"I'm trying to teach this kid how to take notes," Nick said. He serves as the Junior High Youth Pastor at Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church. He'd gotten up from his folding chair on the second level of the EKU's Alumni Auditorium. Nearly 2000 bodies filled the room for Momentum Youth Conference, most of them were teenagers. Many did not know how to take notes.
"Francis Chan was good," Nick admitted. "But how do you take notes on what he said?"
Nick made a good point. I heard Francis Chan speak the previous morning. Actually, "speak" is an understatement. Francis bellows. He shakes his fits and pumps his arms. He bows to the ground and punches the floor.
What he doesn't do is open his Bible much. He fails to fixate on a single text or story, but chases rabbits down trails and holes. He drums up excitement and makes energy, but his main point is elusive. Something about courage. Or experience. Or evangelism. Or the failures of the church. Or the flavors of In-N-Out Burger.
Nick and I watched the students nod and laugh and raise their hands in commitment. We also noticed their notebooks were empty and their Bibles closed.
But perhaps youth conferences are not the context for expository preaching. Perhaps they are spiritual pep rallies or religious Tea Parties. Learning the Bible is antiquated. "Live the Bible," is the cry for the Next Generation.
Unfortunately, you cannot live what you do not know. You cannot practice the "radical life" of a disciple if you've never observed how Jesus called John and rebuked Peter and overthrew Legion and confounded Levi and subverted Pilot. For truly radical living takes the Bible seriously. Cracks it open. Takes notes. And then hits the streets.
This is why we need more adult volunteers to attend youth conferences. Adults can help students outline the ideas of Francis Chan. They can reiterate salient points and Scripture references. They can help students become better at knowing.
In turn, the students will inspire the adults to become better doers. Adults can ride in the wake of junior high enthusiasm. They can prove Francis Chan wrong about the church being "Head knowledge only." They can set an example in thoughtful engagement with their communities. They can live noteworthy lives, as their students observe. Bibles open. Pens ready.