Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"You Had To Be There"

In the late 1970's Jmmy Buffett was just another artist trying to make a living.  This was before the advent of Parrotheads, before he became a best-selling author, restaurant owner or tequila guru.  But even way back then, his concerts were not shows- they were events.  The late Dan Fogelberg, a friend of Jimmy's, was once asked to describe what it was like to see him live.  Fogelberg responded that no explanation could possibly do it justice.  He couldn't describe it.  Dan said,  "You had to be there!"  Jimmy liked that so much that it became the title of his 1978 live album, which was the first (of MANY) Buffett albums I have owned.

Over the years, I adopted those words as a sort of personal mantra for doing student ministry.  I never wanted the teenagers who went on trips or attended events at the churches I served to feel like we were just going through the motions.  I wanted them to feel like they were a part of something unique, something special, something that had not happened before and might not happen again.  I wanted them to walk into school on Monday morning and talk about how amazing youth group had been the night before.  And when their friends asked for explanations, I wanted them to feel like words were not adequate.  All that could be said was, "You had to be there!"  Right or wrong, I always felt that any method of reaching students that was predictable or too tame was destined to fail.  Jesus himself was always unpredictable and always pushing the envelope of what was acceptable.  As the Jesus Revolution gained momentum throughout the region in those three years Jesus spent preaching and teaching, you just know that as the word spread from town to town about this amazing Rabbi people were at a loss for words.  How could they describe what they were seeing?  I suspect that more than one person fell back on, "You had to be there!"

For the Jesus Revolution to truly take hold in our day and time, churches need to help our communities experience the awe and wonder of those first days of Christ.  We need to help people see that Jesus is not some simple man you can keep in a box, then whip out a teaching or two whenever it is convenient.  Jesus is a world changer, and he calls on us to world changers as well.  The power, love and grace of the Messiah cannot be contained in a manger.  The story of the first Noel should inspire awe and wonder. Because I guarantee you that a few days later, as the town of Bethlehem was still trying to figure out what had happened, some one asked one of those smelly shepherds to explain.  And I guarantee you that shepherd thought a moment, smiled, and the said to anyone who cared to listen- "There is no explanation.  You just had to be there!"  Amen & Amen.

My Deliverer is Coming...


  1. Oh, being in love with our Saviour does defy adequate explanation. Thank you, Carl, for sharing the truth of the singularity of being a part of the Body of Christ!

  2. Thanks so much Angie. Following Jesus is a wild ride, but so incredibly worth it!

  3. Jesus, youth ministry, and Jimmy Buffett, all bound by the common thread of "You had to be there." Not only is this great writing, it's great truth. Thank you, Carl for inspiring us to do create youth ministry events and things that might never happen again. I do hope one day to meet you, my friend, face to face, but if I have to wait till the sweet hereafter, I'm looking for a cheeseburger!


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