Well, Day One of the full conference is here. They never really tell us who is speaking when (I wonder if it's to make sure we don't skip out?) and today is going to be a LONG day. The opening session is at 8:30, runs until 5:30 (with a lunch break) and then they've added an evening session with Louie Giglio speaking (I'm ambivalent about him) and Chris Tomlin leading worship (I love his music, so I'm excited about that).
Opening worship was vibrant and loud. I love it. The theme of the conference is "Unusual Tomorrow" - the core message seems to be that we are being summoned into a future that is designed by God. The opening speaker is always Andy Stanley, who is a terrific speaker. He begins by reminding us that as leaders "we deal in the currency of tomorrow." He then warns us that our "picture of the future will never be bigger than what [we] think is possible." He tells a story of possibility that stems from a visit he had made to the Roman Coliseum (if you subscribe to his sermon podcast from North Point church, you heard this story not long ago), where he talks about seeing a cross in the Emperor's entrance to the Coliseum - who would have ever imagined that Christianity would outlive the Roman Empire? I liked these quotes: "The older you get - the more obstacles you face - life has a way of shrinking what you think is possible; the realities of today crush our dreams for tomorrow."
Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest Church in Seattle (www.SeattleQuest.org) spoke about a mission initiative of his to combat extreme global poverty. Called One Day's Wages (www.onedayswages.org) they challenge people to give one day's pay to combat poverty - esp. among the 3 billion people who subsist on less than $2 per day.
He was followed by Charlene Li, author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies who spoke about social media and the leadership style that it takes to embrace its power. She spoke of how traditional leaders are often fearful of the power that shifts to the people of a "groundswell." She proposes a new concept called Open Leadership: having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control, while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals. She then gave examples of companies that have embraced the real potential of social media: creating open dialogue between company and customer to discover new ideas and build customer loyalty.
Lunch is being provided compliments of Chick-Fil-A, a company famous for embracing Christian principles and supporting Christian leadership. There were some cool exhibitors: my favorite was www.giftcardgiver.com, which accepts gift cards with unused balances (don't we all have a gift card lying around with $2 left on it - not enough to use, but we won't throw it away) and combines them into usable amounts that are donated to local charities.
After lunch came Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mark is a bit of a controversial figure, in that he claims the Calvinist label (rare for an evangelical) and preaches an extreme Calvinism that borders on determinism. He was surprisingly engaging (I've seen some YouTube videos of him where he's pretty surly) and self-effacing. His topic was "finishing well", referring to colleagues who had "blown up, burned out, or given up." He reminded us that "ministry is not what you do for God, ministry is what God does for you, in you, and through you (sometimes in spite of you)." He had a cute line about Jesus being the true "senior pastor" of the church, so the pressure is off of us.
Then came John Ortberg interviewing a legend, Dallas Willard. Willard's main point was that the kingdom of God is now, and the Gospel is the Good News that it is possible for us to live in the kingdom now. He said that the church too often taught that the Gospel was about proclaiming the minimum requirement for getting into heaven (which Willard said was like passing the written portion of the driving test). He had a good line about how works were compatible with grace, that "grace is not opposed to action; grace is opposed to earning" (effort is action, "earning" is attitude). On the subject of spiritual disciplines he said that there is a difference between trying to do something and training to do something. Effort (trying) is no substitute for focused preparation.
The afternoon concluded with Reggie Joiner, a founder of ReThink and author of Think Orange: Imagine the Impact When Church and Family Collide.... Reggie used the parable of the prodigal son to say that the one thing that is the difference between being a leader/church that has influence or being one who does not, is the resolve to treat every prodigal the way a loving father would treat his son. He put forth the following hypothetical: imagine if the first person the prodigal encountered upon returning home was his brother? He said that "loving fathers throw parties, elder brothers throw fits."
After dinner, we were treated to some powerful worship led by Chris Tomlin, who led us in a number of his classic hits: "How Great Is Our God", "Your Grace Is Enough", and "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)." Louie Giglio was the speaker, and though I haven't liked his DVDs, tonight he was really good (maybe because he was passionate without going all emo). He spoke reflectively about how he is finally serving as a pastor of the startup Passion City Church in Atlanta (www.passioncitychurch.com). His point was that church planters today think about what kind of church they are starting: a "seeker" church? A "missional" church? Or even an "Acts 2" church? Then he posed the question: what kind of church did the people in Acts 2 think they were starting? They didn't (couldn't) know what an Acts 2 church was supposed to be? So what did they have? Louie said they had three things: they were witnesses to the power of the resurrection, they had the teachings of Jesus, and they had the presence of the Holy Spirit. And what they had was all we need.
Well, a day that started with registration at 7:30 a.m. ended with the conclusion of worship at 9:15 p.m. A long but energizing day.