I’m in Chicago for the week attending the Shift conference at Willow Creek Community Church. My first time at Shift and at Willow Creek. I’ve wanted to visit the campus for quite awhile and I must say it is impressive. It is huge and overwhelming but they have a lot of friendly, helpful volunteers around. Nothing but great help so far. You just have to ask.
Flew in yesterday evening. Driving a Toyota Yaris. Good way to narrow down what type of car I might want. I definitely don’t like the tiny, compact car. Especially after 13 years in my jeep. Check.
Opening conference featured Francis Chan speaking on complacency. He was outstanding and it was definitely what I was needing. One of the reasons I chose this youth ministry conference over others was the sense I picked up from their speakers and breakout sessions that they were really focusing on the need for spiritual transformation in leaders and youth. We put too much hope in programs, books, knowledge, personality, etc. to build a great youth ministry. There is so much pressure to have the biggest and the best youth group and to build it out of your own resources.
Even when I know this isn’t true and when I fight against the traditional models, there are still so many times when I am self-critical and grasping for the latest and greatest youth ministry trick. I know the dangers of a youth ministry built around personalities or program styles rather than a love for God but the temptation and struggle is still there.
Chan gave such an incredible message this morning about how the church (and we) are complacent and not living out of the power and the courage of the Holy Spirit. As youth pastors, our fiercest and most powerful “tool” is the Holy Spirit. If we are praying and begging for the Spirit to be alive and at work in our own lives, first and foremost, than we don’t stand a chance. If we don’t make our biggest commitment to be that of praying for the Spirit to be alive and at work in the lives of our youth and our volunteers, then we don’t stand a chance. Chan spoke of how noticeably different the church now is from the early church in Acts in believing in and living out of the power of the Spirit. We know more than the apostles yet we don’t believe that the same Spirit 2000 years ago can do the same things in 2009. What’s the problem? What’s different?
One of the many things Chan said that really spoke to me was about how easily the church would fall apart today. Get a bad speaker. Get a crappy band. Move the worship times. Any of these, Chan said, and people would leave. If we aren’t coming out of love and thirst for God, then we are tossed around by the waves of preferences.