pushing my buttons

i received this email today, from which i’ll remove the sender’s name:

I recently attended the conference in St Louis. I can’t help but think Yac must be rolling in his grave. Having attended the event in the past I was troubled about the path this event has taken to the extreme of being the fundemental evangelism at its worse. I was troubled with the
tenor of presentations that claimed as a standard guilting our youth into being members of the body. Disavowing their own worth because they are sinners destined to hell if they don’t mend their ways. And it was all topped off with a slamming of Lesbians in a general session. I suspect I will not be an attender in the future and will be hard pressed to recommend this to any of our denominational youth ministers.

i post it here because i’ve heard quite a few complaints about greg stier’s talk. this email, however, was the strongest, and really offended me. this was my response:

Thanks for writing with your concern.

That said, I need to start by saying what a cheap-shot it is to suggest that the founder of our organization, whom we all knew and loved so dearly, and who died four years ago last week, would be rolling in his grave. Ironic, that you were frustrated with what you saw as manipulation and guilt, yet you try the same thing with us, throwing on the addition of emotional abuse.

Clearly, you are referring to greg stier’s talk. A couple things:

1. we intentionally invite a wide variety of speakers to our convention. We hope our diversity both honors god, challenged homogeneity, and provides everyone present with the opportunity to have their feathers ruffled. There are plenty of other youth ministry events (conservative and liberal, protestant and catholic) that provide a uniform slate of speakers who would all agree with each other. That’s never going to be us.

2. I really like greg. He’s the real deal; honest and pure. His character is impeccable. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says. I did not like much of his talk.

3. I think you either misunderstood what he said in his illustration of the lesbians, or you are over-reacting. His example was of how he engaged a group of people with whom he had a theological difference in a conversation of respect. He mentioned how he sent away the other christian who was there to condemn them. He mentioned how he was a sinner also. The only “joke” was that he said he had something in common with them, as he lusts after women also. If THAT little comment is what caused such great offense for you, then you need to lighten up.

I believe yaconelli was jumping for joy over this convention, relishing in the diversity of the attendees and the speakers, as he always did (yac was the one who brought jerry falwell and ralph reed!).

I can confidently say you are completely wrong about your impressions of any “turn” the convention has taken. Nothing could be further from the truth.

then, this exchange softened things up a bit:

> Mark,
> Thanks so much for the prompt response. You are correct with your
> impression that it was a cheap shot and I beg your forgiveness. That
> certainly was not the intent.
forgiven, of course. thanks.

> I would like to address the points you
> proposed.
> 1) While the perception on your part is that you provide a variety of
> positions, theologies, ideologies, and agendas I found the presentations
> somewhat of the more evangelical bend. Maybe it is just me. I just found
> myself more uncomfortable at this conference than in the past. Perhaps
> this is just a spiritual crisis for me. I known worship is to comfort
> the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That being said I was
> comforted by Lynn’s talk (but a little long).
This is interesting to me, since lynn is so decidedly evangelical! Did you hear ralph winter (clearly not an evangelical), or me (an ex-evangelical)? Of the three cities this year, the other two are MORE diverse than STL was — but sometimes we get what we get (we ask two or three times as many people as we get!).
> 2) Regarding the ‘talk” by Greg it was much more than the little joke. I
> couldn’t help but sense in a convention of more than 3000 individuals
> that perhaps more than 150 might be going through issues related to
> homosexuality. Did his talk welcome them into the community or push them
> further away? By his own actions of claiming that they would not agree
> on the issue of sin and sexuality wasn’t he condemning them?
Well, that’s greg’s belief, that homosexual practice is a sin. But that wasn’t his point at all! His point was that — EVEN THOUGH he believes the practice is a sin, that’s what binds him to this group of lesbians (that other christians would dismiss), because he is a sinner just like them! Surely, you would not suggest that no speaker should ever express their beliefs, or that YS should filter them. For someone who would believe homosexual practice is a sin (which is a total given, of course, for an obvious conservative like greg), I thought his point was actually the exact OPPOSITE of what you are suggesting it was!
> I really don’t anticipate a response but would welcome one. Thanks again
> for your post, and I will attempt to lighten up, but perhaps that is
> something YS needs to do as well.
Truly — YS does need to lighten up! That message came to me this weekend loud and clear. We’ve been too tame of late.

and, finally, this:

> One more thing. From your response. If I was to decide to return would I
> be welcomed?
First of all — anyone is welcome at our convention. That’s exactly my point!
Second — you even moreso, would be welcome, because you got bothered about something, expressed it poorly, apologized, and had a good discussion with me. Shoot — now we’re friends!

76 thoughts on “pushing my buttons”

  1. As a small, almost completely unrelated side note: I really wish that purchasing the audio for the seminars would be cheaper. Most of the ones that I want to download are ones that I already attended. I know it is expensive to attain the records, but $5 per? YIKES!

  2. Hey MarkO – first it was good to see you. I am the guy who admitted I loved spending a weekend with Jr. High kids. Anyway, I come from a very conservative sect, however I don’t subscribe to all of the opinions we hold. One of the mantra’s that I stuggle with here is that we have taken the great commission to mean go and make others think like me and then they are in. I want teens, and adults to be sold out and converted to Jesus, not my teachings. I love the spectrum of speakers YS has always invited. I was not offended by Greg Stier, didn’t fully agree, however there was some good stuff I took from him. I have been a YS camper for 6 years now and I can truly say, there have been some bad speakers (in my opinion) and there have been some great speakers. But in all of it – there is always something I have gleaned from the general sessions as well as the seminars. Thank you for your example of handling the criticism and I do thank you for the diversity of YS and stretching my thinking.
    Keep praying, seeking and serving

  3. In the Christian circles I’m most connected to, it’d be popular to call yourself an Evangelical. In the secular world around me, its very unpopular to call yourself an Evangelical. For the sake of the Gospel, I think I’d rather not be labeled Evangelical publicly so that “by all possible means I might save some”.

  4. Greetings and hope you have an eventful and blessed weekend. Just want to share a few musings with you. I love the word epiphany it’s one of
    those words that is fun to say and expresses so much about our experience with God and his children. Yesterday I had an incredible epiphany coupled with I refer to as the mischievousness of God. I was at my congregation preparing a meal for an experience we call Soup, Salad,
    and the Spirit. I turned my IPod on and selected the random option. After numerous songs Yac’s last talk played. The talk helped me to be
    more grounded and gain new insights into the events of the past week. I have as others been hampered and paralyzed by my expectations as well as those placed on me by others. I believe that perhaps was the case this past convention. I expected (wrongly) to have my theology affirmed and not the challenged. While Greg and I will not agree on several issues I’m sure we agree that the love of God and the life and message of Jesus
    is what we truly want to share with our youth (what an incredible expectation). Additionally Yac shared in his last talk the issue around
    routine. I too become a prisoner of routine. I’m hoping to correct that issue. I believe dialogue and conversations that stretch us beyond our
    understandings are a great way to do this (as long as we don’t offend others too much). Thanks for the opportunity to share my epiphany. Have
    a great weekend.

  5. My friend pointed me to Greg’s sermon this morning and I was really encouraged by the sermon. He was surprised by the controversy and I was unaware of it until he pointed me here to this page. I didn’t find anything controversial at all. While I don’t identify myself as a fundamentalist, I do, though, fall strongly on the side of conservative evangelicalism. I agreed with Greg—the Gospel is what unites us. But the problem most of the people have who are disagreeing with Greg here is defining what the Gospel is. It seems that they don’t appreciate a Gospel that identifies them as unworthy of God due to their sinfulness. They tend to think that if Jesus did die, he must have done it because of some inherent worth in themselves rather than what the Word of God clearly says—while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. It was precisely because of our unworthiness that Christ died. People don’t like to hear that. It hurts their feelings and damages their psyches. Tough crap. That’s the Gospel. It’s hardcore because we are in desperate circumstances and need a sacrifice of infinite worth to pay the infinite debt we owe against an infinite God.

  6. Wow. Great dialog. I wish I would have picked up on it earlier. I taught 2 breakouts at YS St. Louie, and had similar “post-conference” conversations with a couple of ruffled feather folks. Ultimately, if YS is committed to Educating folks, diversity (within boundaries) is the only way to succeed. Otherwise it is not education, it is indoctrination. Word up.

  7. Marko,

    Loved the convention. I think people totally got bunny-trailed from Greg’s lesbian comment. I got the main point.

    Also, you stated that you’re an “ex-evangelical”. I don’t kow your definition of “evangelical” is. Can you elaborate?

    Either way, I’m glad someone took the time to explain the Gospel to me (when I was 16 and clueless). No one really ever had. They presented me with the opportunity to give myself to Christ and accept his sacrifice for the payment of my sins. No one had ever really taken the time (or the risk) to do that before.

    And looking back, God used that person (someone doing “evangelism”) and someone concerened about the state of my soul, to help me understand God’s grace.

    Granted, there are tons of nutty “evangelicals” out there, but there are also strategic Jesus-followers who are doing evangelism, and God is using them to reach people like me.

    – Chuck in Sioux City.

  8. It really bothers me that YS doesn’t take an official position on something that is so clearly laid out in Scripture as homosexuality being an offense to God and therefore a sin. Central to the gospel is repentance, turning from a life of sin to the Savior. If we are not willing to allow the Word of God to speak to us and define what is sin, then how in the world will we ever feel the need to repent and turn to God and the gospel for salvation? I’m just mystified by any “Christian” organization that is more concerned about not offending others or hurting someone’s feeling than guiding them to turn from their life of sin to the Savior. Any reading of the gospel will reveal that Jesus had plenty of patience with sinners, but none whatsoever with sinful practices.

  9. It sadden me to see so may still missing the point of Greg message. I thought it would help to share from God’s word. “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (1Cor. 1:17-19) Just incase some people miss it but the Gospel is foolishness it is offensive to those who are lost. To tell someone anyone that they “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,(rom 3:23)” is going to offend them.
    It is also funny that so many of those who don’t believe the bible is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.(2Tim3:16-17)” are actually fulfilling many of it prophecies.

    In Jude 7-8: In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.

    In 2 Tim. 4:3-4: For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

    And Titus 1: 15-16: To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

  10. And finally, a few questions to Marko: Our Middle Schoolers are going through one of your studies called “Dares form Jesus.” This Past Sunday’s lesson was called “Live in the Light.” In this study you closed it out with the comment “Thank God for being committed to truth in our lives, thanking God for the fact that we can always believe what he says since He’s so committed to truth and asking God for courage to step into the light.” My questions are this, is truth truth or just whatever we make it? And is that really living in the light? Is the Bible what God has said? Or do we get to make that up as we go? And is that really truth? Are we doing more harm allowing someone to continue to walk in darkness so that we don’t offend them or should we help them see the light? Shouldn’t we let them know that they can hope, love and freedom from their sin if they will turn to Jesus. Yes, Jesus ministered to the sinner, but he transformed their lives so that they would no longer be the same.

  11. Why should YS need to take an official position on homosexuality and spell it out? Where would it end? Do they need doctrine on abortion, murder, rape, contraception, premarital sex, drugs, excessive drinking, porn, and everything else “good Christians” should be against? YS is a vehicle to help Youth Workers minister to students and build our faith lives…yet, why is it vital for them to spell out every single thing not directly related to Youth Ministry?

  12. not offending others or hurting feelings? Uh…this is YS…they are cutting edge and have oftentimes offended others and hurt feelings…it’s all part of the journey. They do well in sharing differing opinions and pissing people off occasionally as well! Ever been to the NYWC?

  13. chuck – you ask a very complex set of questions there. books could be written about these questions. a good answer would take much more than i can offer here in a comment. but let me give a cliff’s notes version: i totally believe in truth. i believe the bible is authoritative. i believe god is passionate about revelation – first, through the bible, and also, through lots of other places and people. i believe spiritual communities have a role of defining truth (i believe this is the role of spiritual communities more than any one person). i believe god wants us to walk in the light of truth, and bring that light to others. i believe, as you say, that jesus is all about transorming lives — i, for one, can personally attest to that!

    were you thinking i would say otherwise?

  14. WOW, is about all I can say. I have never been to a TS convention, my wife and I always talk about but our schedule and finances never seem to cooperate. In all the “opinions” expressed in the 65 or so comments before mine I realized that they are 99% that.,,, OPINIONS. Very very few of the comments even attempted to go to Gods word for an explaination for their “feelings” When do we get past this drive for our “feelings” to be soothed and get back to the cross? We are the ones that are supposed to be pointing kids to the cross and so much of this sounds like a bunch of JR high’ers trying to out do each other. For the love of Jesus,,,,, teach Jesus to the kids that our Father has put in your life. Fill them with the word of God, leave your feelings and opinions at home. Show them JESUS, He is the one you should want to lead and guide them. As far as speakers at conventions I would hope that any organizers would be sure they represent Christ in their life and actions inside and outside of a convention center. In my OPINION the closer we all draw to Christ the less room for all the OPINIONS. I can’t remember Jesus ever being at odds with himself over right and wrong, sin or not sin, should I say this or should I say that or trying to make room for all the fringe elements of faith. He usually said something outragious to thin the crowd and find out who was going to REALLY follow Him from those who wanted their own, their own opinions and feelings to come before the word of His Father. Its not about US, it’s about an entire generation of kids being sucked into hell while we sit back and trying to convice or convict each other. STOP THE MADNESS

  15. Oh yea, I’m 48 and computer illiterate, so somehow everyone gets the ruff and final draft of my post,,, double portion of blessing??
    Oh yea,, Jesus does transform, because He does, I get to be daddy again to a whole new generation of kids, all praise to the Son of the Most High!!

  16. First of all, the mention of Yac was indeed a pretty low blow. I totally agree with you Marko. I would say this about YS, I am a 4 time attender so I do not have a lot of experience but I have attended conferences previous to yacs death and after and I see no change in the variety of people that YS has brought in.

    I think all attendees would agree that there have been many things said in previous YS events that they have not agreed with, but it is my expereince that it is good to be challenged by people who don’t necessarily line up with your common stance. It challenges you to reevaluate why do I believe what I believe and does the Bible speak clearly on this issue. I am not afraid of differences in opinion because it challenges me to be better and more sure of my stance on every issue.
    It is an issue of teachability, are you willing to hear something that doesn’t line up with what you previously believed and learn from it? You may listen and throw it all out, but you may also realize that your view may have been narrow, misguided or even unscriptual.
    I love YS, keep upo the good work.

    -Darrell Halk-

  17. Jim K-I believe Greg did refer to scripture and that his point was the cross. Especially unity in the cross. I believe you may be able to get that talk. It is called “Fanatic for the Cross”.

    We will all never agree but we can work towards the common goal that kids are being lost so lets get out there, love ’em and rescue them. We are all part of an incredible rescue team, the cross at the center, unity is the strength, and diversity that allows us to reach the unreached.

  18. Hey Bubba, Actually wasn’t refering Greg’s sermon, but the bickering that it seemed to produce because the need for personal opinion and feelings or more bluntly the need for SELF to be heard and met. I had never even heard of Greg S. before this. I quickly checked out his blog site and saw nothing that should cause such a uprising. I will say that in these times and this culture that is literally sreaming out for truth and something that’s real to have youth pastors or youth workers who don’t believe God’s word is authoritative and is open for error scares me to death. If His word and promises are open for error just like everything else in this world,, What is the point?? We have absolutely NOTHING to offer, more to the point Jesus has NOTHING to offer, He is just another option in a world of choices to stroke ourselves into feeling better. If His word is not always true why not WICCA, why not Hinduism, Islam, for that matter out right satan worship, seriously Why Not?? If we don’t believe in absolute truth why should the kids around us?? My point was the closer we come to Christ the less room for self to get in the way. As far as diversity goes?? Jesus was not diverse He never changed. The people He ministered to were diverse, their sin although different produced the same results, separation from the Father. We have different spiritual gifts to meet the needs of the diverse people in our given culture. Paul said he becomes all things to all men so that some will be saved. But he never compromised the Word of God, the Gospel remained the same, it remained TRUE without error, he repeatedly warned against those who preach anything but Christ crucified. So should WE be diverse, disagree, believe anything but absolute truth, did Jesus,,no. Should we use all of our spiritual gifts to reach the diverse, yes. We should have the heart of the Father, the mind of Christ and the fire of the Holy Spirit if we put them first there is no room for self. Jason Upton has a song that I think is called Morning Star that talks about those in ministery who want to shine so bright as to make it impossible to see Jesus. I have seen so many working with youth fall into this, it’s a real trap when you have kids hanging on your every word to forget that we are NOTHING with out the one who called us. I prefer to be nothing and watch as Jesus opens the eyes of the blind.

  19. Yeah but doesn’t that presuppose you have vision and others are blind. What if it’s the other way around? Hmmm.

  20. Marko!
    The YS conventions have been nothing more than a great oppurtunity for me to expand upon my beliefs, experience what other “denominations” are teaching and developing a further since of what Jesus meant when we were called a body with many parts. I was at the St Louis Convention this year, unfortunately I missed the Greg talk (marital rejuvenation happens). Beyond missing Greg’s talk, I since that YS is becoming an amazing tool for the growth of the kingdom of God, whether through an evangelical point or Catholic. The people I talked with, listened to and enjoyed the presence of God with seemed to be focused on nothing more than growing themselves so that they can grow the youth that they serve. I believe that YS is one of the best things that I found to help me as a youth pastor to not only better effectively reach out to the youth in my community that are lost, but to help grow the youth that are within the church toward God.
    The diversity of the convention is always something I look forward to. If I don’t agree with the speaker, then I don’t agree with the speaker, I take what is said and examine the points, comparing them to what the Bible tells us.
    May God continue to bless you and all of the YS staff.

  21. WOW, back to the playground. No Kevin, actually it “presupposes” that I have NO vision greater than the spoken Word of God, I have NO vision comparable to the Word of God, I have NO vision that can increase the worth or validity of the Word of God, I have NO vision that my feeble human mind can wrap around the Word of God to make it better, more truthful or more powerful. My vision is only that of the perfect Kingdom of God revealed by the Holy Spirit through His Living Word. It “presupposes” that I AM BLIND and only see because Jesus has given me my sight back, it “presupposes” that I willfully accept that I am NOTHING apart from Him who has called me, NOT the other way around. It “presupposes” that I believe it IS possible “That your kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” It “presupposes” that I don’t believe we have to accept the short fall of the church and all our bickering over who can show the other youth guy up, because it “presupposes” I believe we have all been empowered by grace to live the holy life we have been called to. Here is a short list of other visionaries that thought the Word of God could be improved on by the human mind, Joe Smith, Charles Tazer Russel, Mary Baker Glover, Michael Servetus, Charles Filmore, Theophilus Lindsey. And just to break the politally correct nice Chritian run around the bush but never say what you really think, I would never have ANYONE who doubted or thought they could improve on the WORD or create doubt in the minds of kids that God has entrusted me with any where near them. The Father’s love protects at all cost. I’m out, reccess is over

  22. I’m not suggesting that the word can be improved. What I am suggesting is that there is a lot of mystery to this Kingdom of God thing. To suggest we have all the answers, that we claim truth from our own narrow experience and understanding is to be in a playground of sorts. It’s rather careless and wreckless. Since recess is over does that mean your not palying or you are playing?

  23. “YS is a vehicle to help Youth Workers minister to students and build our faith lives…yet, why is it vital for them to spell out every single thing not directly related to Youth Ministry?”

    I am not asking for YS to define anything, I am just asking YS to advocate the things that the Bible has clearly already defined. If one cannot define sin, then why would any of us need a Savior?

  24. matt — clearly there is a difference between “defining sin” and articulating all the manifestations of sin. i have no problem defining sin, and could give several definitions for you to pick a favorite from (from “disobeying god” to “choosing one’s own priorities”).

    can you agree that there are areas where the articulation of the sin is debated between people (and churches) who are both bible-believing followers of jesus? take alcohol, or speaking in tongues, for example. you may have a position which you feel strong about, and feel is the best interpretation of scripture as you understand it. but please tell me you would not deny the salvation of those who believe otherwise (and are likewise convinced of their position, also based on their interpretation of scripture)?

    you imply in your comment that your interpretation is what is already clear.

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