Setting the Challenge

Originally published January 2001.

I read an article lately that has really "stuck in my craw." What does that colloquialism literally mean? I'm assuming because my spellcheck didn't correct "craw" (but does not consider spellcheck correct) that I have the correct word. I don't know what it really means but that is what I have come up with again and again in trying to describe how this article has not let me go. (

The article is about Randy Bohlender's trip with four friends to Burning Man. Burning Man is an underground gathering of 30,000 pagans, artists, free spirits and wanderers who come together for a week of art and parties, culminating in the erection of a 52-foot tall wooden man outlined in neon. In the end, that man is burned and thrown into the fire as a sacrifice along with all of their art. Randy and his friends' mission was to give out 5,000 bottles of water as a prophetic gesture of what God wants to do in their lives. The article contains what they learned. Good pondering stuff. It is Observation #2 that has "stuck in my craw." It is "I do find it weird that the church strives to convenience people when people really thrive on challenge."


To quote, "Getting to Burning Man is a challenge, but it's a challenge people rise to. The church in America has done everything they can to remove all the challenge from attending, in hopes that if it's convenient, people will stumble into a walk with God... Following God, pursuing Him, is not as easy as getting to Burning Man. The initial decision is, but in the actual pursuit, there are multiple obstacles, most of them self-imposed."

Why do we as youth pastors try to make it so easy that they stumble in when youth thrive on challenge?

This is the reason for the increase in extreme sports. It is all about the challenge. Can they achieve that feat and the adrenalin rush of every attempt, and every failure, until it is achieved? My husband is very influential in the paintball sport. We witness firsthand the ambition, commitment, dedication, loyalty, and massives amount of money spent for the challenge.

This is the reason for the increase enrollment in AP and IB education programs. Some youth want more challenging curriculum so they feel challenged in their education. There education means more than seat-warming for something that is easy for them. They will take a C in an AP or IB class over an easy A in a regular class.

The feats and the challenge are set in the community of skaters, BMXers, paintballers, or Christians. It is within the familiar community that moves are watched, challenges are accepted, and failures attempted. It is safe to fail because the community allows it to meet the challenge. As youth ministers, we know all about community. But is failure allowed in our youth group community?

The Christian walk, path, journey, or whatever term you give it, is really a challenge. You have all the world against you as you plod along daily. You know in your own personal walk that you have overcome many challenges that have tested and strengthened your faith. You know it is those challenges that have made your faith what it is. You may have stumbled and failed, but the challenges have made your faith.

As one of my favorite quotes goes, "It takes a man to be a Christian." This quote in stood out to me from Gary Gaetti after the Minnesota Twins won the World Series in 1987. That off season he became a Christian. When he came back into the clubhouse, he was literally ostracized because of his faith. The team turned on him. When asked by the local newspaper about this, that quote was his response. It would have been easier for him to go back to the carrousing with the players but it took a man to stand by his convictions. Now there was a challenge and in that challenge came extreme joy.

There are the valleys and the stumblings and the struggles that come from "living the life." But after that comes extreme joy which is only experienced after the challenge. Jesus did teach, "I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of Me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world." John 16:33. Jesus laid out the challenge.

So why do we try to make it easy when youth thrive on challenge?

I raise a question that has no answer from me. So I have raised a question that I don't know how to apply. But hopefully it will "stick in your craw" also.

Observation #6 is, "I find it weird that so many Christians are satisfied with their present reality." To quote again, "I find it weird that you (Joe Christian) may not be willing to stir it chase after true answers with a fraction of the passion that these people chase after in futility." That is a Wild Frontier thought.