This was certainly an interesting weekend. I went up as a leader with my church's youth group to YC in Edmonton and didn't shower or wash my hair the entire time (though the rain and snow did manage to make me feel a bit drowned rat like from time to time). I consider it a success, as my sister only noticed an intriguing "food-like" smell emanating from my brother and me when she came to pick us up upon our return.
There are many things I could tell you, but most of them you would probably not find interesting. I got lost only twice (on the first evening) and missed supper only once (not my fault). I learned to slice tomatoes on a moving bus, which actually wasn't too hard, but which I am inordinately proud of managing. Nothing too extraordinary happened, but it's blog worthy regardless.
1. Glancing around the group and seeing that almost everyone in our group, excepting my little brother and me, had purchased some sort of stadium concession item or band memorabilia. Then my brother caught my eye and pointed out that very same observation. I consider this evidence of the successful endowment of (wise) Mennonite frugality into my brother and me by our parents. It was an odd brother/sister moment that made me smile.
2. Being crushed in a mosh pit. Actually, moshing isn't allowed at YC, but the authorities didn't organize proper line-ups for people wanting to see the Panic Squad, which resulted in pretty much the same thing. One guy even went crowd surfing, though he was carried away from the doors rather than towards them, so he probably regretted doing it. Given the size of the crowd, I had figured there wasn't much chance we'd get in, but my brother spotted an empty space closer to the door, so we forged ahead, to eventually be joined by my brother's friend Caleb. Need I describe the experience once the doors finally opened? As it was, I was contemplating bracing my back against the people behind me and propelling Caleb forward with my feet, as Panic Squad was the only thing at YC that he was really wanting to see, but all three of us managed to make it in, and even to get pretty good spots. Well played, we congratulated ourselves, even though it left me pondering the insanity of fan behaviour and exactly what I had just been a part of.
There's actually a whole lot that was neat about the weekend. I enjoyed interacting with the members of the youth group and getting to better know my co-leaders. I also managed to meet up with a friend of mine from university, which was cool because I probably won't see her again all summer.
But now that I've dealt with some of the fun stuff, I still want to discuss the speakers. I think I'll discuss the musicians on a later date.
Not that I claim to be absolutely correct on everything, but I did not like the first speaker, Preston Centuolo. Well, that's not true. He struck me as quite funny and a genuinely nice guy, and I respect his testimony. It's just that I think what he was saying kinda... well... stank. It was misleading and misrepresented Christ.
His main theme was that, "Everybody has issues. God will deal with your issues." Now this is very true with a certain understanding of "issues". We are selfish. God helps us deal with our selfishness. Lonely? God is with us. Upset or grieving? God comforts us. However, as far as I can gather, this is not what the speaker meant by "issues". His text was the story of the bleeding woman who touched Jesus's cloak and was healed. That is: sick --> Jesus --> healed. Not sick --> Jesus --> content.
Christ can heal, there's nothing wrong with that. The second speaker Nick Vujicic brought this up. Despite having no arms and no legs, he has a pair of shoes in his closet just in case God decides to perform a miracle on him. But just because Christ can heal doesn't mean He will. And we can trust and serve God regardless, because, as the third speaker Miles McPherson said, the main thing is that in the end, we win. Maybe we never get our arms or legs. Maybe our families never get back together and people we love die. Maybe even something as insignificant as our acne doesn't suddenly clear up. But that's not the point. We can forgive members of a dysfunctional family. We can carry on despite the deaths and be confident even with an ugly face.
Perhaps what irked me most about Centuolo's message was the botched altar call. He basically asked for everyone who had never before asked God to deal with their issues to stand up. Some people had the courage to do so. He then said something along the lines of, "Welcome to the Kingdom, say this after me and your life will never be the same." I'm not sure how, "If you've never done this," and, "If you want to do this," mean the same thing, but even pretending it does fails to deal with the rather large "issue" that when the lives of these people don't quickly turn all hunky-dory, they're going to come away disenchanted with and more skeptical about this whole Jesus Christ thing. And even if they don't, it's hardly been a repentant conversion. It's all about wanting life to be easier and happier, and not at all about being repentant for evil and wanting to serve God.
Implying that Christ is the cure-all solution to make your problems go away is turning God into a cosmic vending machine. This is the health-and-wealth prosperity gospel. As attractive as it may be, it is utterly untrue. God promises suffering to His followers. There was a session I attended on the situation in Burundi, Africa. The suffering there is incredible, and so is the faith of the Christians. I doubt they would even recognize the health-and-wealth gospel as Christian.
According to McPherson, we need to turn pain into power. The way to deal with pain is to decide that you don't want anything but what God wants for you, to realize that those who are persecuted in His name are blessed. We need to understand that pain teaches us what to stay away from and propels us towards God. It's really true that nothing can snatch us away from God and we can recognize that when we are suffering, it's an awesome ministry opportunity.
McPherson and Vujicic both said a lot of great things. I could share quotes until you fall asleep, but the main idea behind what both of them were saying was that it's more important to be holy than happy, and that really, you can be content even when you're suffering. I guess it's good that they came after Centuolo and in a way countered most of what he said.
I've heard so much about how Christ is the answer to everything. The more I hear this, the less I think it's true. Maybe Christ isn't the answer. It seems a whole lot more accurate to say that Christ is the question, and how you respond to Him is the answer.
"God can use a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet." Nick Vujicic
And because I'm thinking about the Distress Centre a fair bit:
[about when he was ten years old and trying to commit suicide because he felt he was a burden to his parents]
"The first two times I thought I was trying to do a good thing. The third time I realized that the only thing worse than having a son with no arms and no legs is having having a son with no arms and no legs who kills himself." Nick Vujicic