I’m finally home from CIY (www.ciy.com) Summer Conference at Lee University, TN. I haven’t been to CIY since the summer before my senior year of high school, so it was awesome to come back to it and experience it as an adult sponsor, six years later.
The theme of the week was ONES: because we were never meant to be alone. The main speakers were Jayson French, Danny Schaffner and Jeff Walling. It was kind of neat, because I’ve heard of all three of these guys before this week. I still remember Jayson French preaching about the jealousy of God back in 1999. I had never heard a sermon on anything like that (even though Ezekial and Hosea and other prophets are packed with the concept), so it has stuck with me since then. I had met with Danny on a previous occasion to discuss his multiethnic church plant project in Tampa http://thetampaproject.blogspot.com/. And I had heard Jeff Walling speak at the North American Christian Convention in Louisville, KY last summer. I honestly don’t remember anybody else who spoke in Louisville that year except for Jeff Walling… That’s how good he was!
They also did this neat thing where they featured a documentary about AIDS in Africa. I was really glad to see CIY stepping up to raise awareness about the issue and urge the church to get involved. My only problem was that the only Scriptural reference during the whole hour was ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Not to downplay the importance of the “Golden Rule,” but I think the biblical foundation for serving the poor and the sick goes so much deeper than that. But then again, I guess it is up to the local church leaders to be studying and teaching about what the Bible has to say about poverty and injustice. A couple of books that have helped me understand this is Gary Haugen’s “Good News About Injustice” and Bryant L. Meyer’s “Walking with the Poor.” Gary Haugen is founder of International Justice Mission (IJM), a Christian organization which offers legal, law enforcement and rehabilitative aid to those victimized by human trafficking and other social abuses. Bryant L. Meyer is (I think) Vice President of World Vision, a well-known organization dedicated to meet the spiritual and social needs of children in Third World countries.
The truth is, AIDS at its core in relation to the church is not a moral issue (as many conservative evangelicals are quick to claim), but a spiritual issue. It is a spiritual issue because the Church has a responsibility to care for the poor and the sick, as Christ himself did and taught (Matthew 25:31-46) when He was here on earth. One thing that has always struck me is the issue of Sodom and Gomorrah. Why was judgment particularly wrought on Sodom? I had always thought it was because of defiance of God, particularly through sexual immorality. After all, that is what is emphasized in the story of Lot and his daughters in Genesis… But Ezekial 16:49 says “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
This passage made me realize that God takes neglect of the poor and needy very seriously, especially when those in power (the “overfed and unconcerned’) supposedly have a knowledge of God.
Anyway, I think I understand why CIY didn’t delve too deeply into the Scriptural thing… It might be a lot to hit on in an hour, especially to a 1500 high schoolers. Again it really is our responsibility as leaders and ministers in our own churches to raise this issue and really study and pray about it as a community, and find out what God would have us do within our own spheres of influence…
I will hopefully blog more about CIY in the days and weeks to come… There is a lot to unpack. Figuratively;)