Last weekend was our third annual ELEVATE Discipleship Conference. We began this conference at Southside in 2016 because there was a felt need for young adults to think deeply about being disciples and for them to spend time together discussing important issues of faith. We still see that need and continue to aim to meet it (already planning for ELEVATE 2019!).
This year’s theme was “A Counter-Culture for the Common Good” - we talked and learned about how the church can engage society in healthy ways, living as people who are set-apart and unique, but also showing love and compassion on those we encounter in day-to-day life. I wanted to share a couple of significant takeaways:
The first is that we can’t take on life alone. As we strive to live as peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9), there will be times that we are at odds with the people around us, not because we are being inflammatory (1 Pet. 4:15 warns us against suffering because of our own meddling or disagreeableness), but because we are aiming to follow Christ while others are not. Trying to power through life on our own is like bringing a knife to a gun fight - we will find ourselves woefully underprepared and outnumbered.
For this reason, we must align ourselves with Christ. If we believe that “it is finished” and the victory is won in Him, then why do we so often try to make it on our own? We avoid sharing our burdens, we keep depression, anxiety, and emotions bottled up, and we imagine that we are the only people enduring pain. We are meant to belong to God, and a key part of being people of God is working together, yet too often we try to go solo. Jesus went toe-to-toe with Satan and overcame the world - let’s not forget that this Victorious Messiah is our ally, and we are His people.
The second is we have to break away from the crowd to encounter Jesus. In Mark chapter 5, Jesus is moving through crowds, and he gets interrupted twice by people who need his help. First, Jairus asks Jesus to heal his dying daughter, then a woman who had been subject to bleeding touched his clothes to be healed.
In Mark’s Gospel “the crowd” is often used as a key character for the story, and in this case the crowd is swarming around Jesus, going about their lives, heading from one place to the next. But those who recognize their need for Jesus find Him by breaking away from the crowd. How often do we simply follow the crowd? We go from one place to the next, tend to urgent tasks one after another, and generally live the same type of lives as those around us. Following the crowd, however, is not the way to encounter Jesus.
When we recognize our need for Him, like those who received healing in Mark 5, we find Him by breaking away from the crowd. We find Him by dwelling in scripture, conversing in prayer, resting in solitude, worshiping with His church. We encounter Jesus not by following the crowd, but by breaking away.
There was a ton more great teaching at the conference too! I encourage you to visit with our young adults and college students and ask them what they learned from ELEVATE. I am already looking forward to ELEVATE 2019 next Spring!