You have to understand something, Mike and I are the type of friends that pick up as if we haven't been away from each other. We just needed to fill in some blanks. I honestly, laughed harder and longer than I have for some time.
We woke up the next morning eager to see what the day was going to bring. I woke up without the alarm, which if you know me at all is unusual. I woke up thinking about the journey. The word kept rolling over in my mind until I couldn't sleep anymore. I woke up and took a shower and I couldn't get it out of my head. Journey is a big word for me. Ever since I read Alister McGrath's out of print book, the Journey. I identified so well with the book's theme of the Christian's life as a journey. One that we take not alone but together. From the Exodus to the missionary journey's of Paul, I just see our life's journey being lived out with each other and not alone. But, back to Atlanta. Mike and I got dressed realized we were running late and headed off for our morning jaunt to the early break out session. We made it in time for me to run into an old professor of mine. Dr. Allen Jackson, is the professor of Youth Education at NOBTS. I took a class with him at Graceville where I went to college. I could not believe he remembered me. He remembered my situation at the time (I was working at a UMC in Dothan, AL). He remembered that I was struggling with the idea of working at a Methodist church. That was weird. He's a great guy, and actually asked if I was ever going to go to seminary.
Friday, had Andy Stanley at the first General Session with Desperation Band. It was ok, but nothing really earth shaking. Flatfoot 56 could have gone on longer and it would have been a better first general session. The comedians and entertainment was decent but it seemed out of place even at the YS convention.That evening was powerful however. I gained a renewed appreciation for Third Day and Shane Claiborne was outstanding. He nailed an indictment on the wall with his fire breathing, back flip and then reading of the "greatest sermon ever given". I was stirred by Jesus' words - so clear and yet so twisted in our culture. Shane read it in his slow draw that made it seem authentic and genuine. It wasn't Bible for show, it was Bible for Bible's sake. Beautiful and scandalous - Tic Long gave space at the end and actually prayed what I thought - "is this guy 'just' going to read the Bible?" OUCH. Why did I think that? Did he really have something better?
Saturday, I did what they say to do - I stayed in my room and relaxed - for the most part (Andy texted me about him watching the Buckeyes game - he watched the Illinois game with me which we lost). I watched Ohio State boringly kick Michigan's tail. Four straight years of Tressel triumph. It felt good. We were joined by our good friend Billy Poyner. Who livened up the day with his wit and gruff voice. Mike made it back to the room for the second half. This being his first NYWC he actually went to the General Session and breakout time with Studentlife. Of course there was controversy in the General Session with Phyllis Tickle representin'. I wasn't there so I really can't speak of the craziness that people have already jabbered about. But I heard it was no different than the article posted at Out of Ur in March of this year. After a nap, Mike and I headed to the GWCC. This time to meet back up with Billy and to see if I actually had won some CD's (I did).
Mike ended up winning two trips down the Nantahala. Sweet for him. General Session 4 was by far the best for me. Louie preached passionately, Chris Tomlin was at his best and Family Force 5 well, they were Family Force 5. Louie's message hit home for me. The thought that Jesus has brought Peace and yet there is trouble is this wonderful paradox that my life has been soaked in.
Sunday gave us the inspiration of Doug Fields. He spoke on something that you just don't hear about at most youth minister's gatherings but it is a culture that is soaked in it; ENVY (no not Jack Black and Ben Stiller's not so funny comedy of the same name). He delivered a message that challenged and provoked my thinking and had been the theme for some of Mike and I's talks. It was so good I purchased the CD to listen to it again. Doug spoke about Joseph's brother's and Joseph's coat of many colors. How the brother's envied Joseph and their father's love for Joseph. It hit me hard because I had been struggling with all of the ways I feel like I don't measure up and our youth ministry isn't as flashy as some others. It was refreshing to hear a guy like Doug, who has youth pastored with Rick Warren. He said he didn't struggle with Warren's popularity but he struggled with being envious of other youth ministries. He illustrated the whole thing with a coat that he turned inside out to reveal that it was white and he then he spoke of our robes of righteousness that God will give us - that it is about doing your best for Him and not for others. It was a great session for me. David Crowder then lead us in worship. I always feel like I haven't gotten enough Crowder when he does YS. He and the band are so good. He encored with the Fox NFL theme. Which of course led me to desire to go watch my Browns beat the Ravens! It was dramatic with a bizarre field goal by Phil Dawson and then and awesome overtime performance by the Browns. It was a great day.
I spent some time with my friend Dusty and his wife Stephanie. Our other friend B.A. Waters came to dinner with us at this very ritzy southern cooking restaurant. It was weird. I mean, I can get Fried Chicken cheaper and with a much more country style atmosphere than what they offered to us. It was different which is what Dusty likes! We walked to the hotel to get Mike and then strolled to the GWCC for General Session 6. Marquis Laughlin was amazing. One of the camera guys fell down during his performance but was ok. Leeland stole the show. They were brilliant musically and very genuine in there spirituality. Steve Fee lead a worship set. The Skit guys were hilarious.
One thing that stood out about the General Sessions was the sign language interpreters. There was one in particular who helped even those with hearing to worship passionately - she really got into it.
Sunday's last General Session gave us Marko. I have to admit that I went into the weekend skeptical of Marko. He is a board member of Emergent Village. I find myself closer to Mark Driscoll on things about the Emerging Church. But I prayed and asked God to give me a discerning spirit and keep me from a critical one. I was challenged by Marko's talk. It was a good observation of Youth Ministry and I appreciated his insights. Well, we left early to get a head start and Mike and I walked back to our cars reflecting on the weekend and pacing ourselves as to milk as much time as we possibly could. We prayed together and then headed out.
My time with my friend Mike was uplifting and encouraging. It was good to be around him. He has such a wealth of knowledge regarding music and the Word. I believe he is going to have great success in youth ministry. He is passionate and loves Jesus. Mike also knows how to discern his culture and dissect the Scriptures in his life and ministry.
Another good NYWC. It was fun and relaxing. It was challenging and at the same time enjoyable.