"At the end of the day, I know myself to be an evangelist at heart. I believe the good news of Jesus Christ is good news for all people. I am eager to offer the gift of Jesus and his good news to all people, whatever their religion. I am eager to help all people, whatever their religious identity, to “taste and see” how good God is, and to take on Jesus’ yoke so we will experience together his meekness and gentleness of heart. I am not a relativist in the sense of believing that beliefs don’t matter and that all viewpoints are equally valid or invalid.
But my confidence is in Jesus and his gospel - my confidence is not in us and our religious systems or institutions. I don’t think any religion - including my own - “owns” Jesus or has proprietary rights on his gospel of the kingdom of God. The good news taught by and embodied in Jesus is, I am discovering, far better than the half-good/half-bad version many of us were taught."
So tonight the youth are meeting for a mini-retreat called "Creating a Portable Faith." We are keeping with the traditional get a new t-shirt at the retreat deal, but this time it is going to be simple and helpful. It is a simple charcoal colored shirt with a lime-green port-o-potty on the front. Our aim for this retreat is to help the students to develop a portable faith...a faith they can take on the road with them. So we are gathering around 5 practices: Story, Listening to God, Community, Exercise, and Conversation in which we help will begin and build on some tools that they need to have or need to sharpen to help them to explore questions of life, faith, God, relationships, theology, doubt, fear, and all that life throws at them. I couldn't be more excited for my good friend Stephen Gray to join us and lead us on this retreat and through not only the series of five mini-talks, but also through the experiential and applied learning exercises and practices to go with them. It's going to be a fantastic time and I'm really excited to see how this stuff gets fleshed out in student's lives.
You may be wondering why even do anything like this...and the truth is, we are seeing that in most faith traditions and parachurch organizations somewhere between 80-95% of students within one year of graduating high school are not part of any faith community be it church or otherwise. And we hope by giving the students the tools they need to navigate their faith or questions about faith, etc. that we are trusting God to continue to work and speak into their lives while also preparing them to think critically and significantly about the profound beauty and complex mysteries of life.
Tonight Stephen will invite students to hear the story of his life and how that has become included into the story of God's mission and love for the world, and will invite students to reflect on their life story and how that interacts with the story of God. Then after some grub, we will discuss how to listen to God, and talk about prayer as listening and creating space for God to speak...not just for us to speak. Then we will spend the night at some different students' houses and then meet for breakfast to talk about community and the importance of connecting and processing the story of God and the profound beauties and complex mysteries of life in a community. And also how the community is a community on mission that seeks to include others rather than exclude. Then we will talk about how exercise is important as it helps us to physically communicate with others, God, and also effects our self-image which in turn effects how we relate to God and others. Lastly we wil talk about conversation as a value, about the importance of relating and being in conversation with people who think, believe, and act differently than us, believing that by being in converation with others we will be able to hear God speak in new ways.
It is going to be a great and packed 20 hours, but I couldn't be more excited to flesh out and put into practice some of the conversations I've had with folks like Stephen, Tom Lynch, Chris McPeek, Chris Folmsbee, Seth, Todd Cullop, and others. Please pray for us, and I hope to share some reflections on this experience here on the blog and next Sunday, June 7th when I preach next!