I am worn out after day three of NYWC but, finally, in a good way. I always have difficulty articulating my inner life but I have been in a particular state of disorder in the weeks leading up to NYWC. In the midst of busyness and weariness, I have not been listening well for God’s voice. Today, at the convention, the fog began to lift in myriad ways. This was a full day of getting to sit under some great teaching, and Mike shared about building a holy rhythm to our lives.

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I have been looking forward to hearing Francis Chan since I saw that he would be a main session speaker. He is a dynamic and gifted communicator — and, as an Asian American, it is so encouraging to see a face to whom I can relate up on the main stage. I am sure, though, that his words spoke to everyone there this morning. I won’t attempt to recap everything Francis said (although I’m sure I will wear out the CD of his talk that I picked up), but God was definitely speaking to me through his words this morning. Several times, I found myself in tears as I listened.

When Francis began to share his heart, as a parent, about what he wanted from his daughter’s youth pastor, I was completely convicted. More than programs and messages and the big show, he is looking for a youth pastor who will love and pray passionately for his daughter. I know I would wish the same thing for my daughter — and, if that’s what I’m looking for, then I cannot offer any less.

Francis’ words about actually believing the Bible and living it out — not mediated or filtered through someone else’s lens, but engaging, living and breathing the Word of God in real life. The consequences in the life of Francis and his church have been nothing short of revolutionary.

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In the afternoon, I went to a brilliant seminar by Mike King. His words gave voice to so much of that with which I have been wrestling over the last couple of years. He exhorted us to find out what makes us feel fully alive, and to incorporate those things into our everyday lives. I am looking forward to reading his book Presence-Centered Youth Ministry. He gave several practical, creative, engaging ways to incorporate a rule of life into our daily living.

In particular, his words about community spoke powerfully to me. Not just community as a concept, but the physical, proximate community of people with whom we actually live our lives. The commuter church has not been kind to our family in terms of building and maintaining these kinds of meaningful friendships — I feel my heart gravitating more & more towards this friendship and proximity.

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Tonight’s main session was brutal in all the right ways. Doug Fields spoke about his deepening concern for the heart of youth workers and he identified ministry envy as a primary killer of our hearts. While we might be good at masking the obvious envy we have of others, it comes out in the way we talk about and criticize others. Sure, we might try to disguise the envy by claiming that we’re just pointing out our differences, but it looms large in many of our lives.

In a powerful exegesis of the Genesis account of Joseph and his brothers, Doug showed us the crippling effects of envy — and ways in which we can combat it.  By celebrating others and their accomplishments we are protecting our own hearts.  Celebration counters our tendency to turn those who should be colleagues and friends into rivals.

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Doug’s words caused me to reflect more deeply about what I recently wrote about the American worship music industry.  My words might have come across as an unfair attack against Matt Maher, in particular.  I sincerely regret speaking quickly and foolishly.  There is plenty of room for legitimate criticism when it comes to the worship industry, but I want to be much more careful with my critical words — not to speak out of envy, bitterness or cynicism.  I want to spend more time celebrating those things I genuinely love and appreciate than in criticism (legitimate or not).