Later this afternoon I’ll join 70 high school students and 20 other adults for the Encounter Men’s Retreat.
This is my second year doing the retreat so this year I have a better idea of what to expect.
- Intense, respectful content that asks young men to lean into practical realities of walking with Jesus.
- A large scale, rustic communal experience. No running water, no bathrooms, no cell service, no tents.
- Moving and setting up a completely self-contained 3 day retreat– built with lots of muscle power and big boy toys.
- Massive, burning man-style bonfires. (Last year U.S. Border Patrol stopped by– big.)
- Guns, lots of them. (Used in a very safe, secure, proper way)
- Explosions, lots of them. Fireworks, explosives, and pretty much anything else that will blow up.
- Seemingly unlimited paintball, bouldering, and combinations of bouldering & paintball.
- Lots and lots of meat, potatoes, etc. No crepes or powdered sugar or quiche.
- An extremely memorable weekend for all the guys who go.
No doubt there are parts of that list which absolutely resonate with you and other parts that make your skin crawl. Trust me, I’m totally with you.
If you know me very well at all you know my convictions on gun control. I’m not just a little anti-gun, I actually think it’s morally wrong for Christians to have guns for self-protection. So the idea of taking a bunch of guys to the desert and shooting off a bunch of ammo is really, really hard for me to swallow.
So, why do I go? If I’m not a big fan of putting a 12 gauge in the hands of 14 year old… why not just bow out? Why support and give 3 days of your life to something that might feel wonky?
Because the men’s desert trip works. It’s an example of looking at the culture you are called to reach, reading it properly, and connecting the dots between something that happens in culture and impacting people’s lives.
And while it I’m not comfortable with parts of it I’m fully aware of these three facts.
- East County San Diego dudes go to the desert, blow stuff up, shoot guns, and eat meat. It’s something east county people do for fun.
- God does significant things in people’s lives in the desert. Do a word study on that… there’s a correlation in the Bible between time in the desert and movements of God.
- Reaching young men for Christ is sacred. My opinion, comfort level, and personal preferences are not sacred.