Thursday, April 29, 2010

There are seventy people to my left, and seventy people on the right of me. Thirteen rows above me and thirteen rows below me. Four thousand people are gathered to pursue wisdom, knowledge and the experience of the speakers that will present effectiveness in the areas of student ministry.  My voice is drowned out among the hundreds around me praising our Creator with one tongue carefully orchestrated by the powerhouse of worship on the stage that sculpts the night into one heart lifted up to our God. A quarter of a million dollars pushes the sound beyond my ears and directly into my chest, I can literally feel the music, the bass and the drums. Another quarter of a million stares back at me on huge plasma screens and bright lights that dance tirelessly controlled by nimble, educated and pre-programmed fingers.
This is Orange.
Youth ministry, outlines, breakout group topics and leading talking points. The crucial do's and don't's of student ministry. "We've been there and done that so now we're here. Learn what success can look lke and watch God work. We have." Almost every single person in this huge arena has been in the ministry more years than I have, and most of them full time. And so with my eyes wide and unexperienced ear tuning into whatever I can possibly hear I walk, sit, and wait in lines listening to the lectures, speakers and conversations around me. No more than fifteen minutes goes by in the entirety of nine hours a day for four days when I don't learn something new, helpful or that I could really use.
I have yet to see more than one or two actual teenagers in this sea of pulses dedicated to serving them and leading the age group to know what it means to follow Jesus. This isn't that venue. This is for the people who will reach out to them, build relationships, listen to them, and take a pay cut for them. Most people around me recognize who the speakers are and have either read or know of their books. I don't fall in with any of the above, unfortunately. I'm walking down an aisle reading labels and descriptions of unfamiliar products I know nothing of, but as the speakers stand and share their hearts, communicating experience and professional perceptions of youth ministry, I savor the taste of what they share.
This is the Orange conference, it's about what you get when you collide. When you collide with God, the world, and people. When colors collide and bright orange happens.
So much is planned, prepared and arranged under the umbrella of stewardship and a healthy structure. When we all return to our respective cities, states and countries we will again dive back into a world where God is sovereign and people are hurting. The church will hit 63% of it's income for the month, a friend of a teenager will cut herself to gain a twisted idea of relief and attention, and two of the nine students attending will text during youth group. And yet God is sovereign not in a removed, impersonal way. He is sovereign in a present, real way. Every week, every day, in every conversation He is there, the only reason what happens at youth group is not a gimmick, entertainment or a waste of time.
It's Orange, when God, youth and their leaders collide.

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