What a blessing to hear Tony Campolo preach while I was at Montreat last week! His energy, enthusiasm and passion for social justice was contagious. He had us laughing, celebrating, and pondering as he told stories and answered questions. Here are a few pearls of wisdom from his messages…
- When asked about his opinions on controversial issues, he told us that it’s important to disagree respectfully. “I always preface my opinions with, ‘I could be wrong,'” he said, and he told us this bodes well for tough conversations in ministry (and with his wife!)
- Regarding how he would guide middle and high school students, he quoted Freud: “Youth was made for heroism, not for pleasure.” He then added, “I would organize youth around doing what is heroic for God.”
- Tony also addressed evangelism. From a sociological standpoint, he said that people are either “socialized into the church or they have a conversion experience.” In both models, he said, “There is no new technique for evangelism; it’s just people caring about people and bringing them into the House of the Lord.”
- Finally, when identifying what he believes true Christianity looks like, Tony challenged youth leaders to develop their students’ awareness of the suffering in this world. “Kids aren’t Christians because they ‘pray the prayer’ or recite the Westminster Confession,” he said, “You become a Christian when your heart breaks for what breaks the heart of Jesus.”
While I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him preach, the most important takeaway wasn’t from a sermon. I overheard, when we were at the airport, a ticket agent saying, “What is your name again?” He answered, “Tony Campolo.”
“And how do you spell that?” asked the agent.
Inwardly, I cringed. Why wouldn’t everyone know this distinguised professor and author? I thought.
But Tony just patiently spelled, “C-A-M-P-O-L-O.” No pretense. No air of superiority. Just kindness. What a gentleman.
And I thought to myself, “What if Jesus were at the airport? What if the gate agent didn’t know Him? How would He react?”
Would He say, “Don’t you KNOW who I AM? I am only the MOST important speaker you’ll EVER hear…”
No…I don’t think so. I think He’d just smile and politely say, “I’m Jesus. That’s J-E-S-U-S.”
“It’s nice to meet you.”
Sometimes the “pearls of wisdom” that are most loudly spoken are our actions.