So We’re Home From Urbana, Passion 2016, the World Congress on Gospel Hacky Sack, etc.
It’s big conference time. This one and this one just happened. This one is coming up. And there are smaller ones all over as well. Conferences are great. Not only do we get to hear some of the most powerful speakers doing the gig today but it’s also a road trip. But now we’re back or heading that way. In a fairly short time, we’re quite likely to be the woolly headed, dried up pud we were before we left. Ever noticed that? The emotions of worshipping with thousands of others, hearing challenging talks and powerful stories will fade; they fly and bounce like bricks. And we can’t just sit there trying to hang on to the moment. They need the arena tomorrow night for a Monster Truck Rally. (Could be a mission field so pray about it.) But that’s okay because this following Jesus thing isn’t gassed by emotion. So now what?
A little help comes from a guy who had maybe the most powerful story in the Gospels. In Mark 5:1-18, a man filled with enough demons to baptize without recovery almost two thousand pigs assaults Jesus and had probable plans of tearing up the rest of the boys. Jesus casts them out unleashing a dead bacon avalanche into the Sea of Galilee. Jesus goes to leave and this newly freed man begs to go along. Well, of course! And he would have been the real deal, hard-core. (Cynicism alert!) And since we love to take new believers and prematurely throw them into the spotlight to jazz the crowds, he would have wowed them. Peter, measure this guy for a discipleship suit! But that’s not the way it played out.
Jesus said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:18) Whatever conference we just hit or whatever one is coming up, I say the same thing to you. Go home. This guy could be on the road doing the Jesus stuff with the boys – hanging with the guys, heady stuff. At home were the people he’d shamed and hurt. They would be glad but cautious. At home, they really know us; we can’t fake it. Nobody can sniff us out as the shallow phony we can be faster than the people at home. And home, by the way, can be our campus. When students start calling the campus “home”, it freaks out a lot of parents. Our center has shifted. And then our peers living around us will be watching and sniffing, test driving it in our lives, to see if this Jesus thing is real. William Wilberforce, known for battling slavery in the British Empire, first tasted Christianity through relatives touched by the First Great Awakening. His mother yanked him away from that influence telling her friends he’d gone mad. After a few months, his mother’s friends asked her how things were with William. Seeing him every day, she said, “If this is madness, I hope he bites us all.”
There’s another reason why Jesus told him to go home. Conferences bring powerful convergences of Christians, the
Word and the Holy Spirit. The evil one cannot do much there; he doesn’t have to. At home was where the evil one owned that demonized man. “Go ahead and jump up and down to the praise band, cry all those tears and savor all those goosebumps. We’ll see what you have when you get off the bus. Let’s see what you can show me on the turf where I can beat you down in a second like I always have.” At home (on campus) where we live, we’ve made all kinds of promises to God, new starts at the same good things and old failures over the same old junk lying flatter than old pancakes at the bottom of a dumpster. At home, the evil one thinks he owns us. Will that be true this time? We must learn to tend and feed the fires that God lights in our hearts at key Kingdom moments. Some thoughts.
Go back and read the notes we took. In class, we pore over notes because a test is coming. It’s surprising that we take notes at conferences and never go back to read them. (If we don’t take notes at these things, we should; it reinforces the important things God may be saying. If we didn’t do that, all the talks we were jazzed about are now online. Devote some online time to go back and watch them again with a pen in hand. Impressions at the time fade quickly or we get super spiritual and think, “I’ll just remember. God will do something like shoving a mango up my nose to help me remember. Won’t happen.) If God was boogieing on our rib cage and we just had to write it down, isn’t it worth revisiting and a slow chew?
Expect to run into that “I’m-just-as-flat-now-as-I-was-before-I-went-to-the-Global-Gospel-Hacky-Sack-Conference” letdown. Wise thoughts I read recently underscore solid truth; living the Christian life doesn’t require emotions. We cannot spend the rest of our life standing and swaying in time with the praise band, tears streaming down our face. Most professors will consider this an interruption of their class and we will creep out anyone who might want to room with us, including many of our Christian friends. The evil one uses emotional letdown, busyness, misdirection and resulting confusion to say, “You might have gone over the moon in St. Louis or Atlanta but you’re home now and this is pretty much all this Jesus thing’s going to be for you.”
Stay connected and do the basics – whether we feel like it or not. DO NOT SKIP LARGE GROUP, SMALL GROUP BIBLE STUDY OR FELLOWSHIPS … NO EXCUSES OR EXCEPTIONS. Nobody burns hot going solo for long. Sometimes we need to draft off the faith and strength of other Christians. When we cut ourselves out from the herd, we become prey for all kinds of nastiness. And read the Bible (duh!). One of Christianity’s dirty little secrets lies in how little a lot of us read the Bible. A leader of one of the faith’s most respected ministries went through a time of deep depression. Thinking about it, he realized he hadn’t picked up a Bible in six months. Don’t do this.
Start cultivating God’s heart over those separated from Him. Spend times through the week around populated parts of campus. We’ve been looking for excuses for sitting around in the union like many of us have been doing. Let’s redeem this. Sit alone and don’t let interruptions cut in. Just sit there and pray for the people milling through. And listen to them; people wear the wounds of godlessness on their sleeve.
“Whatever He tells you, do it.” (John 2:5) A lot people at Urbana wore Black Lives Matter shirts. Now we’re home…where are the shirts? Will we wear them around our families? Will we wear them in the dorm, in our fraternity and sorority houses? On campus? Back in the 1980’s when you could viciously hate gays in public all you wanted, two friends knew of an all-lesbian volleyball team in the city’s public rec league. People turned out to spew hate, filth and threats of violence at the girls. Our friends looked for ways to demonstrate the love of Jesus to them. So they joined the team and played volleyball alongside the lesbians wearing a team shirt that returned the profanity raining down on them punch for punch. Some thought Christians shouldn’t do this. Some people thought Jesus shouldn’t eat with tax collectors, sinners and icky people. Where’s the shirt?
Now we’re home. Let’s live so the rest around us line up for a bite!