I posted the following message on my teen ministry blog today. Pray for me and the teens. I know some of them will be disappointed.
I need to deliver some news that might be disappointing to some of you. After MUCH prayer and consideration, I have decided to cancel our Acquire the Fire - Kansas City trip. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1) This is an expensive event for us and with the basement remodel, Panama missions trip, and half a dozen other things that we are doing, I think it would be best to spend our money in other places. 2) The primary reason is one that I'll be talking to all of you more about this next week in person. ATF and it's leader Ron Luce are going in a direction that I have a very difficult time supporting. I've taken teens to ATF for several years now. When ATF first started, it was a dynamic event that encouraged teens to get more serious about their faith and live out their faith in bold ways. On top of that, the worship was incredible and spirit-filled. Over the last 2 or 3 years there has been a shift in ATF's focus that I find disturbing. Their call to boldness has taken on a very "combative" tone. Last year's conference "Run to the Battle", this year's conference "BattleCry", and Ron's latest book "BattleCry for a Generation" are just a few examples of this. There has been a lot of war and fear imagery in recent ATF conferences. To most of you this will probably not seem like a big deal. Honestly, if it was directed properly, it wouldn't be a big deal. After all, we Christians are at war, aren't we? Here's where I take offense to ATF's message. Ron Luce and ATF are calling young Christians to battle or war against our culture. Christians are at war, but it's against the enemy/Satan, not our culture.
We are called to love and bring the good news to the people of our world. Last year ATF rallied thousands of teens on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall to protest gay marriage and the gay lifestyle. Now I am not a supporter of gay marriage or the gay lifestyle. The Word of God is crystal clear that homosexuality is a sin. But it's a bit hypocritical to say you love the world if you have a picket sign in your hand. This is why I wouldn't picket or demonstrate against the war in Iraq even if I felt it was wrong. Because you can't really say you support our troops if you're picketing the war they're fighting in. My love for the troops far outweighs my right to demonstrate against the war. Likewise, our love for a lost and dying world should far outweigh our right to demonstrate on any political/moral issue. Just because we have the right to do something, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying we should support everything our culture engages in. But we are NOT at war with the culture, we are at war with Satan and his legions. If we follow the example of Jesus in the gospels, we find that Jesus spoke love, truth, and forgiveness to the worst sinners. He saved his angry, combative, harsh language for the religous people who would publicly point fingers at sinners because they were easy targets. It's really easy to hate gays and foul-mouthed hip-hop artists and goth kids and greedy rich people and all sorts of other people who live lives contrary to the word of God. But it takes a true Christ-follower to get around those people and show them the love and forgiveness of Jesus (while speaking truth to them in love).
Some of you are probably thinking, "Jeff, I don't even care about that stuff so much. I just like the concerts and worship music." I totally understand. I will look for other conferences that we can attend, but for now I've added the Crossover Music Festival to our calendar in June. I'll also work on a different activity for April to replace the ATF event. I hope you all know I didn't come to this decision quickly or lightly. I spent a lot of time in prayer about it. Sometimes false gospels don't look all evil and dark. Sometimes false teachers look very much like one of us, but we need to reject false teachers no matter what they look like. I hope you all understand!