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Lessons from the beach (or some things I learned during GOSPEL Journey Maui)

Picture of Greg Stier
Greg Stier

I’ve been reflecting on some of the lessons that I learned while filming this one-of-a-kind reality series in Hawaii. Here is a few of them:

1. Postmoderns are willing to engage on the big questions of life if you ask them.

We had no guarantee that these young people would engage with us or sit there with blank stares waiting for the next fun activity. They engaged…even more than I thought they would. Why? Because they were genuinely interested in the questions that we were asking them. Here were the six categories of questions, one of which drove the agenda for each day of the journey:

“Is there a higher power? If so who do you think He, She or It is? If not what do you believe?”

“What is the purpose of life?”

“Why are there so many religions? Can they all be right?” (enter conflict)

“Why do bad things happen? Where did ‘evil’ come from?”

“What happens after you die? Is there a real hell? Which is true reincarnation, extinction or resurrection?”

“Who is Jesus and what is his message?”

These questions kept us busy the entire week both on camera and off. As the week went on the emotions came out more and more. By the last day we had some true and palpable conflict, the kind of conflict necessary for a project like this.

Asking hard questions and giving honest answers is something that I think more pastors, youth leaders and small group leaders need to facilitate in their churches and meetings. To be honest I don’t think it’s just young people who are willing to engage these difficult questions of this life and the afterlife.

2. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

I’m a debater by nature so my prayer was that God would drench me in His Holy Spirit and allow love, joy, peace and all the fruit of the Spirit to flow out of me and Zane as we engaged these young people. Not only did he answer my prayer (and the prayers of thousands of others) but the love of God spilled through the tech crew, production team, cooks, attending donors, etc. The love of God was so strong among us that one of the participants (I won’t give away who) said, “One of the reasons I’m considering Christianity is because of the love and light I sense and see among the entire team here. There is something real among you that is making me think that Christianity may be true.”

Wow! Isn’t that what Jesus was praying for in John 17:20 and 21 when he prayed, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”?

A spoonful of love helps the hard medicine of Scripture go down a little bit easier.

3. Apologetics is important but getting to the why behind the what is even more important.

I definitely used apologetics during this time. All my Josh McStrobelian facts came in ultra handy during this time of interaction. I think those who think apologetics aren’t important with postmoderns have misdiagnosed this generation as purely relational. These young people are still intensely rational (and relational). The biggest challenge was helping them to understand that everyone can’t be right. Gravity doesn’t work one way for you and one way for me…neither does the gravity of spiritual reality.

But more important than apologetics is pre-apologetics. In other words helping them to understand why they believe what they believe. Those that realized that they probably believed what they believed because they came from a family steeped in that belief system were awakened to the reality that they would most likely believe something else if they were raised in a family that believed differently. This conscious awakening starts getting behind their worldview wall and helps them begin to wonder if they could be missing out on the real reality of spiritual truth.

A book that was a HUGE help to me was one that I believe God guided me to the day before I left for Maui. I stumbled upon it in a Family bookstore. It’s called Why Good Arguments Often Fail by James Sire. If you are into apologetics or evangelism you need to get this book. It should be read along with the classic apologetics books that apologetics giants like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel have written.

4. The exclusive claims of Christ are just as controversial today as they were 2,000 years ago.

When Jesus claimed to be “the way and the truth and the life” and that nobody came to the Father except through Him he set off a firestorm of controversy. The flame is still raging today.

The toughest off camera question asked to me was by Jonathan (our bodybuilding, modeling Jewish participant). It went something like, “So Greg you mean to tell me that all six million Jews who died in the Holocaust woke up in the flames of hell because they rejected Jesus as their Messiah?”

Try tackling that one.

The claims of Christ are still as controversial today as they were when he roamed the Galilean countryside sharing his catalytic message of love and truth.

5. Prayer rocks!

Last week in Maui was a testament to the power of prayer. Everything that took place was soaked in prayer by our thousands of ministry partners across the nation. Why was the weather perfect for everything that we did? Prayer! Why did every seeming setback result in something better than we anticipated? Prayer! Why did Zane and I seem to have the right answers at the right time? Prayer! Why did God do something powerful in Maui? Prayer!

And now we need to pray that God guides Mediatech as they transfer the 120 hours of tape to digital and then begin to edit it down to a eight session, four hour reality series. We need to pray that God uses this reality series beyond our wildest dreams to make a national impact, not just with teenagers but adults. We need to pray for the participants of the GOSPEL Journey who are still considering the claims of Jesus.

Now that the sand is out of my britches and the cool snow of Colorado is back under my feet I reflect, consider and give God the glory for the lesson He taught me and is teaching me through this wild and crazy reality series.

May these lessons be a blessing to you as well.

Unlikely Fighter

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The story of how a fatherless street kid overcame violence, chaos, and confusion to become a radical Christ follower.

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