reveal...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!