I’m finally recovered enough to write down some reflections on OGN. (For those of you who have no idea what this is see the last post or so).
If there’s one word that has always described this event it would be “intense”. Everything about it is intense.
• Getting into conversations with strangers on the beaches in the afternoon – intense
• Days of training in sharing your faith and apologetics – that’s intense.
• The kind of evening services you have when 200 students are involved in the above 2 things – INTENSE
• The schedule is intense – there’s almost no down time.
Yet, most every kid that is at OGN, all the pastors and youth ministry types that bring kids, the volunteers that staff it, all will tell you this is one of the best weeks of their lives. I have a thought on this. It has to do with this year’s theme, AWAKE. I think intensity makes us feel alive. Perhaps our biggest danger in this culture inhabiting the great American middle class is that we are lulled into a sleepy, complacent, half alive life. We forget about the untamed (thanks Alan Hirsch), edgy, often dissonant call and life that Jesus invites us to. OGN is a week of non-slumber. Every time you turn around, there is something calling you to engage with all you have fully awake.
I’ve done these for 20 years and it’s almost impossible to compare one with another, but my son David (who’s a freshman in college and has been to about 4 or 5 OGNs) said this was clearly the best one. Of course I was curious as to why. “God, showed up in such obvious ways all over the place.” Very cool!
Here are a few personal highlights:
• I love the actual interaction with people and trying to get into spiritual conversations on the beach. Not only does God move in their lives, but it keeps me sharp. I feel like I learn a little better how people who are far from God are thinking.
• Speaking and teaching – as much as I love regular preaching in weekend services etc, there is something about speaking to students. They are in a different place in life obviously, but it’s more than that. They are way more ready to hear Jesus’ words without years of “practicality” serving to sand the sharp edges of them.
• The brain is our friend – one of the great things is being able to teach stuff that is normally too much for most people in church (in the sense that it’s too far removed in their opinion form practical life) like apologetics. Students are hungrily lapping up info on biblical textual issues, arguments for the existence of God, evidence for the resurrection of Jesus because they were just asked about it the day before.
• The worship of the dirty uniform – I absolutely love the experiencing students worshipping at OGN. I guess there is the normal sense of evenings at camp involved. But I’ve seen this too and it’s not just that. It’s that celebration of God showing up when I was nervous, scared, stretched. It’s the getting yourself in the flow of what God is doing in his pursuit of people. It’s the difference in the way I celebrated the Laker’s triumph over the evil Boston Celtics, and the jubilation that you could see on the faces of the guys who actually played, who sweated, who had bruised and fatigued muscles.
OGN actually makes me miss the Youth ministry chunk of my life. But I’m encouraged with what God is doing with this generation of youth pastors, kids and ministries.