Culture Shock

I am finally back in Birmingham.  And where's the first place I go once I get off the plane?  The office.  This is ridiculous.

I've been in Daytona Beach this week with the SL @ the Beach team for Student Life's largest event ever.  It went really super great.  The team did a fantastic job.  Two nights of Late Nite for 7,000 people was better than I thought it would be.  Bethandy Dillon is a cool girl who seems to get it.  We gave out all five hundred of the Compassion packets we had there.  Students had a great time and most importantly some people were saved from their sin by the blood of Christ.  It was good, but it was shocking to me (which is pretty ridiculous).  Why?  Because I just got back from Africa.

Before I continue let me say that I am often the chief cynic when people come back from some sort of "mission" or "vision" trip and all of a sudden have this insight into life that they never had.  I'm sure that happens and is genuine for people, but that's not exactly what happened with me.  I don't feel "called to" or "broken for" Africa.  Actually, that's not true.  I just don't feel it any more than I did before I went.  It was great to end the trip and realize that it felt like what I should be doing because it is what I should be doing, not because it's in Africa, but because that is what God has called me (us) to do.  Care for the poor and needy.  Be His witnesses.  Make disciples.  Etc.  However, I am writing this post because it did continue things that I have been thinking about.  Now I'll continue.

A comment KJ made about my trip was something like this: "Man, I don't know what you guys were doing over there.  I looked at pictures of this 'camp' you were supposedly doing and there weren't any awesome lights or big video screens or anything.  You guys blew it."  Obviousy, this was all said in sarcasm.  However, I replied that one of my favorite things about Africa is that no one asked me about the video screens, mainly because there were no video screens to ask about, and no one seemed to care much.  However, as soon as I get back in the States and get a call from the team at Daytona one of the first things I talk about is the video screens (there is something about our video screens that seems to particularly be the bane of my existence).  Why?  Because people here know about the video screens.  They expect them and have questions and comments about them.  Does that make stuff here better?  Depends on your definition.  Does it make stuff in Africa better, more pure, unadulterated?  Depends.  They're definitely different.  Different extremes.  And for someone that values and strives for balance, that can be troubling.

There's nothing wrong with having video screens or cool lights or an incredible sound system.  If I could have had all that in Africa, I probably would have.  It would have blown those kids' minds.  But there's nothing wrong with not having that stuff either.  It's just troubling when it becomes the focus.  Perhaps it is not our focus, but I know it is what I have conversations about a lot.  I have way more conversations about video screens than I do prayer times for students.  At times it seems that we discuss and worry about the "look and feel of the experience" more than the content.  When we talk about excellence or being the best, inevitably video screens are discussed.  But when it comes to content things aren't that easy as well.

On the second night in Daytona Louie preached his "Indescribable" sermon that he gave on the Chris Tomlin/Matt Redman tour of the same name.  It's pretty interesting, though I struggle with calling it a sermon because it doesn't come out of scripture.  It more comes out of astronomy.  It's cool, though a very long time to simply say "God is big."  It's actually like a devotion many of you have heard me give before where I use the text of Psalm 8 and some of my own findings from astrophysicists (which I'll never be able to do ever again because though I've been talking about it since 1998, people will now assume I'm ripping off Louie Giglio).  At any rate, at the end of the sermon is a invitation to accept Christ.  It comes after a picture from the middle of a galaxy that has a shape in it that looks kinda like a cross but really more like an "x".  People cheer for it, though.  There is no real Gospel presentation.  It's not clear.  Louie basically assumes that these kids know the basics and then people are invited to come down.  Another night he gave an invitation after calling down front everyone that had made a decision for Christ that week.  There were hundreds of people down front, maybe a thousand (that's probably exaggeration).  Either the Holy Spirit was really working or a bunch of kids just wanted to come down front and have the whole crowd cheer for them.  Or perhaps it was a little of both.

And that brings me to my point (kinda).  The same trust I wrote about a few posts ago with regard to having the trust God to honor the faith of the South African kids that probably understand very little about the details of a salvation decision is the trust I have to have with regard to our kids as well.  Though with them I worry that the cool videos and pictures and great songs and snappy soundbites are clouding their understanding rather than simple ignorance.  But either way I have to trust God.  It's not my responsibility.  It's His.  I just continue doing what I'm doing.  Caring for the poor and needy.  Being His witness.  Making disciples.  Etc.

And praying.  Lots and lots of praying.

I pray this year I have more conversations about how to more clearly present the gospel of Jesus Christ than I do about how to make us exceed the look and feel of Big Stuf so we can be the best or number one again.

Soli Deo Gloria!