clarification on ysmarko and battle cry and me and ron luce and all that

i first wrote this as a clarifying comment to the post below, where i expressed frustration over battle cry’s san francisco return. but as i finished writing it and got ready to post it as a comment, i felt the issues raised and responded to, and the story i tell at the end, was important enough to make it a new post. the comments on that first post are an interesting read!


first, let me say that i love this discussion. and i love that a one sentence post has 30+ comments of varying opinion. i think there are overstatements in both directions, including those comments that malign ron luce’s motivation (more on that later).

but there were a couple comments/questions that i should respond to, in all fairness…

from tim hower:
Why if YS is against Battlecry do they continue to allow them to advertise in their publications like at the NYWC and in the CORE training books. Both had ads in them for Battlecry.

and from brian:
I’ve wondered about the advertising question as well, both in Group and YS’s case. I know Marko can’t speak for Group, and I’m sure not losing sleep over it, but I am a little curious.

these are great questions, and ones i can’t answer easily. i can certainly see how this all appears or sounds hypocritical, or, like YS is only driven by the almighty dollar (that we would accept ad dollars, even though we disagree with the organization). so, believe what you choose to believe — but this is the honest truth right here:

1. my blog and ys really are two different things. yes, there’s some overlap, because i work for ys and love ys and love talking about stuff that i love about ys. but my blog is not an official blog of ys: it’s my thoughts and opinions (and stuff i find funny, and whatever else i feel like posting, including, even, pictures of and quotes from my kids). i know that i am both ysmarko-blog-writer guy AND ys president, and that my comments on this blog can easily be taken as “official” ys doctrine. and sometimes (as in the apology to asian americans i posted a week ago), i DO use my blog for “official” ys stuff where i really want to express my own, personal voice. but, in general, the two (my blog and ys) are not the same thing.

2. ys is extremely intentional about who we allow in our exhibit hall and in our ad space and stuff like that. our leadership team has revisited this subject over and over and over again (and i’m sure we will continue to revisit it). our intentional commitment is this: we’ll allow almost anyone in, whether we agree with them or not. this is a missional and theological choice for us, not a financial choice. for us, it’s very much a matter of living out what we say we believe. and, since we say we believe that we trust youth workers, that we don’t need to spoon feed them or make all their decisions for them (ironically, this is a MAJOR difference between ys and atf, which, when ron and i met and chatted a couple years ago, we identified). so, every time a question is raised (internally, i mean) about an exhibitor or ad that one of us at ys really doesn’t like, or is embarassed by, or outright disagrees with, we have to swallow hard and remind ourselves that to be true to our calling and organizational values, we do not pre-select or suppress any organizations that want to connect with youth workers via these means (this, by the way, is the same reason we have general session speakers and seminar leaders at NYWC who would completely disagree with each other, and with whom i or others at YS might disagree with). we’ve only blocked exhibitors or ads a couple times, and it’s been because they didn’t treat our youth worker attendees well (i didn’t allow one organization to return to the 2nd – 4th cities last fall, after, in the 1st city, they were inappropriate in how they interacted with youth workers: particularly with female youth workers).

that’s a long-winded explanation to say: yes, i will express my likes and dislikes, organizations and ideas that get my pumped and organizations and ideas that i really don’t resonate with, here on my blog, in a way that you would not normally see YS, as an organization, do.

the line might sound pretty fuzzy to you. but it’s rather clear to me (i don’t mean that as a slam on someone for whom that line would be fuzzy — i say it to mean i know what i will and won’t say in official ys space, and what i will and won’t say in my blog).

again, from tim hower:
Marko you can’t say its just your opinion and not YS’s that you disagree with Battlecry. At the CORE training on the free resources table was the article from Group magazine from last fall that condemns Battlecry. Not the whole magazine, just that article. Why does YS continue to accept money if they don’t agree with what Battlecry is doing?

well, i think i kind of addressed this above (and, clearly, i disagree with you, tim, in that i DO think i can say it’s my opinion and not ys’s). i’m a little confused about the “group article condemning battle cry” you mention being on our freebies table. i haven’t been out on the core yet this year (i go out in two weeks), so i don’t know exactly what’s out there on those tables. but are you sure it was group? group and atf have partnered on stuff in the past (including a youth ministry event a couple years ago). i’d be a little surprised if they published an article condemning atf. but, hey, i could be wrong. i’m wondering if it was the journal of student ministries, which DID run an article, by steve argue, expressing frustration over war and battle language in youth ministry. and maybe JSM put that article out as a freebie to try to entice potential subscribers? i don’t know — i’m just guessing. even if that’s the case, JSM — while we are partners on it — operates independantly of ys. we don’t have anything to do with developing the content of JSM — we just have a partnership with them.

now… a word of clarification about ron himself. a couple years ago, ron and i had a major come-to-jesus meeting. we were both speaking at another youth ministry event (that neither of our organizations were hosting). and, we’d never officially met. we’d both spoken negatively, publically and privately, about each other for quite a while. but we’d never exchanged a word, personally.

when we met, we knew we needed to talk. i mentioned this to ron when we passed each other at one point (during the event), and — to his credit — he came and sat in the back of a seminar i was leading, listening and taking notes during the entire thing. he waited while i answered questions afterward. and then we went for a walk in the park (seriously – the whole thing, as a visual memory, has a bit of humor, because a film crew was shooting a scene for CSI in the park next to the event site, and ron and i walked through the park and sat at a picnic table to talk).

once we sat in the park and got past the initial small talk, i started weeping. i mean, really weeping. not convulsing, but tears streaming, and a bit hard to catch my breath. i told ron that i thought our speaking poorly of each other was breaking the heart of god. he agreed. i asked for his forgiveness, which he granted. he asked for mine, which i gave. then we had a very hard, but good, conversation about what we WOULD and what we WOULD NOT say about each other and each other’s organizations. we talked about what drives us crazy about each others organizations, and about what we would never agree on. we agreed that there were SIGNIFICANT differences in approach, based out of core values and theology, that we would likely never resolve. and we agreed that was ok to talk about. we also agreed that we could no longer question each other’s motives, and that we could no longer speak poorly of each other’s character.

then we held hands and prayed. we prayed for forgiveness, and we prayed for each other’s ministries. (again, i’m sure the scene was an odd one to the various youth workers wandering by! me and ron luce, crying and praying and holding hands, sitting at a picnic table in a park where a film crew was 20 feet away. people likely wondered if were we acting as part of some scene!)


i DO believe that ron is a guy who is pursuing god, and is trying to respond to god’s call on his life. i DO NOT believe that ron is evil or only motivated by impure motivations. i STRONGLY disagree with some of ron and ATF’s assumptions and approaches (particularly, with the massive use of war metaphors, and with their approach to culture).

but let me end with this: my belief in ron as a human combined with my ongoing disagreement with some of what his organization says and does leaves me realizing that there must be places where i and the organization i work for are misguided also.

17 thoughts on “clarification on ysmarko and battle cry and me and ron luce and all that”

  1. Well stated Marko…obviously we all are going to have some differences in our approaches. The main reality is we need to keep focused on Christ, keep loving our teens and always keep it central that we will answer to Him.

    YS markets to all segments of youth ministry and if you narrow the focus to a certain side of the issue you will limit your influence. We youth pastors need to be able to weed through without condemning the other side. Sometimes we are so quick (me included) to wanting people to jump on our side of the bandwagon that we miss the great community of believers and the ability to learn from others.

    There are things I disagree with and probably always will with Marko’s assumptions and approaches but I will weed those out in an effort to continue to learn and strive to be closer to God and continue to be relevant to teens.

    Marko thanks for what you do.

  2. Marko, thanks for taking the time to write this extensive post! Thanks for writing from your heart so we can hear your “real voice” on this. It is obvious that the root of this is NOT an attempt to rip apart ATF or Ron. There are many things that could be changed about ATF to better reflect the love, grace, and mercy of God but the one thing that we really can’t question is the passion and commitment of Ron and the ATF people, and that is something that is good and should be honored.

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  4. I appreciate your spirit Marko. I grow weary of all the bashing that goes on in the Church; all the “our way is the right way and yours is the wrong way” talk. While we all have our opinions and methods we must find a way to be one in Christ. You have done that. Way to go!

    “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:1-6

  5. Marko,

    Thanks for addressing the advertising issue. I’ll clarify too, that my comment about not losing sleep over it should be read as “I trust YS and am confident there’s a good explanation, whether I’ll agree with it or not.” So thanks for explaining, and I can’t say I disagree with your policy.

    I’ve been to ATF (long time ago) and was very turned off by some of the things Ron said to the youth workers gathered there. I’ve not been back and was bothered by the Battle Cry ad I was sent (war imagery aside). The question was “Who will rise up and save our youth?” The implication was that I needed to rise up, get my kids to battle cry and save them. But what gets lost is that there is One who already rose up and that is so easily lost in the fear and battle mentality.

    Still, like you, I think Ron’s heart is in the right place, but he’s way off in his approach.

  6. Good post. I like the fact that you took time to speak with Ron personally. I have been to an ATF event in the past and I do not plan on going back. However, I do know of several teens who were deeply moved and motivated by going there. We’re all on the same side. We have different methods and different cultures we are reaching, but we all serve a great God.

  7. Did I tell you you’re my hero…

    I appreciate the effort you put into your faith, your thoughts and your transparency as a servant and leader.

  8. i think it’s all been stated pretty clearly thus far, and i agree with most of what’s been said…many different strategies (some i agree with and some not so much…but that’s MY opininon).

    Marko, i appreciate your honesty. and i concur…YS and you…two separate beings…i’m picturing, what is it? a ven diagram? the 2 overlapping circles. You have my blessing to continue to use this as Mark Oestricher’s place. You may carry on!

  9. Thanks Marko for showing me how to be a better youth minister and a better person. Sometimes I get caught up in my way is the best way. It impresses me that you talked to Ron personally!
    God Bless you!

  10. Thank you Mark for directly addressing my question. You were correct the article was from the journal of student ministries not from group magazine. My apologies for not having researched that harder and gotten it correct. I originally looked for the link but not hard enough. Here it is-
    This was available as a separate handout on the table at the Core training in Grand Rapids a few weeks ago. It was also linked to from the YS weekly newsletter soon after being published last fall and it was a featured link on the YS website and is still there. I know the standard disclaimer about links on YS site and in the newsletter but the fact that its on a YS server and has a big logo saying “this article brought to you free from YS” seems to me like an endorsement from YS for the article.

  11. . . . and here I was thinking you just like to hang out with goofball teenagers so you could spray root beer through your nose without looking like a compelte idiot. . . I’m so disillusioned!!

    Thank you, and BLESS YOU, for putting yourself out there.

  12. There is a cry that needs to be heard across this country and in the church, but it is not one of battle against each other. The cry that needs to be heard is that of Christ as He weeps for our distortion of His Gospel. Seems like I do remember Christ telling Peter in the garden of Gethsemane to put away his sword…

  13. Marko, You are my hero! YS is quite possibly the biggest best resource that exists for youth ministers across the board. Your blog is refreshing and encouraging to me. Thanks for taking risks, being real, and transparent. ATF / BattleCry creeps me out just a little, but I know so many other ministries that have totally been blessed and encouraged by their efforts. Keep working together. I hope you and I can cry together one day. Maybe you could use your hair and wash my feet? Am I creeping you out yet? Thanks for the laughter, tears, and challenges. Keep blogging.

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