Our crew from FUMC Williamstown will be shipping out 29 strong tomorrow morning (6/23) for the Woodstock of Christian music, Creation Festival (Northeast). The late-June trip to Agape Farm, PA, has become an annual pilgrammage for our youth group for the past 7 or 8 years.
I know there are some folks who, when they see that “Christian Music” label put on something like “Festival,” instantly conjure images of over-scrubbed post-80’s hair bands crooning insipid “I love Jesus, I love you too,” lyrics to a vanilla pop beat while clean-cut teenagers sit around campfires cooking s’mores and singing Kumbaya. But Christian music has come a long way beyond the honey-dripping days of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and John Tesh. Bands like Skillet, Pillar, Thousand Foot Krutch and Kutless can flat rock your face off. Post-pop acts like Family Force 5 and Toby Mac bring all the flash and showmanship of a KISS concert from 1979. And you’re as likely to see multiple piercing, tattoo-covered, leather-wearing, pink haired punkers as you are white-toothed, collar-popped preppies roaming the roads, concert areas, vendor booths and campsites.
And while worship is always in the air, there are some ground-cutting artists who are brining a new kind–or perhaps the better term would be a new flavor–of spirituality to their lyrics, writing about real people in real life situations with a real need for a real Jesus. Listen to a little Flyleaf and you’ll get the idea.
Of course, Creation Festival is about more than just the music. From arena-packing keynote messages to intimate talks in small wooded venues from some of the most innovative thinkers in Christianity today, there are endless opportunities for learning and growth.
What really blows your mind at Creation, though, isn’t the music or the speakers. It’s the fact that up to 80,000 Christ followers get to come together and live in community for the better part of a week in that pastoral hill country of south-central Pennsylvania. At first, you don’t even notice that something’s different. But with every interaction, with every conversation, and through every mind-shattering worship service, you get the sense that God is doing something special, and this is what it looks like.
This will be my 3rd Creation Festival, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that, in some way, each one of us–adults and teens alike–will have some kind of genuine encounter with Jesus. As often as not, it’s messy, bloody, sloppy–and beautiful. I have seen more teens come to a real relationship with Christ through this event than all the other youth programming we do all year long. And it’s all because Creation Festival creates the kind of environment where those things can happen like nowhere else I’ve ever been.
So wish us well and keep us in your prayers. We’ll be back sometime late Sunday (6/28), sweaty, dirty, tired and totally sold-out for Jesus.
(**NOTE: If you’d like to keep up with what our youth from FUMC are doing at Creation, you can follow their Creation Festival Blog at http://ihsyouth.wordpress.com.)