Gulfcoast Getaway 2011 Recap

Gulfcoast Getaway was another great experience. Randy Harris did an excellent job talking about living cruciform (cross shaped) lives and doing so in light of the resurrection. He said that people want the life (resurrection) but not the death (crucifixion) but as Christians we are to embrace both. On Sunday morning he said that we are dead to the world so what can the world do to us? What do we have to fear? He said we are all an army of Christian zombies. Now that is an interesting mental picture! You know how fearless zombies are because what can you really do to them? Imagine if the church really lived fearlessly. What could we accomplish for the kingdom of God? In Harris’ class he pointed out that many churches have lost their wonderment and imagination and what is causing a lot of young people difficulty in the church is their inability to express themselves in biblically valid ways because of the barriers of tradition. He also pointed out that our young people have passion but not many have discipline and that God wants both. I think he is right on track.

Last, I am curious to get your feedback on this video that was shown at the Getaway. It is by the Michael Gungor band and is called “God is not a white man” See what you think…

My feeling on this video is that it is combating some old popular notions and makes some valid points. But in doing so it almost makes God out to be a fairy Godfather who gives kids candy and has reduced himself to doing merely whimsical things. I understand that this is a pendulum swing where they are going to one extreme to combat the view of the other extreme so I can take all those parts (candy on the plate, flying squirrel, etc) with a grain of salt. This video certainly strikes a chord with young people today.


Gulfcoast Getaway 2011

If any of you are heading to Gulfcoast Getaway 2011 in Panama City I will see you there! I will be back to blogging on Monday! God bless and have a great weekend.

One Very Moving Video From Gulfcoast Getaway

This is one of the most moving videos I have ever seen. Flashbacks to elementary school and “where the red fern grows” on this one. I kept wondering what that watery, salty substance was coming from my eyes was…get a hankey ready before you click this one.

To sponsor a child through Compassion International click their website here.

Two Humorous Videos Used at Gulfcoast Getaway 2010

What Randy Harris called “the greatest movie ever made”

A video Harris said illustrates the kind of life and joy a Christian ought to have

See the next post for a very moving video that was also shown.

Gulfcoast Getaway 2010 in the Books

Every year I look forward to going to Gulfcoast Getaway, a college rally in Panama City, FL. This year didn’t let me down. I had never heard Earl Lavender speak before. You can tell everything he said came from a richness of study and reflection over years of teaching, preaching, and living Christianly. Randy Harris didn’t disappoint and I look forward to listening to the messages again on CD. The theme this year was On Earth as it is in Heaven with the questions “When?” When will this happen? The answer we heard repeatedly was “NOW!” We don’t have to wait “to get to heaven” to live this out. I want to mention several joys and several concerns for what is ahead for Christianity.


  • Our young people are zealous and will make a difference for others.
  • Church is moving from insulated assembling to living missionally
  • Worship is improving. I know that is subjective and God can be just as displeased by energetic vain worship as he can by lifeless vain worship. I say worship is improving because our young people want a celebration and that is what worship should be about.
  • There is a sense of empowerment among our young adults. This is seen in several things: 1) They aren’t afraid to ask tough questions or assess traditions. 2) They really believe they can make a difference for others and so they aren’t afraid to put their hand to the plow of mission if that is what they think God wants them to do.
  • We are going to see a lot more expression of the full range of emotions in our worship. Thank you to our college students for reminding us that God made us to experience a full range of emotions and not to be afraid to bring our whole selves before his throne.

Every single generation has its own set of concerns so I am not just picking on anyone here. Here are a couple of concerns that it is at least important to be aware of so that we can address if necessary. Good leaders (not that I am claiming to be one) know how to identify and address concerns early on before they become major. So that is why I point these out. Feel free to disagree, agree or ask questions in the comment section:

  • Need to understand the place of scripture in the Christian life – College age people seem like they want authority in their lives to help them have a solid foundation. So they are looking to God for answers through studying scripture. It is important that we teach them the unique nature of scripture and its place in our lives. It is also important we teach them how to read scripture on their own and make application for themselves.
  • Need for spiritual depth – Mark 4:5-6 says, “5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” Zeal is often the product of rocky soil. I am so excited about how zealous our young people are but I fear that some of it will be short lived. I am not saying it will be, just that I fear it will be. What I see in our young people is so refreshing and real that I just know Satan will do whatever he can to get it off track. One way he does that is by slowly tossing pebbles into the soil of people’s lives. In and of themselves they don’t seem like much and don’t seem like that would hinder us but slowly they pile and leave no room for roots to grow deep. It is important that we help our young people grow deep and that their zeal drives them further and further into the soil so that they can find nutrients when water is lacking.
  • An anything goes mentality in regard to doctrine – Because past generations held so tightly to traditions as if they were law there has been somewhat a rejection of tradition but what can easily get blurred is where the line between tradition and scriptural doctrine is drawn.
  • An anything goes mentality in regard to morality – More generalizations and things to be aware of and not a judgment on each and every one of our young people. Our young people are bombarded with a constant message that what you do really doesn’t matter as long as it doesn’t affect anyone but yourself. Here is the key in my opinion. If we stay with the old message that church is about 1 hour a week and God’s mission is solely in heaven and getting you there they will be ill prepared to meet the challenges they will face. But if they are taught about discipleship, holiness, and their purpose in the kingdom of God (rather than the kingdom of this world) then they will be ready to uphold a Christ-like morality in their personal and private lives.
  • A rush to put immediate ministry opportunities ahead of sharpening and equipping – Several of our Christian college graduate departments set up booths at this event. But the majority of booths at Gulfcoast Getaway are for missions and intern opportunities. The Christian graduate education booths get very little traffic as people are far more interested in doing something immediately than they are being trained to be more informed and effective in ministry for the rest of their lives. I love our young people and admire their willingness to jump right in to serve others and make a difference but we cannot diminish the value and importance of being equipped either formally or informally. We need more campus ministers talking with students interested in ministry to look at our graduate programs. If we are not careful we will end up with a generation of spiritual snackers, jumping from one spiritual sugar rush to the next rather than people who know how to find spiritual depth and are willing to be equipped and tooled for effective ministry.

Again, all of these are generalizations. I love our young people and I pray that God would equip them to engage this world with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ, him crucified and the new birth that comes through his resurrection and conquering of sin and death.

Gulfcoast Getaway 2010 in Panama City

I have been looking forward to Gulfcoast Getaway 2010 for some months now. It is starting Friday night and going through Sunday and is one of the largest Church of Christ college gatherings in the nation. With speakers like Randy Harris and Earl Lavender you can’t go wrong. The singing is great. The classes and sermons are great. But what I get the most out of this even each year is the reminder and encouragement that regardless of what the statistics say about declining numbers I am convinced our future is going to be great. Every year I am blown away by the sincerity, spiritual depth, and genuine love for God our young people have.

If you are going to Gulfcoast Getaway this year let me know and hopefully I will see you there! I hope the other 99% of you reading this have a wonderful worship this Sunday morning where God is glorified and his people are brought closer together through our shared interest and relationship with God.

In the comments section on this post write something that
encourages you about this generation of young adults.

Ripening Issues in the Church of Christ – Instrumental Music

The can has been opened and the worms are out! I have not really said much about this issue in the past because it is highly charged with strong feelings on both sides. I think it is a mistake to stand idly by while a whole generation of young people leaves the church because they are dissatisfied with worship. Both sides think their side is right. Both sides feel like they can make their point from scripture. Both sides feel they have to get their way to get their needs met. I know those are generalizations and not everyone fits one side or the other but those feelings are not uncommon on either side of the debate. The only reason I bring it up is because if we do not discuss it and come to grips with some sort of solution/healthy understanding we will divide ourselves even further than we already have. Before I go any further I want you to know the purpose of this post is not to express my views but to help us understand where our young people are coming from, what they are questioning, how they are questioning, and how to be fair with scripture and with them.

Christ’s priorities:

If we were really focused on Christ’s priorities I doubt we would find time to argue about this issue. I am sure there have been board room meetings of Christian men arguing about this for hours while the people across the street remained lost because people would rather argue pet issues inside their fortress walls than try to leave our doctrinal fortresses and make an impact on the world around them for Christ. Hear me out, I am not saying doctrine is not important. If Christ was in town when one of those meetings was being held where do you think he would be? Would he go argue his point at the meeting or would he be reaching the lost? I am not saying this is not an important issue or that we can only discuss it once all the lost people are saved. I am saying we need to keep it in perspective. I am saying this is not THE issue that we prioritize everything else around. As far as we can tell Christ didn’t spend his time in private drilling his disciples on minute pieces of doctrine and tests of faith. Yet it seems that is the model many churches have developed for equipping Christians for service (or more likely for winning arguments). Christ spent his time in the world transforming it through contact with the lost and hurting. For too long we have made instrumental worship an identity issue of first priority. We need to put it where it belongs.

An identity issue:

Have you ever been asked what the church of Christ is like? What is your typical response? “We are the guys who don’t worship with instruments, baptize, take the Lord’s Supper every week, and don’t have a choir.” “Oh.” We just gave that person a brief primer on what we do but have they learned anything about who we are/what our identity is in Christ? Not really. We have made our a capella worship an issue of who we are/how we are different from “those other guys” so much so that we don’t start off answer that questions with, “We are Christ-followers who love God and worship him in response to his saving acts through Jesus Christ.”? If so, that is problematic. We are not first and foremost a capelians. We are first and foremost Christians – Christ followers.

Jesus spoke far more about unity than he did about instrumental music. In fact, he said volumes about unity and absolutely nothing about instrumental music. Yet we have divided over something he said nothing about. Does that seem like a problem to you or is it just me? You can argue against instruments from history and from some very obscure and tentative connections within the New Testament and with some extremely loosely connected “case studies” from the Old Testament. You cannot argue for or against instruments based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. What you can argue from the teachings of Jesus Christ is that we are much more likely to need to withdraw fellowship over all sorts of other things that we have allowed to go on in the church for generations. After we address things like hypocritical leadership, legalism, and sexual immorality (all of which Christ condemned) maybe we will be on better footing to talk about something of lesser priority like instruments in worship. I am not saying it is not important. I am saying discussing it cannot be our number one priority. It does not define who we are. Only Christ does that.

Arguing from Scripture

How do you take scripture and argue against instruments in worship? You can point to the Old Testament and the story of Nadab and Abihu and show that unauthorized worship is punishable by death. But they were privy to some pretty specific instructions regarding worship. They were not violating an argument from silence because how God wanted them to worship was pretty explicitly laid out. If we use the story of Nadab and Abihu to inform us on worship that seems problematic because if the Old Testament begins to shed light on how our worship should or should not be couldn’t that in and of itself open the door to worship as they did – with instruments? Obviously that kind of reasoning doesn’t work. Nadab and Abihu don’t give us anything clear we can really say about if instruments are right or wrong. Moses wasn’t writing those things down thinking, “Some day some Christians will have to figure out whether or not they can worship with instruments so I better write this one down.” So what about the New Testament? We point to verses like Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 that tell us to sing and to pluck the strings of our hearts in worship. They say nothing about instruments and so we argue from silence that because he didn’t say to do it with an instrument we shouldn’t do it that way either. So why do we use grape juice in the Lord’s Supper when the clear example of the New Testament was wine? Why do we shake hands and hug instead of greet each other with a holy kiss (which is a command in scripture) and why don’t we teach very much about fasting (which is a command or at least expected for us to do in scripture)? Did Paul really pen those words in Ephesians 5 or Colossians 3 and think, “Let’s see if they can figure out from all of this that what I am really saying is that instruments in worship is a sin?” I am just asking questions here! Does anyone have any answers to any of these? I don’t think the instrumental music question was on the minds of any of the New Testament authors when the wrote the verses we use in defense of a capella singing. I think if that was at issue in those texts they would have been far more explicit about it.

My point is this – we can either argue it from scripture and do it well and honestly or we can’t. One or the other. If it can be proven from the New Testament that the intention was a capella worship and nothing else then we must hold to that, teach our children that, and, I would add, have some mutual submission in our song selection in deference to our young people’s taste. If we find that we can’t, then we cannot condemn those who do it. We cannot disfellowship them. We cannot snub our noses at them. We cannot treat them any different because of their worship style. I understand that at that point it would still remain an issue of conscience for some people. For those who understand it cannot be proven from scripture but still have a hard time with it, they should not be coerced into worshiping with instruments.

The issue is here and it is big. It has transformed from an inter-denominational argument to something that is having a bearing on our young people and on our future as a church. We cannot hide from it. We cannot have puny answers. We cannot be afraid of the answers we find when we honestly and open approach scripture. I have more I want to say about this but I think I have said enough for now before I end up with a post longer than the urban ministry one.

There are many more things to say about this but I think I have put enough on the table for now.

Ripening Issues in the Church of Christ – Pornography

Another repeated message of the college rally last weekend was that many college students are struggling with pornography addictions. In Randy Harris and Chris Seidman’s question and answer period many of the questions submitted were related to pornography. When fully grown pornography becomes an addiction that can be as powerful as crack cocaine. The behavioral reinforcements that come from the resulting neurotransmitters released upon viewing pornography largely mimic what is produced by drugs like crack.

The Danger of Addiction:

One of the best definitions of addiction I have ever heard is that non-addicts love people and use objects and addicts use people and love objects. Addiction is a distortion of reality and a reshuffling of priorities that results from feeding unhealthy patterns of behavior and the subsequent release of neurotransmitters that brings pleasure from the activity or substance. Like any other sin it is taking something God made for good, sex, and using it in a way it was not intended to be used. Sex is something to be shared in the context of marriage. When it is it is being used as it was intended good results. When it is used outside of marriage or when it is used inside of marriage in a way not intended (ie – with an image alone rather than with your spouse together) it produces deadly spiritual consequences. I believe it was James Dobson who gave the image of godly vs. ungodly sex and sexuality being like a fire in a house. When it is put in the fireplace in the living room, where it was intended to go, it brings light and warmth and goodness but when it is on the couch in the living room, it destroys the whole house. Sex inside the context of marriage is a beautiful thing but when it is abused it can be deadly.

Renewing a Healthy Sense of Sexuality:

We need to renew our sense of healthy sex and sexuality. Our young people have been surrounded by unhealthy images of what it means to be sexy and what the norms are of expressing that sexuality. Where has the voice of the church been on helping our young people get a healthy view of their sexuality? Many have been silent. Many have acted like it is yucky or a taboo subject that is “off limits.” So where do young people go for their information? They don’t have to look any further than the magazine rack at the checkout aisle or the television and movies that are readily accessible (not to mention the internet). We have to start talking about this with our young people in our homes AND churches from an early age. To keep silent is to passively allow a death sentence on our children. We have to renew in our families and churches a healthy sexuality and it needs to start with our men. We need to hear it in our Bible classes, small groups, and from the pulpit. But won’t someone get embarrassed? Of course they will but wouldn’t you rather someone get embarrassed than someone get addicted?

Shon Smith illustrated this situation being like a tourist who traveled to the Nile River. He saw all these people sunbathing on the shore and they were mangled, missing arms and legs. All of a sudden he saw how it had happened. A crocodile come out of the river and bit one of the sunbathers leaving them disfigured and mangled. But no one moved. No one seemed surprised. They just stayed right there and continued to be attacked by the crocodiles. He yelled, “Why don’t you move?!? Why do you just sit there and get devoured by the crocodiles…why doesn’t someone do something? Don’t you know this is killing you?” But they just sat there.

We need some people shouting about this. We need some people raising their voices about how devastating this can be. We need to be made aware of how prevalent this problem actually is – not over there somewhere but right there in your church, in your home, among your family and friends. And like I have said over and over again here, we need safe places to talk about these things where we can express who we really are and what we really struggle with and find accountability and love rather than judgment and wrath.

Ripening Issues in the Church of Christ – Dissatisfaction with Worship

gulfcoastgetaway.jpgOne of the predominant messages of Gulfcoast Getaway 2008 was that our college students are dissatisfied with worship in their local congregations. The root cause of this is believed to be an aging leadership with a different taste for worship, song selection, and atmosphere. Pair that with high octane instrumental Christian music on the radio and a society that says everything should be about getting you what you want (consumerism) and you end up with a clash of the generations and dissatisfied young people.

Expectation of Meaningful Worship:

The word that comes to mind that sums all of that up is expectations. The older generation expects “meaningful worship” = “worship in line with tradition” and the younger generation expects “meaningful worship” = “worship in line with a meaningful experience and relationship with God.” Both are really after the same thing – to have their expectation of meaningful worship met. The problem is the generations don’t define meaningful worship the same way. Another problem is that for the longest time people have equated “meaningful worship” with song selection and that is just not the case. That can be a small part of it but it is not the whole. The outgrowth of that kind of thinking is, “If they will just sing the songs I like then worship will be meaningful.” Song selection is a symptom of a much larger systemic problem and not the problem itself. Treating this as a song selection issue puts all the blame on one side of the problem when in fact both sides make contributions to the problem, therefore, both sides must contribute to the answer.

The lens of love:

What is the answer? The answer comes from how we view each other and whether or not we see each other in a Christ-like fashion. The Corinthians had a “worship war.” They were each coming to get their way, do their thing, and everyone else better get out of the way because, afterall, they are not as important as I am…” After discussing the problem in 1 Cor 11-12 what solution did Paul give them in chapter 13? Love. When we view each other through the lens of love we will no longer see worship as “us against them” or “my needs vs. their needs” or “my songs vs. their songs.” When either side thinks, “my way is the ONLY way to worship in a meaningful way” we have left love out and put selfishness and arrogance in its place.

Mutual submission and respect:

Once we start with love the next move is toward mutual submission. Remember what Paul said in Ephesians 5:21ff? Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ...For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ…”

What is Paul saying here? He is saying that Christ has unified us as head of his church/the body as its savior. Notice Paul didn’t say “our church” but “his church.” We know whose we are. Our commonality as the saved body of Christ should result in mutual submission to each other but first and foremost to Christ. The blame for this problem does not comes from one side alone. It is not an “old person problem.” Both sides need to approach each other out of mutual submission and with attitudes of love and respect. When that happens the older generation won’t feel like they have “lost” when new songs are sung or a newer translation is read and that they have won when things go their way. The same with the younger generation thinking they have “won” when the new songs are sung and “lost” when the old songs are sung. Winning and losing implies we are on different teams! Paul says mutual submission starts with the recognition of who Jesus is as the unifying force and head of the church.

I look forward to the day young people understand their need to respect and appreciate the shoulders they stand on so much that they can sing “Night with ebon pinion” with a smile on their faces. I look forward to the day older people can sing “The Heart of Worship” with tears in their eyes. I look forward to the day when the younger people will learn and grow from the dedication of our older members and the older members will dig deeper in experiencing God because they see how it has impacted the young people. This is not pie in the sky and I am sure it is already happening in many places. Let’s throw away the us vs. them mentality and come back to the table out of attitudes of love, mutual submission and respect. And let’s remember who sits at the head of the table reminding us that he didn’t get his way all of time either, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).

Reflections on Gulfcoast Getaway 2008

We had a great time at Gulfcoast Getaway 2008 this past weekend. Many are traveling back today so keep them in your prayers for safety. The speakers, Randy Harris and Chris Seidman did a fantastic job and even took on a Q&A time from questions submitted by the college students. The worship by watershed was their usual fantastic job. I would have rather heard a concert from them rather than from Building 429 but that is just me.

There are a couple of things that were discussed that need to become part of the larger dialogue between the older and younger generations. I think the pendulum needs to swing a little in deference to the younger folks and out of practicing mutual submission with one another but I think we also have to balance the language we use to retain a respect for where we have come from. I am going to mention a couple of points that came up that need to be talked about more and follow these up with posts and discussion on each. I value your input on this.

1) Many college students are not satisfied with church and the worship experience they are encountering on a weekly basis.

2) Addiction to pornography is extremely prevalent and is having a devastating impact on our young people. We cannot keep this under the rug. It must be discussed.

3) Instrumental music in worship is going to be a really big deal in the next decade. For those out there who see the church as a fortress the message is “the walls have been breached and the enemy is in the gates!” For those who are seeking out relationship and experience the message is, “The time has finally come.” What are we going to do about this in the coming years because if this is not handled in a godly way there is going to be some really bad fallout from this.

4) a la carte Christianity is on the rise.

5) The older people are going to struggle to recognize the church that they have put their whole lives into.