The conference was held in an extremely opulent church constructed back in the 1800s. The impressive, expansive sanctuary had awesome acoustics, which served the well-dressed choir well, carrying every note clearly to the thousand-plus audience.
The girls were dressed in either black or red dresses, and all the guys wore tuxes. The pit orchestra was excellent as well (not that that means much coming from me, a non-musician).
While all this was impressive, the message that Josh presented reminded me that even with today's impressive seminars, church buildings and presentations, the church still boils down to one essential ingredient: "believers in our Lord Jesus Christ."
The main theme that he stressed throughout his speech was "truth in the context of relationships." He drove home the point of how we can shove the truth down people's throats, we can be right, we can win arguments, but "if we don't have love, we are nothing."
Consider this: Jesus "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2) What was it that caused so many to pay attention to Jesus's witness? Was it the impressive majesty of his surroundings? Somehow I doubt the hillsides he preached on inspired the awe of some of the jaw-dropping structures of his day.
Did he employ a popular band that topped the Billboard Tablets to draw his crowds? Uh, sorry, but no.
What caused so many people to pay attention to Jesus's witness was, partly, that he went against the grain. Rather than judge people against an elitist, impossible-to-live-up-to rulebook like the other religious leaders of his day, Jesus showed his love for the individual people around him by healing them, instructing them, and, ultimately, dying for them (and us!!!)
Now don't misunderstand, seminars, bands, and church buildings can be very instrumental in winning souls and discipling people. They just shouldn't be the emphasis. After all, we live in an entertainment culture. We're bombarded by an onslaught of television, radio, and other media almost 24/7. People get tired of entertainment. They hop from one thing to another looking for REALISM. That is, truth in the context of relationships.
Aha! Now we've finally come full circle.
Iamgine what our youth groups and churches would be like if we as a church, corporately and individually, changed our focus from entertainment and programs to meaningful relationships with others around us, with God as the center.
You would see less of the "clique-ish" behavior that unfortunately characterizes many youth groups.
Rather than seeijng people take up a seat on Sunday morning and return home unfulfilled, you would see people returning home with their needs met, motivated to change the world around them, knowing that God as well as a strong group of believers has got their backs.
You would consequently see the world sit up and take notice at the paradigm shift in the church, and more and more people would see the church as a sincere group of believers, willing to stand alongside them through their troubles as well as instruct them in their Christian walk.
With this in mind, make it a point this week to get involved with the people around you in a meaningful way, sharing God's truth in the context of relationships. Realize that the best thing you can give your peers isn't cutting edge entertainment or a killer performance, but rather time well spent, devotion to the individual people that will cause the world around you to sit up and take notice of how much you care for them. Remember, there are only two things that matter in this world: God and people (and in that order!). God Bless.