Woven at Winterfest


By Justin Ardrey

This year I had the opportunity to participate in my first youth ministry event as an adult—Winterfest. For those who aren't familiar, Winterfest is an annual youth conference associated with the churches of Christ held in Gatlinburg, TN. Let me start by saying that even though I could have used a little more sleep, I still found my weekend with our group of 114 attendees to be outstanding. This trip was also special to me because my 17 year-old brother, Jacob, was able to come along.

Though I’m not sure the title would be nearly as appropriate in Memphis due to other connotations of the word, this year’s theme was “weave.” Now, before you go cracking jokes about hair extensions, please know that this topic was actually one of the most powerful I’ve heard in a very long time. Still not buying it? When was the last time you heard anyone speak on the need for intergenerational faith communities or a lesson on appreciation and respect for Jesus’ bride, the church? As previously stated, these lessons were powerful.

Chris Seidman, Patrick Mead, and (the dynamic duo) Jeff and Taylor Walling brought encouraging messages regarding our need for the church. While I found most of the entertainment adequate at best (chalk it up to the gray hairs that are no longer an anomaly on my scalp), the messages involving our spiritual heritage were unbelievably rich. Careful attention was paid to worship styles where older songs with musical notation were accompanied by more modern motion graphics, all with the intent of bridging the gap between generations.

The Wallings spoke as an intergenerational father-son duo, highlighting the importance of younger generations understanding their own spiritual heritage. A family album was also used as a metaphor to discuss how we should work to develop an appreciation for church family histories, because the purpose behind events such as the Restoration Movement may help shape the future of our churches. This was a message for adults as much as it was for students. Honestly, how well do you know your spiritual roots?

As a colleague with no children, I often don’t get the opportunity to see my fellow ministers in action. If nothing else sticks with you from this article, please know that if you are a parent of a teen, your children are in good hands. I can only wish that I had received an ounce of what Jim and Jenna continue to pour into the next generation. As a result of their devotion, my brother had a great time interacting with the group, making new friends, and growing in his relationship with God.

In conclusion, I am much more aware of the fact that we are a diverse family of believers woven through the blood of Christ. This past weekend made me appreciate my spiritual family at Sycamore View and their commitment to helping people see Jesus.

Are there days when I talk bad about my savior’s bride and become disillusioned by her influence in the world? Ashamedly, yes. The good news is that God hasn’t given up on the church or me. It may seem rather obvious, but that’s what compels me to stick it out. In many ways, I am like Hosea’s promiscuous wife. Though I often abandon my covenant relationship, God is faithful. Time and time again, He invites me back in, washes me, and gives me a seat at His table. God shows grace in the face of my disgracefulness. The fact that He purchased us with the blood of His own Son and entrusted a traitorous people with the keys to the Kingdom compels me to work to see great value in the church.

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