Helpful Things: I Have a Confession to Make
By Stan Lemon
I have a confession to make. I am addicted to Higher Things. This year's conference at Purdue marks my twelfth Higher Things Conference. It's insane to think its been that many but, in large part due to my work with the organization, I've been privileged to attend a fair many of its conferences.
Over the last couple of years I've only been able to go to one conference, as opposed to all of them as in years past. It has easily become the high point of my year and I look forward to breaking away from my day job to get immersed in Lutheran theology and worship with a bunch of crazy teenagers for a whole week. There is nothing quite like it. Sure, there are other youth gatherings of various sort and they may be bigger, longer or louder but in the end there is nothing out there that truly represents historic Lutheranism like Higher Things does. For me that's what has always been so special about this organization I love: Higher Things.
A lot of adults are busily trying to sell teenagers the next fad whether it be trendy with this generation or reminiscent on the baby boomer era. Some youth like that. I contend though that most don't and most are looking for something deeper and more substantive in their religious life. Higher Things presents constants that are concrete, not fads or gimmicks of an exciting week that will quickly be lost once youth return home.
Here is the bottom line when it comes to Higher Things. The Gospel you hear on Tuesday at the opening Divine Service and at Friday for the closing Divine Service and all the services in between is the same Gospel you'll hear Sunday at your home congregation's Divine Service. The liturgy isn't new and the hymns are mostly old. But anything you hear in worship at a Higher Things conference you can find in a pew near you tucked inside of your church's hymnal on Sunday. The only thing different is you're praying and singing with 1300+ youth in a music hall on a college campus.
There is something else that sets Higher Things apart. Look at our staff. They're not old crusty church politicians running the show. Our conferences are powered by college volunteers and a support staff that is increasingly representative of past conference attendees. At Purdue our registrar, assistant registrar, college volunteer coordinator, housing staff and our technology staff were former college volunteers and past attendees. And as for our adults, many of them started with the organization only after having been serial adult chaperones for their home youth groups. Our leadership is home grown right in our conferences. They see what happens, they believe its valuable to our youth, and they jump on board for a crazy ride.
I strongly believe we've done our youth a disservice by treating them as children. They're young adults and they're not looking for dumbed down theology that lacks substance. They want to learn about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. They not only want, but they need to hear the Gospel. They want to be treated like adults, and in this regard, Higher Things promises to do that and delivers. Our theology is that of the Lutheran Confessions and there is no sugar coating on it. Nothing but raw unadulterated Gospel. And the best part is that the youth love it!
We live in a world that is hostile to Christianity. Youth are taught to not believe in anything. They are taught to live with doubt and to fend for their own sins rather than lay them at the foot of the Cross for He who bears the sins of the world. Higher Things is intentionally counter cultural to this, it teaches the solid promises of faith in Water, Word, Body and Blood. It teaches forgiveness from a loving Lord who sent His only Son to die for a fallen world. It teaches certainty and trust in Christ. Then it worships faithfully in Lutheran fashion according to the practices passed down by the church. All the while teaching and worshipping, Higher Things makes sure to have fun, proving that being faithful doesn't have to be boring. This is why I am addicted to Higher Things.
Stan Lemon is the former webmaster of Higher Things and currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.
This article was originally published in July 2013
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