Due to the fact that most of our group had an extremely long day yesterday, we were all in bed by 10:30 PM…teenagers and adults! This (going to bed early) is rarely seen on a youth trip, so I can’t complain. Everyone slept extremely well and woke up energized. Sheryl, the woman that is running this camp surprised us with donuts and these awesome sausage/cheese sweet rolls for breakfast. They are hard to explain, but oh so good. So that was a nice way to start the day.
After breakfast and getting ready, we embarked on a journey to find a church called “The Loft” ( http://www.loftchurch.com )! The church is actually part of the church that is in charge of running the camp we are working at. The church is called “The Woodlands United Methodist Church” and is a mega-church. The Loft church is basically a whole other church, within the larger church. They have their own building (on the property of the bigger church), their own pastors, their own youth center, their own children’s center (that was huge), their own café, and their own offices. The two church buildings sit on 33 acres that the church owns. The property looks like a small college campus (buildings all over the place).
As soon as we walked in to The Loft Church we were all amazed at how sweet it was. The sanctuary itself was nothing impressive, but it works so well. It looked like our ceilings at our new church property look. It was a simple room with concrete walls, plastic chairs, and a stage up front. The sound system, lighting, projectors, and screens were probably a bit pricey, but everything else was probably very easy and cheap to do. This gave me some ideas for our future youth room!
The worship team was incredible and the worship was very real! My students and leaders enjoyed the worship and I could tell that they were connecting with God when they were singing praises to Him. It was awesome to see! After worship was over, a guy wearing jeans and a t-shirt walked onto the stage. I later found out that he was the loft church’s high school youth pastor. He preached the message this morning. He started by saying that every once in a while, they let him come across the hallway (from the youth room) and preach in the big service. It was cool to see someone preaching the word of God in normal, everyday clothes. It further proved my theory that being dressed up in a suit and tie does not matter to God, as long as you are doing His work. Brian (the youth pastor/preacher for this service) started by saying that it was a “stripped down stage with a stripped down message!” Meaning that there wasn’t anything fancy on the stage and there was nothing impressive to look at, and that he was going to preach a message that was not fancy and full of media and other things of the sort. He was just going to read through the word of God and discuss a few key things. I loved his intro. Then he said “but this is no small undertaking, so allow me to open in prayer!” I loved how serious he was about the word of God and how he knew the importance of praying before bringing the message. I hoped that my students saw it and realized why I open every lesson or talk with prayer, asking God to speak through me and to my hearers (them)!
The church started a study on the Gospel of Mark a few weeks ago. They were on Mark chapter 4 today and the message was on The Parable of the Sower! Brian started out by talking about how Jesus always used his surroundings to communicate truth. In this case, Jesus used the seeds, the vines, and the soil to illustrate a point for His hearers. He then started to read us the Parable (and the words were on the screen for us to follow along with if we didn’t have our Bibles). After he got to verse 9, he stopped and said that these 9 verses are ridiculous, meaning it confused people greatly. I loved it because I am currently teaching a series of lessons to our youth called “Seriously Ridiculous,” which was an idea I got from the national youth workers convention a few years ago. He then said that people probably thought Jesus was crazy for basically saying, “a farmer had some seeds…he threw them and some landed on the path and were eaten by birds, some fell on rocks, sprang up quickly, got cooked by the sun and died, some fell in a thorn bush, and some fell on good soil and produced fruit…if you have ears, hear that!” And that was the end of Jesus’ message. Then we read that the disciples waited until everyone else left and then they asked Jesus what the heck He was talking about. Then Brian told us “luckily, Jesus broke it down for us!” He read verse 13 and said that there was something foundational about it that we need to grasp in order to move on. Jesus said to the disciples, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” Jesus was saying that they needed to understand this parable and grasp it before they could move on in their understanding of God.
Brian then went on to talk about the four different kinds of soil representing the four stages of the human heart. The first soil (the path/concrete/cement) represents hard hearted people, the second soil (rocky places with very little soil) represents superficial people (they receive the Word of God and allow it to grow a little bit, but because there is not much soil, God’s Word dies out in them), the third soil (thorny ground) represents people who hear the Word of God but have thorns (pride, jealousy, envy, sexual addictions, money issues, lust, greed, etc) that take their eyes off of the Creator and puts them on creation, and the fourth soil (good soil) represents all encompassing commitment to Jesus and His word! Brian then asked us which soil we are…and how do we know for sure? He said that soil is important because, “at creation, God scooped up soil and breathed life into it…at salvation, God scooped up soil and breathed life into it.” He said that “it’s transformation if the Word of God takes root and it is goods soil! And the answer to the question of “which soil are you?” is found in verse 20. We know which soil we are by the fruit that we bear!
The reason I repeated to you most of the sermon was because it hit me hard at the end. I realized that this message was for me and our youth group. I believe we needed to hear that message specifically for this week. What kind of soil are we and what are we doing? Are our neighbors benefiting from nearness to us and our nearness to God? Can the kids we will be working with this week see Jesus in us? Can they be encouraged, uplifted, and discipled if we ourselves are not actively seeking God each and every day in our own lives? Are we bored in our walks with God, or are we finding life in His love letter to us (the Bible)? Brian said something that I really liked towards the end of his message. He said that “we can all get there (boredom) if we let something incredible and miraculous (the Word of God) become typically routine!” Wow, how true is that?
I was going to write about our whole day, but this ended up being longer than I anticipated it to be, so I will write part two later tonight!