student, I remember thinking at DC’94 that this blows camp away! (Don’t worry campers, i still went to Berea that summer).  Back in those days, DCLA  was produced by Youth for Christ and would have big themes like, “Live to Tel”.  For you Millennials that was a Geoff Moore and the Distance song and if anyone knows who he is, you are either laughing or cursing because it took you this long to repress that song and now i just brought it back.  Yeah you can thank jaded X’ers like us for purging out some of these bands.  Unfortunately we were not completely successful ;-).  DCLA was billed as an evangelism conference but for some reason they loaded up a tons  and tons of music that seemed to say, “We’re trying to be like Creation but with air-conditioning.”

Certainly I’m a much bigger fan of the event these days.  It represents a lot of the thought that has gone into student ministry within the last 15 years or so.  It used to be that if we made Jesus cool enough, then kids simply wouldn’t be able to help themselves and just fall in love with the sacrificed lamb of God and inevitably they would pick up a blood-stained cross and follow.  This is how we came to have things like Awesome Radical Truth Time, Spectacular Savior Series, Wild and Zany Witnessing Tricks! Then, add on some CCM and students could think positively about life all day while singing “Shine” while wearing WWJD bracelets (for the record, I proudly never wore one.  Unfortunately, I do know all the words to Smitty’s teary classics like “Friends” and “Pray for Me”).

While I cannot honestly say that DCLA is cheese-free (sorry Lost & Found), at least it’s focused on its mission.  I do not claim to know the behind the scenes decisions, nor do I know specifics and I would only guess the names but from where I sit, it seems that after YS took over, the event underwent quite the paradigm shift.  This year’s theme was “Be, Love, Serve, Repeat”.  Perfect for our group.  There were no bigger than CCM-life bands but it was cool that Family Force 5, Hawk Nelson, KJ-52 were there.  All of us had a good time, we laughed, we were entertained and at times overloaded by it all but what I loved is that the focus on loving Christ and others was central. If you didn’t see it, you were daydreaming about Toby Mac and Mac Powell flying down from the rafters.

Here’s a run down of what I/we liked:

– They told the entire Scripture narrative in 3.5 days in the Big Room.

–  The Speakers were fantastic choices:

Francis Chan – is truly a good man, a great communicator, and seems to be a great example of the faith.  We enjoyed his seminar and appreciated his time in the Big Room.

Shane Claiborne – we were debating whether to change our youth  group name to the Shane Fan Club but another group already did  that.  They grew out their hair, had dreds, made their own clothes  and ran their cell phones off of solar power.  We were willing to do  that and  convert the church music room into a homeless shelter but  we lost  our momentum over the lifelong celibacy vow.  In  seriousness,  judging from the low attendance at Shane’s seminars,  he’s not the superstar to this age group as he is to X’ers and older  Millennials but by Monday, everyone knew who he was.  (Ours did of course, because  Claiborne worshippers like Evan and I made last year’s mission team read Irresistible Revolution).  Seriously, I liked that YS didn’t ask Shane to “tone it down”.  He spoke about war, Iraq, peace, love, and sacrifice in his usual Tennessee meets Kensington way. Some were offended and I wanted to tell them this wasn’t Battle Cry (link does not go to their homepage ;-).

Mandee Radford – was a favorite among our female students especially.  She’s the anti-Joyce Meyer/Beth Moore because she’s cool and normal.  I was grateful that YS asked her to speak.  One of the biggest challenges in our youth ministries is the lack of female voices and examples.  Mandee was fantastic and some of our guys liked her too ;-)

– Optional Seminars – There were two sets of optional seminars a day.  “Optional” to us meant you get to pick one that you wanted to go to, then during the other time slot, you were required to attend that we told you to. It wasn’t as bad as I made it sound, we saw a documentary and a movie together.

Invisible Children’s new documentary “Go”.  Like all of them, it was really good and served as an excellent way to get students and their schools involved. We signed up to screen it so maybe we’ll show it at our church.

A new movie called, “To Save a Life” – Umm, not sure how to describe this one.  it was good that we saw it together because it produced great discussions and I compliment the project.  Although it’s one of the best Christian movies I’ve ever seen (and I’m including Thief In the Night ;-), it tackles a bit too much and lacks some artistic style.  I did like that they cursed in it a few times; that actually added credibility to me and to some of our students.  I also liked that Kirk Cameron was no where to be found.

– Kendall Payne – I’m pretty sure she’s not signed to a label but a true indie artist.  I admit I almost missed the boat on Kendall.  She had released some kind of anti skinny model looking girls song that encouraged girls to appreciate themselves for who they were and to pursue a healthy sense of identity but she probably didn’t hear how it sounded with a bunch of 14 year old girls singing it in the church van (a moment from a few years ago that resulted in Bose, noise-cancelling headphones to all youth leaders).  The rest of her work is brilliant (like Scratch and I personally like the Grown album.)  I usually don’t like to talk about the cover songs of talented artists but she did two that are worth mentioning.  One was “What if God Was One of Us?” which was pretty controversial back recorded by Joan Osborne back in 1995.  It seemed to me that too many of us Christians perceived it as an attack on God’s deity but instead, it said and asked a lot more.  She also did a cover of U2’s “One”.  It was smooth and slow and I hope one day a youtube clip of it appears.  As a fan of U2 (Sept 26 at Giants Stadium can’t come fast enough!), this song is so overdone, but Kendall did a fantastic job.

– Skit Guys! – They’re classic, we love them every time.  We’d follow them into Mormonism if they asked us to.

– Labs – Our students loved them!  They are broken up into student led small groups of 8 and divided into rooms that hold a couple hundred each.  There’s an adult speaker, 4 student-speakers, multi-media and then small group time.  Everything lasts about 5-10 minutes each and that cycle keeps repeating itself.  It’s an incredible use of time that intends on teaching a room full of young minds in an optional learning environment.

– No alter call.  I’m not kidding, I liked that there wasn’t one.  They are not helpful and countless youth pastors have been saying this for years.  It worked for Charles Finney, it doesn’t work anymore.  Instead, there was an incredible time of singing on Sunday night, prayer and worship where we were asked to sit, reflect and ask the Spirit to move in us.  Our students connected with this, even those who weren’t appreciating Starfield’s leading earlier.  It’s out of these times that conversations flow a bit more naturally.

There was a lot more (like the painter Scott Erickson.  He’s featured on YS Video Podcast from last month.  Many of ours loved his work and his seminar.  Marquis Laughlin, the dude with the super deep voice and instead of doing movie previews, he’s reciting Scripture in a beautiful way) but I should end this.  You can watch a quick summary from another YS Video Podcast here (thanks Adam).

Wished that:

– … the focus on our worship wasn’t on Starfield’s lead singer so much.  With access to multiple camera angles, a million different types of backgrounds, a million more that motion backgrounds and the idea of flat worship, Tim’s face was on the big screen way too much and it got distracting.  I know that is not Tim’s, Starfield’s or YS’s intention but it seemed considerably more than at NYW Conferences.  This isn’t a criticism of Starfield, I like them but just the way we did worship seemed too focused on them. I didn’t mention this until one of our students brought it up.  It led to a great conversation regarding worship.

– Fred Lynch would have rapped for us … just once.

– Would have liked to see Tic more.  We love you brother.

Reflecting on CT's The Case for Early Marriage

I just read The Case for Early Marriage by Mark Regnerus and thought it was a decent article, especially for many CT readers.  Most near my age will laugh at the first few paragraphs and I think you should click just to check out the first three paragraphs.  In any case, I liked the article and here are some thoughts.

I got married young (23) and am grateful for it.  It all kind of worked out for me (Susan still isn’t sure but I’m ok with that ;-)  Every so often I think to myself, “Wow, so maybe I wasn’t a complete idiot in college.”  But we married young because we were convinced that we found the person we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with, not necessarily because we wanted to be married young.  In fact, I’m confident that had neither of us thought we were right for each other, we would have broken up and waited for the right person and the right time.

Just a few weeks ago as we were driving to Poets, Prophets and Preachers, Susan and I were talking about this.  It usually arises from the context of I’m not sure I would have gone to Liberty had I to do it all over again.  Some days I am certain that I wouldn’t, some days I am certain that I would (because I do think it has shaped me and my present perspectives).  Most days I say, if I hadn’t, I would have regretted not meeting Susan.  And that’s probably true because I don’t believe in this “God only has one person out there for you and you need to follow His treasure map plan so you two will meet.  This is why you should always rush to get into the elevator and speed through yellow lights so you won’t miss destiny at the grocery store.”  Or is that you should wait for the next elevator and brake hard at yellow lights so you don’t miss God’s will at the light?  This is why God didn’t foreordain me to  be a Calvinist (I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of that joke lately).

So should Christians marry young?  My answer is yes and no.  I’ve met too many people who regretted marrying young. That’s not to say that they may have regretted marrying at another point in time but their sentiment is worth heavily considering.  On the other hand, I’ve listened to those who regretted marrying later on or not at all.  Both comments have been found in counseling sessions, some have been dear friends, and some of have been those that you meet along the journey of life.

Indeed it’s difficult to meet people later on in life.  This is clearly evidenced by my single friends.  Frankly, many of them are amazing people that have not found their “one.”  If I was single and looking I’d probably have duplicate facebook accounts, a membership on every dating site including Jdate, a blog dedicated to my singleness called “The Desperate Disciple” and would be trying to produce my own reality show called, “The Bachelor Pastor that was Left Behind”. I’d cast Christian girls from various circles like the wholesome northern girl, the southern ex-smoker, a Bob Jones grad and for the sake of good television, a non-Christian.  She would probably be a pastor’s daughter and would be easily identified by the tattoos, the leather biker-chick attire and constant use of profanity.  If I couldn’t convince FOX maybe I could get TBN or that Angel Network that I see advertised every so often.  I’d write a book called I Kicked Courtship Good-bye and would man a table at the Women of Faith rallies (do they still have those?).  In all likelihood, all this would be a disaster and be used as further evidence to Regnerus’ point.

I would really like to encourage young people (like my youth group students) to be open to marrying young (defined as soon after college) and not be set on waiting until after grad school or after they have made their first million or something.  I would also like to encourage those determined on meeting someone in college to be open to waiting for the right person and/or until they became the right person. Perhaps being open to this tension would allow us to be more selfless and more open to finding a significant other.

Monday Morning Brief 8.3.09

What I’ve Been Enjoying –1. I’ve loved being home.  All is well with Susan, Nathan, and all is well in the womb with Baby G. Just went to another appointment and all is pretty good.  To the right is a fairly recent 4-D sonogram pic.  I’ve never been so happy to see my nose.  Not worried, he’ll still get enough of his mom’s genes to be cute.  2. Still enjoying the afterglow of our mission trip and trying to apply what I’ve gained from our Nassau experience.

What I Was Disappointed By – I know I shouldn’t be surprised but every time I hear about steroids or performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), I get frustrated.  I think part of it is that people like myself have sought refuge in sports pretending it’s the last place of purity but we’ve always been kidding ourselves, nothing is pure.  Speaking as a Yankee fan, I can’t help but think of Game 4 in the 2003 ALCS.  I know a lot of baseball was on something but Mariano wasn’t and if you know baseball, you know that’s true.

What I’m Reading – Still reading the last half of 1.2 of Barth’s Dogamtics that should have been completed almost 2 weeks ago for our independent study.  Just found Enough last night and plan on finishing that soon. About to start Rob Bell’s Drops Like Stars.

What I’m Listening to – new Derek Webb, new Wilco, Homebrewed Christianity Podcast with Robert Wright and catching up on Relevant podcasts.

Student Ministry Update – It’s been great to hear all the wonderful things said about our mission trip.  A lot of time, work, prayer, support went into that and I am not taking these good things for granted.  A lot of positive things were expressed by our students, one I hope to share about one day, and while I still have concerns for short term missions (they are not an end), I’ve been really moved by our last couple especially. Now on to planning the new year, cleaning out files, catching up on all the stuff before the mayhem begins again!