This comment came in on an ancient (March 6th, 2010) post of ours, LCMS Youth Gathering Praise Music Now Comes with a Theological Disclaimer. The commenter was someone who attended the conference as a chaperone. To gain context for the comment, you should read some of the other comments on the original post. Tracy makes some excellent points about the gathering, but what’s interesting to me is that two of the youth who attended NYG no longer attend church because they have seen how church “can be done” and are bored at their home church now.
This is surely not what those in charge of the NYG intend to happen; but I’ve seen it myself. The youth come back to their home church, having seen LCMS officials say that this type of worship is valid in Lutheran churches, and .. wind up going to the church down the road that does this type of worship better.
You should talk with your youth leaders about the Higher Things conferences.
I attended the last two youth gatherings as a chaperone, and especially after the last one I have some concerns. I suppose I am more liberal concerning music, and I would agree with others who pointed out that the mass event was more of a big Sunday School gathering than a worship service.
For some of our kids, I think the mass event and gathering was an opportunity to be surrounded by believers, and be really joyful in the Lord (we must admit that joyful is not what most Lutherans are known for). Other kids in our group did not take advantage of the worthy presentations that are available, or focus thoughtfully on the Bible study, or show up anywhere close to on time for the mass event. What I saw overall was that those young people who were opened to a deeper faith growth experience got the most out of NYG and those who came to experience New Orleans received no spiritual benefits. This went just as I had anticipated.
My major concern at this last event was the workshop presenters who had obvious emergent theologies like Bob Lenz, who last year invited heretic and left wing political activist, Jim Wallis to be the main speaker at a huge youth concert event in Wisconsin. He refused to disinvite Wallis after the local Christian radio station withdrew their sponsorship because of Wallis’s appearance. There were also workshops and events that focused on prayer walking/prayer stations (something the Ohio district youth gathering participated in). So, it is the pagan, mystical, universalist practices that are infiltrating the LCMS churches ( just saw an LCMS church website that teaches contemplative prayer online!) that have me most concerned. Doctrine is important, but my Baptist friends are still saved — they do believe that salvation is through grace and not works — they are still orthodox on the essentials, even if they interpret works differently than we do (they consider faith through baptism works, btw). However, the mystic/emergents are universalist (Rob Bell, etc.) whether they admit it outright or not, and that is where the real danger to our kids and our church lies. We had better wake up because that’s where our kids will flee to.
Further, though Lutherans are sometimes loathe to discuss such things, one of the best sermons at the youth gathering was given by a young pastor who has Barack Obama as one of his “likes’ on Facebook. How discouraging. What does it say to lay people when a pastor supports a candidate who is anti-life and anti-marriage?
On a final note, two of our youth (one was a young adult volunteer) who proported to gain the most, spiritually, from the event, have told me that they can no longer stomach coming to our church after being at the NYG and seeing what church should really be like. Of course, I gently but firmly corrected them, but it proves the point made early in the article. They were already bored at our church, but NYG (like having Christmas everyday) spoiled them. That said, we are missing something in our church and I think it is parents who truly are passionate about discipling their own kids. Instead they leave most all of it to the church, and are not relentlessly intentional about growing kids in the faith.
Thanks for the good and thoughtful posts,