UFC Debate Camp

It’s not 100% a done deal, but I may be involved in one of the most innovative youth summer camp theme’s/strategies that I have ever seen.  The theme of this camp is “Ultimate Fighting Championship”.  I know, I know, ultimate fighter isn’t that big of a stretch as far as camp themes, especially since every UFC fight I can count on Driscoll and every other reformed pastor I know to light up Twitter and give me a detailed account on which fighter brought the pain (or something like that).

This UFC theme is different though, because this theme is more of a debate style UFC rather than a “ground and pound Satan” theme.  The leaders are pitting two people to debate divergent views of theology and to present their argument to the youth that are there.  For instance, one of the themes is Young Earth vs. Old Earth creation theory.  Another debate topic is Calvinism vs. Arminianism.

This is such an important concept to learn, not because of the topics that are being discussed (although I am sure that there will be plenty of things that God reveals during these debates), but the overall message is that it is possible to hold completely divergent views on secondary issues regarding Christianity and the nature of God, and still be able to fellowship, work together, and maybe even be friends.  This is an idea that is in short supply in the church, and across our society as the discourse in every facet has become so vitriolic that we have surpassed the adjective “toxic” long ago.

Once again, the church is not immune to such vitriol, and if you don’t believe me, let me challenge you to hold up a sign at John Piper’s church that says “Rob Bell isn’t all that bad”, and see what happens.  I am laying odds that you don’t get passed the handicap spot in the parking lot.

The most important thing that I believe we can share with our students is how to exemplify the love of Christ without being exclusionary in their approach.  I think it’s also important to teach that Christianity is not an exam that we take where it is important to have all the answers, but rather a relationship that we have with Christ.  Like any relationship, it grows, changes, and expands.  Like any relationship, interaction and growth is the only answer to complacency and burn out.

I learned something that has stuck with me for a long time, and I learned it from my dad of all places (it turns out, he is pretty smart…who know).  The concept is that in business, it is okay to give a full throated, red faced, passionate defense of a position.  Once the meeting is over though, so is the confrontation.  I’ve heard countless stories on how he stood his ground in a heated business meeting because he believed he was right, and then turned to joking around, back slapping, and making lunch plans after the meeting was done.  I think that this is something that leaders in the church are poor at.  We have a tough time letting our differences go.  We focus on the 5% that we disagree on and let the 95% that we do agree on become superficial.  Congregations create extra-biblical litmus tests in hiring a staff member as to create a staff that is in lock step in every aspect of Christianity.  This creates a type of spiritual nepotism, and as such a church capable of effectively ministering only to a certain group of people.  It is our differences that we should celebrate and incorporate in the greater cause of advancing the Kingdom.  Rather we focus on the differences in opinion, worship style, preaching style, theology, who we read, and our thoughts on eschatology to realize that when we dig our heels in and lob grenades at the other side, we aren’t really doing anything to advance the kingdom, but our own agenda…or ego.

This is exactly why I am so excited about this opportunity, so that I can do my part to give a full-throated defense of my position, and then make sure that everyone sees that the person I debate can walk away as friends, colleagues, and people that God has chosen to lead the church.

If my fellow debaters happen to read this (and thank you for the read), then I would encourage them to make sure they understand that the other side of the debate is not the enemy, but another person in the trench as we engage in spiritual warfare against the enemy that has come to steal kill and destroy.  I like how Paul puts it in, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12).  Afterwards, we still have an incredible task of advancing the name above the names on the debate roster, but the name of Jesus.  That incredible task requires an “all hands on deck” approach.

As for my topic, I am currently penciled in to debate a woman’s role in ministry.  To which I will present my position that woman…*

*That, I’ll save for the debate.  Let me know if you are interested in attending the night it happens.


About larsenphillip

I'm an imperfect disciple of Jesus Christ. I am learning that my walk with Jesus gets deeper when I drop the presumptions that I have and simply follow him. I get frustrated when people put God in a box, and presume to know how He will reach individuals, work in peoples lives, and advance His kingdom. If Tony Campolo or Jim Wallis were to call me and ask me to work for them for free...I probably would. I think one day I'll write a book, and I am a nut for STL Cardinal baseball.
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