Shey and I are down in Atlanta this weekend for the National Youth Workers Convention organized by Youth Specialties. So far we are having a great time, running into old friends, and getting to hear some great stuff. My friend Chris is blogging about his time down here too!
Speaking at the first General Session today was Andy Stanley. My pastor is a huge fan, but up until this point, I had never really heard him speak, but had been given excerpts of books, seen some clips of some talks, but nothing from beginning to end. He came across as a pretty good guy, and I think even gets it on some stuff, in terms of Jesus displaying his understanding of leadership and "power" through washing the disciples feet. However, I think that he stretched the metaphor a bit, asking us to consider how we can utilize our power in the way of Jesus when we come to realize that we are the most powerful person in the room with the capability to greatly influence others. My first question was: What about Jesus or the Holy Spirit being present? Secondly, I wondered if there wasn't a better way to understand the relationship between ourselves and "the other people in the room" in terms other than leader/follower or powerful/less powerful. Nevertheless, his conclusions about serving others in humility were on target and provided some helpful insights about the nature of leadership.
This afternoon/evening, two amazing things happened. First I attended Mark Yaconelli's seminar on "The Dark Night of the Soul: When God is Absent." It was beautiful, the way he weaved the stories of Mother Teresa, his own, and his friends together to tell stories of the struggles with the inability to comprehend God and the process of doubt, waiting, darkness, purification, and trust that was involved in wrestling with the silence of God. Some of the stories brought tears to my dry, red eyes, worn tired from writing sermons and papers and getting up at 3:30 a.m. after going to bed at 12:30 a.m. last night. This was a wonderful gathering and time of reflection. I may try to post some of the notes sometime in the future. It was simply a wonderful seminar.
Lastly, Shane Claiborne got up, breathed fire, did a back flip, and then proceeded to tell the 5,500 youth workers that he was going to tell them the best sermon ever told. He read the entire Sermon on the Mount from Matthew's gospel, and then said "amen" and sat down. It was one of those times when you know the prophet has spoken. I don't think anybody knew what do after he walked off the stage...Tic Long allowed some room for silence which helped us to process and soak in the truth-telling done tonight from the pulpit. Talk about power...
It's been a good start to the conference. I am super-excited about Phyllis Tickle speaking tomorrow at the General Session. When she spoke at the last Emergent Convention in Nashville a couple of years ago, I was floored with her messages, stories, and depth. I can't wait for tomorrow morning.
I hope folks are well. Shey and I are really bummed to miss the baby dedications for the Vegas and Cullops. I hope things go well. We'll be thinking of you friends!