Throughout college, many of my friends attended ACTS retreats and Steubenville conferences; unfortunately, I did not attended either. I heard stories about charismatic outbursts and "Jesus moment" that when I figured out ICY was registered, I was beyond excited.
Here's the twist: I was the group leader, the chaperone, the responsible one, the adult.
Who knew so many details went into a weekend!? From transportation, food, sleep arrangements, payments, communication, schedules, more payments, and all the stress. I thought when we arrived at the conference that everything would be smooth sailing. Boy, I was wrong. My work just began.
With 4,500 people there, I constantly counted and recounted to keep my ducks in a row and checked and rechecked the schedule and times all the while not getting swept into a sea of young people due to my shortness. Thankfully, my chaperones kept my safely grounded and not lose my head!
If I had to describe the weekend in one word, it would be "refocus." I had some teens thank me for giving up my birthday weekend, but I felt like I gained so much more than if I hadn't gone! The speakers were flat out amazing. The band was rocking the house. God was there! Personally, the best part was recommitting my love and devotion for Christ and promising Him that I will allow His will be done during Adoration. I tried and prayed for a "moment" to happen to the teens, but that's not my job. God did what He set out to do, I just had to make sure we were all together and on time.
A deacon I met during our youth minister meeting told me something unforgettable, "[You can do almost everything, but you can't get anyone into heaven. Jesus is the only one who can. You're just the instrument.]" So here I am, the instrument eagerly waiting for His will to be done.
In 2009 Tyler Smith started a band with college friends in Columbus, Ohio. He came up with his band's name after reading Arthur Miller's All My Sons, a play about a man who wrestles between his obligation to his family and his conscience after sending twenty-one pilots to their death in WWII after selling them faulty parts to provide for his family. The name is perfect for 21 Pilots' style - deep and a bit mysterious.
21 Pilots have taken the radio by storm. With some recent huge hits, 21 Pilots are selling out concerts, winning awards, and rocking Saturday Night Live as featured guests. If you had to shoehorn them into a genre, they like to go by "Schizophrenic pop". They represent this generation of youth so well - they refuse to be labelled, instead venturing out on their own.
21 Pilots currently have three songs on the Billboard Top 100, at number 3, 6, and 98. They've had 6 songs crack the Top 100 the past two years. See, the great thing about 21 Pilots is they are a Christian band entrenched in the secular scene. Much like Mumford and Sons before them, and Switchfoot before them, 21 Pilots evangelize over secular radio waves. Both artists identify as Christians, but refuse to label themselves as a Christian band - which makes all the sense in the world. In an age of altar calls, mega churches, and God's Not Dead, we need a little more subtlety in our Christianity. This does not mean we don't need to evangelize, but we're at a point where we have to reevaluate how we go about bringing Christ to others. This is where we can look at 21 Pilots' "business model".
Heathens, the single they released alongside Suicide Squad, is a catchy song. It takes a few listens to get to the meat of their message, but when you get their - it'll stick to your ribs. They lay out a very simple and effective vision for evangelization, one that gets so easily lost in our world. Their message is simple - if you want someone to believe what you believe, it requires a personal relationship. If you want someone to see Christ in the world and in their lives, the ONLY way you can accomplish that is through a personal relationship. You can throw every Bible verse at them, challenge every one of their beliefs, take them to every Casting Crown's concert, and pray for them for years - but if you neglect the human and see them as only a soul, it's not effective evangelization.
All my friends are heathens, take it slow
Wait for them to ask you who you know
As Christians, we should live lives so full of joy and humility that evangelization happens naturally. As we simply eat lunch, work, and interact with others - our faith should be made apparent. We shouldn't have to rely on pamphlets, Facebook posts, and millions of invitations for someone to know where we stand in our faith. We definitely shouldn't surprise people when they find out we attend Church or care for the poor - it should our forth in everything we do. If we wait for the uninitiated to approach us about our faith, rather than forcing it upon them at every turn - even if it takes a little longer - it makes a world of difference. Conversion is a process.
Please don't make any sudden moves
You don't know the half of the abuse
You rarely know somebody's full story. If you don't know where a patient's bleeding, you cannot hope to stop that blood loss. If you don't know a person's story - why they left the Church, why they don't believe in God, why they're scared of trusting anybody - your invitations to youth night, church service, or Bible study can come across as self-serving. If you don't have a heart for the human, why do you care about the soul?
We don't deal with outsiders very well
They say newcomers have a certain smell
You have trust issues, not to mention
They say they can smell your intentions
One point we often lose in our zealousness to bring people to Christ - if you enter a relationship with the sole intention of converting that person, it'll rarely work. Why? Because you're looking at the soul and leaving out the human. We have to push past the unique emotional baggage (which we all carry) before we can possibly hope for anything more. We aren't trying to "win souls for Christ". This is not a competition and it certainly isn't a game. If someone feels they are simply a number or a goal of yours, they will never trust you. Never.
Why'd you come? You knew you should have stayed
I tried to warn you just to stay away
And now they're outside ready to bust
It looks like you might be one of us
"The one who humbles himself will be exalted." When we get down from our pulpits and meet people where they sit, we're going to learn about them, we'll learn about ourselves, and we'll learn some humility. Your talk, your homily, and your testimony is nothing without trust. We cannot forget that we are sinners and that by inviting people into a relationship with Christ, we are not "fixing" them, but allowing God to do great things in their lives. See, evangelization isn't about us. It's about what God can do through us if we are willing to be open and humble.
If you want someone to see your side, you must invite them to see life as you see it. This invitation will require an intentional and genuine relationship. This will take maybe hundreds of conversations about life, about your favorite sports teams and hobbies, and about the weather. As baptized Christians, we listen to the last words of Jesus as he extorts "Go and make Disciples of all nations." However, we don't have to go and make disciples of all nations ourselves, luckily there are a few more Christians around. If everyone who considers themselves a Christian went about telling others about Christ in an intentional way, a way where a personal relationship preceded an invitation to relationship with Christ, I know we'd see a massive change in this world. If you took three people under your wing in your lifetime and really reached out to those three - and they did the same, it would take six generations to create 1,036 intentional followers of Christ. Now if all twenty people reading this blog did the same - that's 20,000 followers. Don't you think God could do something significant with that?