These are my notes from Tony Campolo’s introduction to Youth Work Summit 2013 – apologies for any typos:
Pew Foundation collects more information on religious belief than any other organisation in the world, each study normally averages 40-50k participants. As they analysed young people they found they were looking for certain things that they weren’t finding in religion:
Looking for Spirituality: More and more spiritual, less and less religious; dropping out of church left and right and yet more interested in spiritual things. In the UK we live in a post-Christian era, and yet in book stores are loads of new age, witchcraft and vampire books. They are interested in spiritual forces. He’s really old, you know you’re old when your wife says let go upstairs and have sex, and you say I can’t manage both!
Young girl when he was young had an aliveness in Christ that Tony didn’t have. He went to her church, they asked those who wanted to be filled in the Holy Spirit, the minister went and hit the people on the head, and they fell over, all except for Tony. Everyone seemed to have that infilling and yet he didn’t.
A Catholic friend showed Tony St. Ignatius’ writings, and the concept of Centreing. It takes a lot time to get rid of “the animals”, C.S. Lewis invented that phrase to represent all the different things that fire into our mind as we wake up, all the things from yesterday, all the things we have to do today. Pushing them aside to be still – it doesn’t matter if it is a noisy or quiet room, it is a state of mind, focussing on Jesus. Becoming inwardly still, and focussing on Jesus on the cross.
Soren Kierkegaard described Jesus as “eternally crucified”. Tony had a hard time on that until he understood Einstein’s theories of relativity – time is linked to speed – in a space shuttle at 160 miles per second 10 years for them would be 20 years for us! Jesus is humanity and simultaneously God – he died two ways – as a sinless human (the only perfect human who lived) he took the punishment in our place; there is more to the cross than forgiveness – what about being cleansed? When we deal with problems of sexuality – more than 50% of boys in church youth groups are into pornography – they need cleansing. That is more than just being hit on the head. The Spirit of The Lord does not live in dirty temples, our body’s need to be cleansed. There is 2,000 years separating the cross with us, but in the speed of light there is no time at all, that is God time, he is timeless, I AM that I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Lousy grammar, but before Abraham I AM as present tense as in his divinity all time occurs in one eternal now. As Jesus hangs on the cross he looks at us sitting here right now – time is compressed – so if you want him to he will reach out and absorb all the dirt and crap in your life like iron filings to a magnet.
He who never sinned became sin – that’s why he cried in Gethsemane as he would become every murderer, child abuser, adulterer, everything that was dirty he would take on. On the cross he became what we are so we could become what he was as the Orthodox Russian church describe it, so we can be presented to the Father perfect and blameless. Just hope my wife is there to hear Jesus describe me as perfect and faultless.
Enough of a Calvinist to believe the Holy Spirit is already in you, that’s why you believe in Jesus. You didn’t choose me, I chose you! All glory and honour belongs to God.
Sin crushes and smothers the Spirit. But as you yield to the cleansing, the lid is lifted, the Holy Spirit explodes like a living fountain of water. That is what young people want – something that is radiating, beyond rational categories.
There is no short cut to being spirit filled, you’ve got to get cleansed. If your young people want to be spiritual, you have failed as a youth leader if you don’t get spiritual. You can play guitar, tell jokes and do fun games just quit. If you’re an entertainer when the kids hunger for spirituality quit.
The second hting they want and need is authenticity.
The University faculty has Ron Sider, Jim Wallace and other avant garde people helping to grow authentic students. Not arguing with the theology, but that the church doesn’t feel real.
Remembered for shock phrase: 45,000 people die each day of starvation and disease but most of you don’t give a shit, what is even more worrying is that you care more about the fact that I said shit, rather than the 45,000 people who died. People are becoming more revolutionary, peacefully protesting against war, against capital crimes – we already know how Jesus handles capital crimes – the woman should have been stoned – big rocks thrown at her, not the other type – but Jesus doesn’t do capital punishment. These young people do strange things.
The Republican Convention held in Philadelphia with 40k people arriving. The Mayor wanted to make the city clean, and so was going to arrest any homeless person who was out on the streets. Made t-shirts that said “Jesus was homeless” and they gave them to all the homeless people and slept with them on the street. They were all brought into court, about 150 of them, the judge asked them to explain, the man said I don’t speak for the homeless, the homeless guy said I don’t know, the judge read the bible verse on the back of the t-shirt, he dismissed the case. The prosecutor appealed but the judge said I’m not hear to meat out the law but to bring justice, and sometimes the law and justice do not agree. Shane Claiborne said the Sermon on the Mount it’s the best ever sermon, and yet we don’t live it out!
But the church doesn’t give it to them. The church goes on around how the world is getting worse! But that’s good news as then Jesus is going to come! That completely defrays the activist – why stand up for justice if it’s only the signs of the times – why get your theology from the notes of the Bible rather than Jesus. Jesus says the Kingdom of God looks like this: a man sews seed, the evil man sews weeds. They grew up together. The preacher was half right the kingdom of evil has never been more pervasive, but so is the kingdom of God. Not much of God in Birmingham – that’s because it is British. China had 775k of Christians at the end of WWII, now 77m – that’s growth without seminars. Latin America 250 new churches every week each with over 250 people. 1 in 6 didn’t have clean drinking water, now it’s 1 in 12 – who did that – the church. The church is full of hypocrites, that’s why you feel at home – but after throwing all the sticks and stones at the church remember it is God’s greatest instrument to bring change. 80% illiteracy to 20% illiteracy, 45k starving now down to 30k mainly because of the church.
In USA politics understands that the church makes more difference than politics but we forget that in the UK. TS Elliot, The Wasteland, so depressing, this is the way the world will end with a whimper. No wonder the Brit’s are depressed. Great with words, but wrong. It will end with the Kingdom of God who will reign forever and ever – that’s why it’s the good news.
It was then all Matt Summerfield’s fault for cutting Tony off – the blind would have seen, the sick would have been healed, the bald would have received hair, all would have spoken in tongues but Matt stopped that!