5 weeks and nearly 5000 miles this summer saw us driving through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.
The central event of our summer was attending our National Staff conference, which takes place every other summer in Fort Collins, Colorado. During the conference, Jacob and Joshua participated in “The Getaway”. The Getaway is a special program for junior high and high school students. They heard from speakers like Josh McDowell, participated in small group Bible studies and did fun activities like Paintball and Rafting, as well as the infamous “Food Fight”.
While Jacob and Joshua were experiencing the Getaway, Jen and I, along with about 5000 other U.S. Cru staff, were attending main sessions and seminars that challenged our thinking and motivated us to continue to engage in our ministry efforts. We heard from great speakers such as Alistair Begg and Lisa Harper. Some of my favorite messages were the short “TED” style talks that challenged our thinking on how to engage the current culture.
Jonalyn Fincher shared how our language and even the words we use can be confusing to our audience and can turn people off before we even get a chance to share our message.
One of my favorite speakers was a man named Skye Jethani, who serves as the senior editor for Leadership Journal. Skye was part of a series of speakers who spoke on issues related to culture. The question being addressed is how can we better engage our culture and more effectively reach people today for Christ.
Skye’s talk really resonated with me because he was able to articulate an idea that I have thought about for a long time but had never synthesized or communicated in the way that he did. He talked about the role of consumerism in our society and how consumerism is actually a worldview where we are at the center and everything exists to satisfy my desires.
Consumerism doesn’t just affect those whom we’re trying to reach. It affects us in the church too. It affects our view of God and of ourselves. Consumerism affects our evangelism when we present Jesus simply by the gifts He will give us.
Skye shared an interesting perspective on the story of the prodigal son. He said that both sons were looking for what they could get from the Father. The younger son did it in a socially unacceptable way while the older son did it in a socially acceptable way. Both sons missed the joy of simply experiencing the presence of their father, which is really the whole point. Too often in the church, we as Christians are guilty of trying to make older sons out of younger sons.
We live in paradoxical times in that today’s generation of students and young adults is the most self-absorbed generation ever (thanks to consumerism), yet they are also the most activist oriented generation ever. They want to make a difference in the world.
Our goal often is to tap into that activism and get them to be a part of the mission. But according to Skye, the solution to Christian consumerism is not Christian activism (mission); it’s our presence with the Father. Christian mission isn’t bad, but it needs to be placed in the right order. We need to ensure that we are helping others experience the presence of the Father before we seek to employ them in the mission of Christ.
Skye’s talk was a reminder to me to beware of falling into the consumerism trap that puts me at the center of the universe while everyone, including God, exists to satisfy my needs, wants and desires. Please pray with us and for us that we would be experiencing the Father’s presence first and foremost in our lives and that we would be drawing others to the Father’s presence as well.
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