We started off our National Youth Workers Convention experience on Friday just after noon.  We started by experiencing a couple really cool and worshipful art experiences, one of which was a really cool dramatic reading and monologue by Amena Brown.  I personally think she just tore the roof off and started the convention off with a bang.  Her readings absolutely infuse excitement and weight into a crowd of people.  We also watched as Joe Castillo performed some sand art.  He made beautiful and intricate pictures out of sand on a light-box, and we watched and were absolutely moved as he told the story of the prodigal son through sand pictures.  It was powerful and moving.

We then had the privilege of hearing a performance by Mercy Me.  We didn’t know what to expect form this, and we were really floored by the way that this “Contemporary Christian band” led us in worship.  I think we were expecting more of a concert and they really started the convention off with a cool worship set.

Joe actually performed after Mercy Me and then from there we went into a time of worship led by Lincoln Brewster.  I am already personally biased as I own a live-worship album by Brewster and love it, but actually getting to be led live by him is a different story in that he totally exceeds my expectations.  He shared some really cool things and I think did an awesome job of engaging a bunch of kooky youth pastors.

If you don’t know anything about Lincoln Brewster, he leads on an electric guitar, and is the only guitar in the band.  It’s a rocking four-piece band and he leads singing while playing screaming lead guitar.  He also has pure-melt-your-face-solos and throws those in.  Now there are many who may deride someone who solo’s their guitar in as showy and boastful, but Brewster describe it this way, “sometimes I have these feelings of worship in my heart that I can’t express by words or singing, but I can express it with my guitar;”  (or something along those lines) what a cool and beautiful statement.  Anyway, the worship was great and he led us into a time of speaking with Bishop Sherwood Carthen.

Bishop Carthen was awesome!  He gravely and seriously started by sharing the seriousness and significance of our roles as ministers to youth.  He spoke about the cost of leadership and pointed us to Jesus’ own ministry and his time in the wilderness prior to beginning his ministry.  He showed us that God was the one who led him into the wilderness and then he was tempted and tested.  He told us that if we are called we will go through the wilderness and that we probably will be led there by the spirit, not the devil.  He gave us a powerful message and call and I loved it.  He challenged us to authenticity, brokenness and continual dependence upon God.

The evening session was just as innovative and challenging.  Worship was again led by Lincoln Brewster, and was awesome.  We went into the speaking time with a very cool and different format where three speakers spoke.  Each speaker has 18 minutes to speak, then we, the crowd, would discuss for 8 minutes then we would go back to the speaker where they would answer on-the-spot questions that were texted in.

The three speakers, Jared Stevens, Andrew Marin and Shane Claiborne each spoke on hard and even controversial topics.  Jared talked about our need as ministers to constantly examine our means of showing people to God even if it means shutting down good and successful things.  Andrew talked about and encouraged the church to reach out to the lgbt community.   Shane, as ever, encouraged us to live peculiar and love-filled lives that are markedly different and peace-filled than the consumeristic and selfish world we live in.