Well, the 2008 NAD Youth/Young Adult Summit is now over and I’m flying home. I finally have a few moments to reflect about the weekend and jot down a few thoughts. This was my first time at a national Adventist youth/young adult summit so I didn’t know what to expect; I went with virtually no expectations. I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised, refreshed, and inspired from a wonderful weekend with friends new and old.
Encounters Café – On Friday night, I was able to spend a few hours catching up with friends in the café that had been set up. Although, some friends and I have talked about doing a café night at our own church, this is the first time I’ve personally experienced one. The vibe was perfect–friends gathered around lamp lit tables, singing along to worship music led by live musicians, and/or just enjoying conversations–an amazingly spiritual ambiance. I’m excited about the prospects of trying to help recreate such a setting at my local church.
Christ-centered/progressive preaching – I was able to catch one sermon over the weekend by Eddy Hypolite on Friday evening. He spoke on the summit’s theme of Jesus being “the truth, the life, and the way.” The truth, according to Hypolite, is not a system of doctrines, but a person. I thought he drove this point home effectively. However, the thing I was most surprised about, and will remember for a while, is one of the illustrations he used toward the end of his sermon. To illustrate the point of how we’re often willing to sacrifice ourselves for insignificant things, Hypolite shared a humorous personal experience of being drug behind a bus in London holding on to a box of fried chicken. In his hunger, he had run off a bus stuck in traffic, run into the local KFC, and clutching a box of chicken and biscuits, unsuccessfully attempted to jump back on the bus as it pulled away. Fortunately, he and the box of chicken survived; Hypolite humorously recounted eating the hard-earned chicken with shaking hands.
What’s so significant about this story? I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve heard an Adventist pastor referencing eating meat from the pulpit. Most Adventist pastor’s I know are either vegetarians, or “in the closet” about their carnivorous habits. It was refreshing to see a leader being authentic and open about a personal experience, and effectively defusing the taboo Adventist tend to place on this issue. He shared this story in front of a crowd of about 1500 hundred people—Adventist youth, young adults, lay leaders, pastors, etc. Times are changing.
Contemporary/professional worship music – I’m actually not the biggest fan of slick praise and worship services and am not to sure what I thought about the worship service on Friday night. I’m assuming it was similar to the other general sessions. The room was very darkly lit, there was PowerPoint slides with announcements/lyrics and a very talented band/singers led out in the music. What was distracting for me was the lights flashing around the ceilings and walls. This gave the general feeling of being at a concert of some sort as the lights shot out over the crowd and into our eyes. Don’t get me wrong, everything was very professionally and tastefully done. I, however, preferred the folk/acoustic worship at the café. Perhaps my age is showing!
Cultural relevance -I was surprised at the end of the service, Pastor James Black (the NAD Youth Director) got up and explained/defended the two films that would be shown over the weekend. One movie was on the plight of children in Africa. The other, to be shown on Saturday evening, was Freedom Writers staring Hilary Swank. Black explained that he thought about getting the sanitized version of the film (with no curse words), but then decided against this because it took away from the powerful and accurate depiction of youth in today’s culture. Wow, once again, surprise!
Along this line, two of seminars for young-adults/youth dealt with the issue of porn and sexuality. From I what I understand, both were well attended and led.
Interaction with Spirit-filled young adults and leaders – My favorite part(s) of the weekend was the time was not so much the programming, but the time I got to spend with old friends, and some of the young adult leaders. I saw old friends and got to meet many others for the first time. It’s exciting to see what God is doing all over North America! There are some great things happening on non-Adventist university campuses as well as with young adults. The highlight of the weekend for me was the consecration time the opened the young adults advisory meeting. Instead of a call to order, or reports of what different people were doing with there ministries, or diving into an agenda, the meeting started with a time of worship and prayer. We shared an extended time of confessing sins, singing/worshiping, and praying for the filling/working of God’s Spirit in our lives and ministries. There were moments where God’s presence was palpable in the room and I was overwhelmed with waves of emotions.
All in all, I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of this weekend. Now, off to bed and to catch up on some sleep!