September 3, 2014

Years ago I served as the pastor of a smaller church. We didn’t really have enough kids to run an effective “youth ministry” so I joined with a larger church in the community and took my kids to their youth group each week. I became very close to the youth pastor and we did ministry together for several years. It still remains one of the most fulfilling times in my life.

I recall one year when we were planning for our annual youth retreat. My friend and I spent weeks preparing. We had decided to use videos as much as possible and since kids like to see themselves, we plotted with their parents. We chose about 12 kids and arranged with their folks to barge into their teenagers rooms around 4:00 in the morning with music blaring, lights flashing… again, we videoed each encounter. It was great fun… watching kids diving for blankets or waking up in total confusion. It was harmless and everyone including the kids really enjoyed it. Since we could only do one or two videos on each occasion it took several weeks of periodic 3:00 am mornings to get all we needed. The videos were then shown during the weekend retreat. Suffice it to say that all of our planning was vindicated and the retreat was a rousing success. I seem to recall that we thought that our planning and creativity was a major reason for that.  Hold that thought.

The next year, for whatever reason, neither of us had the energy to plan for the impending annual retreat. Seriously… we got together on Thursday before the Friday of the retreat and said, “So, what are we going to do?” Now I do need to acknowledge that a certain amount of experience is helpful in these circumstances, however… The retreat went off without a hitch. And frankly, it was as “successful” as the year before. I’m not advocating that we do away with planning. I’m simply raising the question, “Why were these two events both so successful given the total lack of planning for one of them?”

I think the answer is fairly simple. Christian retreats are about promoting relationships – relationships between people, and relationships between people and God. They are not about fancy, complicated, expensive programming. Don’t get me wrong, programming can indeed be very effective in building relationships, but the end game is in fact, relationships. I have been to too many events over the years where it’s obvious that an extraordinary amount of time and energy has been spent on programs, but it did little to advance relationships.

If I were to ask a cross section of Christian people what the faith is all about no doubt the answers would be diverse: “Good theology, a good life, following the commands of Jesus, evangelism, scripture, being born again, church, love etc.” Can I suggest what might be the most correct answer? The Christian life is about a relationship… In particular between individuals, the Church and Jesus Christ. What we do and how we do it comes out of that relationship. If our lives indicate little of our faith in Jesus… well that seems to be a comment on our relationship, doesn’t it? Paul says the following to the Christians in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 2: 2

2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

You know, the apostle Paul was a brilliant maniac! He subjected himself to torture, ship wrecks, poor health, persecution, rejection, but he was very clear about one thing… he wanted to know Jesus; to have a relationship with Jesus. Truthfully? I have only met a handful of people in my life who seem to fit that category… people who were willing to sacrifice the comforts of life to know Jesus… people who were willing to forego the “successes” of life to follow the Lord of the Universe. Is it any wonder that Jesus says this in Matthew

Matthew 7:12-14

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

How is your relationship with Jesus these days?



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