A Jesus-filled weekend.
Sounds great, right?
This past weekend I went to the Acquire the Fire (ATF) conference in Minneapolis. It look exciting; the them was “relentless pursuit.” The trailer featured a lion and a poem by one of my favorite poets, Micah Bournes.
I came hoping for a fresh perspective on the relentless love of the lion-lamb; a new take on the grace that defines me.
I came to see the rescuer.
And I have never been more disappointed.
There was a lot of noise. There was a lot of repetitive songs that were basically just “I’m a Christian! I’m a Christian! Hey, I’m a Christian, look at me!” And every single speaker felt they had to ask multiple times, “Can I get an amen?” “What do you guys think, are you excited?” “What do you guys think, do you love God?”
The main speaker asked for audience approval (in other words recognition-for-mike time) 14 times in his 40-minute session.
And the audience would laugh or scream or cry or raise their hands, all at the appropriate time, never missing a beat.
There were people shouting “Capture my heart, Lord Jesus!” all over the arena. It should have been incredible, an arena full of 5,000 people crying out to Jesus.
But to my ears, the cries sound more like Crucify Him, crucify Him.
Because what they told us this weekend erased the power of the crucifixion. They told us that we need to dedicate our lives to God, because if we are depressed or addicted to drugs or have an eating disorder, we just aren’t close enough to God. What God did wasn’t enough. We have to pursue the pursuer. It’s up to us.
But to to say we can do it on our own; to underscore our inabilities is to underscore His grace.
Oh, and not only did they disregard the incredible rescue and our incredible infirmities, the speakers at ATF encouraged us to ditch our old friends and surround ourselves with the super-Christians. All weekend, they were trying to sell their “Honor Academy,” their mission trips, and even next year’s ATF conference. If you make friends outside of ATF, you’re going to fall away. God’s going to take His spirit away from you. God won’t be able to bless you.
At one point the speaker said, “sometimes the Lord wants to bless you…” an proceeded to talk about the things that get “in the way.”
Jesus didn’t wait until the world invited Him. He came “like a thunderstorm or a kitten,” to quote C. S. Lewis. He blesses me on my worst days- the days when I scream in His face are the days when He showers me with His “appalling love” (more C. S. Lewis).
And about friends. Unless your good friends are all Christians, you’ll fall away.
I’m sorry, but I’ve learned more about love from people that are distinctly non-religious than I have in my entire experience with the church. Can I name a few examples?
My cross-country team. The girls that pick me up after a hard race; who stay with me when my world caves in around me. My work place. I’ve posted about this before- about the lessons in sacrifice and faith.
All around me, people are buying it.
All around me, people are dancing like puppets on a string.
All around me, people are raising their voices and repeating and repeating and repeating, trying to convince themselves that this is real.
I grieve for the people all around me, spreading out their hands around me because they know they must.
I grieve, because the Pursuer stretched out His hands, once, upon a cross.
I grieve, because, all around me, we are all more lost than ever.