Tuesday, November 21, 2006


so i spent the last four and a half days at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers' Convention in cincinnati. i certainly went into it hoping to get some good fellowship with some folks and maybe a few good ideas for ministry, but i got so much more.
first of all, it was a weekend in a hotel (the hilton) without many responsibilities, including caring for our son, who was being spoiled rotten by his grandparents in monongahela, pa. so, without the sounds that an almost two-year old makes, i was able to find some space for quiet and reflection. that was really the great blessing of the whole thing for me: the chance to listen.
the theme for the convention was "reveal" and was symbolized by the presence of several statues that hadn't quite been finished; they were only partially carved out of the stone. for me, the idea was just to be quiet enough that i could hear God's revealing God's self to me. it was a weekend of prayer and listening. but it was also a weekend of amazing worship.

you know, being a pastor and all, i don't get the opportunity to really be free in worship very often. but this weekend i didn't have to think about any of the details of leading worship: i simply worshipped. and it was awesome. for several of our sessions, a texan by the name of david crowder led our worship. i have always loved crowder's music, but this was incredible. i cannot judge his own spirit, but the setting he created in that space, for me at least, provided room for some of the most awesome worship i have had in a long time. his music is emotive and vibrant, and his lyrics are far and away better than what gets passed off as 'worship' these days. it is poetry and praise. it isn't church-ese. we also got to worship to some ancient-sounding celtic worship led by jeff johnson. while crowder was passionate and sometimes undignified, johnson was contemplative and pensive.

this diversity was a real strength of the convention for me. it was so good to see that so many voices had been invited to the conversation. there were the strong conservative evangelical voices as well as the more liberal ones. there were those representing the emerging church and those trying to make ministry happen in small congregations in the real communities of our country. there was emphasis on truth and morals, but also on social justice. so, it was more balanced than i anticipated. and so i was challenged and moved and excited.

tobymac was there, as was donald miller. donna salter mcneil was there, but so was phil vischer (creator of veggie tales). mike pilavachi from england was there, and so was roger nishioka from columbia theological seminary. so i had a really great time.

and finally, i loved the city. it was the quietest city i have ever been in. it seemed to be sleeping the whole time we were there. i almost got the feeling that the convention sort of rented the whole downtown for the weekend and everyone else left. but it is a beautiful downtown, very art deco. and i loved the food. i ate at a british tea room. i had cincinatti chili. i had thai food. i went to a steelers bar in cincinatti and watched the steelers beat the browns!

so i had a great weekend, and will leave you with this thought. one of the things that was revealed to my spirit (again) was that ministry is not primarily about programming or success or strategic planning, but about relationships and about living out the good news story in those relationships. one speaker talked about Jesus' story of leaving the 99 for the 1. it is a crazy radical story because Jesus actually leaves the 99 for the 1. for Jesus, ministry isn't about numbers or success. its not about cutting losses. its not about having the best bible study or the coolest worship. it is about reaching out to the marginalized and lost. it is about loving the broken. thanks be to God!



Rick Durrance said...

Nice post Gregory!
You make me almost miss Cinci a little - always loved running up there while living in KY! Hey!
Here's an off the wall question - are you having any trouble with your blog? You don't seem to be! :)
We are... hopefully it will pass...
We're techno-idiots!
Love ya brotha!

greg. said...

rick - i'm not having any problems with blogger. wish i could help. while in cinci, i really wanted to go to that park along that river that you and i and joe and josh went to for our small group trip, the park that is featured in the "press on" video that you made us. i have such good memories of that park, it somehow is part of my vision of heaven. i mean that.

Crafty P said...

Maybe Rick is referring to large spaces in between the post and date?

Glad to hear you and Shannon had a fabulous weekend.
I went to a bit of the YS conference when it was in Pgh last year. Got to hear Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio. love them.
But I do love Mr. Crowder a great deal. Finally got his A Collision Cd the other day. he could seriously hoola hoop a cheerio, dontcha think?

I was so thinking of you during the game and hoping they'd pull out a win.

sounds like an awesome conference. I really want to go there to see OTR

greg. said...

christina - david crowder was freaking amazing. i mean it. his music/words just pulled back the curtain for me, you know? i found life in it. so so good.

and yes, he is amazingly skinny with the strangest hair and goatee thing going on. A Collision is an excellent cd. i love the bit on "a lark ascending" about how he thought he knew what the song was about, but now he's not so sure. do you know what i'm talking about? i love that because it reminds me that life is more about living in the moments of not-knowing, then in the moments of knowing. more about questions than answers, as i keep saying. more about journey than destination. there is a review of the new movie "the fountain" on relevantmag.com that talks about this idea. sounds like a cool movie.

have a great thanksgiving!


Laurie said...

Greg, This will be a blast from so far past you may not even remember it! My husband Bob and I met while working with the Wilmore youth when you were, I think, a senior in high school...waaaayy back in the Hule Goddard days. Since you are pretty much permanently frozen in my mind as a high school senior sitting around campfires singing with John Mark (I think), and someone else I can't pull from memory at this moment, it is a bit of a stretch to realize you have done college and seminary and are a pastor and father!

It was fun to "find" you through Monica's blog.

Laurie (Gale) Turner