It wouldn’t be difficult for me to feed the misconceptions of Christianity and the church with a cursory explanation of what I did last weekend. I went with my father (a pastor) to Chicago for a discipleship conference at an institution for Biblical learning. The theme for this year was “Imago Dei.” We sang songs of worship and listened to rhythmically spoken verses of Christian declarations. We listened to hours of instruction, education, and commission concerning our lives, our priorities, and the defense of our religion. There were plenty of opportunities to spend money, and sponsors had chances to advertise their organization. In a gathering that was predominately black, there was no shortage of “Amen!”, “Say it!”, or “Come on now!”. There were even two concerts featuring a number of our favorite artists that you’ve never heard of.
So there. Write it off. Mindlessly following my father and his religion, I took days off work to go to an educational evangelical enclave in a big city for a gathering of people looking to get a Jesus high under the banner of a Latin phrase set down hundreds of years ago. We attentively listened to how we were going to make other people be like us (disciples, you say?), fueled by the fires of praise and worship songs. We fed the lucrative businesses that thrive on our insecurities. We shucked and jived in mindless “Lawdy!”s because we’re too stupid to understand science. And then we cast aside our religious obligations to spazz out as heathen rappers spit the devil’s music into the microphone, taking advantage of our love of vile hip-hop music.
Maybe that’s what you would say if I briefly explained what the Legacy Conference 2014 was. For whatever reason, your perception of the church (lowercase “c”), Christianity, or just religion and the notion of a god may be such that you have cynical views on the activities I partook in from Wednesday to Saturday. So let me explain Legacy as I experienced it to avoid leaving you with such misconceptions. For non-Christians, I hope this is food for serious thought. For Christians, I hope this can be an encouragement and a reminder.
This is one of those paragraphs that I started and deleted a few times as I struggled to find where to start in telling you what I found in Chicago (besides, of course, a lot of good food). There is so much that I could tell you, and would certainly like to tell you (and certainly will tell you if you get in contact with me) but a full recap might risk drowning out the central message that shines through at a conference like Legacy. It’s the critical message: There is a God who created us to be images of God, and despite our sinful nature he sent his Son to live the life we couldn’t live, die the death we should all die, and rise again to free us from the slavery of sin. Now the Holy Spirit works in us and through us to bring this message, this greatest of messages, to the fallen world. And after these light, momentary afflictions, those who believe will one day enter into eternal, perfect joy in community with God, free of the curse of sin. Forever. That is, when there is so much to tell you, when there are so many details, what I found as the overarching message that ties together the Legacy Conference.
That’s why we came together at Moody Bible Institute. Not to rally against gay rights, or create a Jesus-frenzy, or raise money for bigger and better church buildings. Rather, because we have experienced the joy of regeneration in Christ and thirst for the greatest pleasure that comes from God. We are broken people, struggling with losses, addictions, doubts, pride, anger, and a host of other sinful flaws. We are far from perfect. But we know that we have been created to be images of God, God who sent his son to die for us so we can be filled with the Holy Spirit and have the power to overcome our weaknesses as human beings.
That’s why young, talented rapper KB took two hours of his day to stress to us the importance of work. He knows that we were created to do work, and to shirk this part of our lives is disobedience.
It’s how pastor and author Joe Thorn finally found peace with his anxiety disorders, and it’s that same power that you could feel working in a room of troubled young men and women seeking a reminder of God’s superiority over any of our troubles.
This message is why philosopher, activist, and rapper Sho Baraka encouraged us to pour our abilities and efforts back into the communities from which we came, especially if we come from troubled communities.
The message of Jesus Christ is what brilliant apologist D.A. Horton continuously returned to, redirecting our awe of his knowledge, speaking ability, storytelling, and use of Ebonics back to the essential message.
The power of God and hope in Jesus rescued Thi’sl from one of the most violent neighborhoods in America and put the ex-hustler before us to share the good news that overcame an absent father, an addicted mother, and many murdered friends.
This is why we love the music of KB, Alex Faith, Christon Gray, Swoope, Thi’sl, Andy Mineo, and so many others. Those guys are rock stars to us fans. But at any show they do the biggest star is Jesus Christ. That’s why we listen to their music in the first place. It just so happens they’re really talented and produce excellent music.
Legacy 2014 was not for perfect people. We didn’t go there to bask in our perfection as children of the light. We went there because we need growth, education, and encouragement. And that’s what happened. I lived it. And if you don’t believe in the things I’ve been talking about I’m not going to argue. I’m just telling you what’s going on, and these things don’t just happen. As the Lecrae song goes: “I can’t even find the words for the way I feel so I paint a picture. I’ve been going down this road seen some crazy things so I paint a picture. You’ve got to see it. You’ve just gotta know.” I understand your objections, and believe me, I know Christianity isn’t perfect. But I know that it’s the way, not because I can explain everything but because I have seen and felt the power of God. This is more, so much more, than just showing up to church once a week. It’s so much more than a bunch of Sunday School stories designed to give us something to hold on to when life is tough. It’s more than arguments on Facebook. It’s so much more.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ, be encouraged by what my dad and I experienced at Legacy. Know that God is at work in amazing ways for our good and for his glory. Do not forget that you were created by God as an image of God for a purpose, and that there is a life far greater in store when this one ends.
And that is way more important than anything going on in sports.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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