The opening session for Mike Slaughter was challenging, thought-provoking, and set up the rest of the weekend for success. He talked about "unlearning church" (which I think he wrote a book about) and how the church needs to reclaim a "Jesus hermeneutic" in order to remain relevant for the 21st century. He argued that we must return to Jesus' understanding that God wants to be in relationship with us, not hold a contract or legal obligation over our heads. We need to focus on God's covenant (unfailing love - hesed) with us, not the commandments (rules/laws) that so often plague our Christian thinking. Slaughter challenged us to recommit to three life practices: simplicity, strategic discipleship, and sacrificial mission.
The second plenary session brought Len Sweet to the stage and he blew just about everybody out of the water with his talk. He practically called all the Chairs of BOMs throughout Methodism "idiots" for weeding out the people with imaginations from the ministry. [Side note: the chair of the NTC BOM was sitting about 3 feet away from me during Sweet's talk...she cringed alot during this section. Just thought you should know.] Len talked about the characteristics of an E.P.I.C. church and the difference between an A.P.C. operating system and an M.R.I. operating system. All great information and all great challenges to the mainline church in America because if we don't "de-frag and reboot" then we will crash and burn and no one will attempt to pick up the pieces.
The plenary session this morning featured TWUMC Senior Pastor Ed Robb talking about what he doesn't know about growing a church. Each of his "ignorances" highlighted the unique position the Christian Church is in regarding the "business of God". He told us that he didn't know how to grow a church without:
1) God's help
3) hard work
4) casting a vision
5) building a team
6) incurring pain
7) developing effective outreach programs
8) taking risks
Each one of those "ignorances" hit home with my own fears, pride, and immaturities about what it takes to grow and sustain a new ministry/church for the long haul. He closed by challenging us to serve, pray, and love the people where you are now like you are going to serve them for the rest of your ministry career - sink deep roots and take ownership of all that you have been called by God to do where he has you right now.
Overall, the conference exceeded my expectations and I am glad that I came. I look forward to connecting more with Andy Nixon over at The Loft as Alan and I push forward on the new worship service, because The Loft is reaching the people we are trying to reach - with tremendous success.