I am blessed to be part of a congregation that encourages continued growth and learning.  This Fall I attended the Wiki Conference 2013 hosted by the FiveTwo Network in Katy, TX.   The following week, I attended the annual Pacific Southwest District Pastors’ Conference in Scottsdale, AZ. Both conferences were excellent and brought lots of insights as well as a healthy dose of clarity and conviction for doing the Lord’s work wherever the Lord has you planted!  Here is a brief summary of some of the highlights of those conferences:

At the District Pastors’ Conference: “Seek and Save the Lost” …

Barna Research Group owner/President and author David Kinnaman shared with us some concepts from his book You Lost Me, illuminating what he calls “Nomads, Prodigals and Exiles.”  These are categories of people who are not active in church.  He shared how we live in a complicated and accelerated culture, which leaves many with images of the church as overprotective, repressive, anti-science, exclusive, shallow and rigid.  He challenged us to actually engage the current generation where they are at… to live our Christian walk as did the Jews who were in exile in Babylon.  He asked us whether we love our traditions more than our children.  Put another way … “Do we love our WAY of being Christian more than we love WHY we are in mission?”

Rev. Dean Nadasdy, former seminary professor and pastor, now Minnesota South District President, talked about ministry in the suburbs.  Being a product of a generation who fled the cities as crime increased, he knows well the mind of the suburbanite.  In short, they are looking to live an “ideal.”  They came to the suburbs looking for a sort of utopia.  They are always searching for something more or better.  They are never satisfied.  This can lead them to push their kids too far, have high stress, financial tension, and ultimately live in isolation.  They are the ultimate consumers!  This is the culture and context in which we minister at Redeemer.

Gretchen Jameson from purePR talked about “Reaching the Lost through Social Media.”  Like it or not, the culture has changed.  Social media is now used by over 1 Billion people around the world!  Her challenge to us is to use social media not just as another way to “advertise” … but to truly engage, motivate and stir the hearts of those we hope to reach.

Rev. David Kim from Link Houston talked about “reaching the Nations in our Own Backyard.” Born in S. Korea, ministering in Ecuador, and now in inner-city Houston, he has a passion for helping us cross cultures to reach the lost.  He presented many eye-opening statistics.  Perhaps the most staggering of which is that church bodies that are growing usually show only about 80% “white” in their churches, but churches that are declining show 90% or greater non-Hispanic Caucasian.  The Lutheran church tops the declining church list at 96% “white.”  Jesus tells us there is no longer Jew nor Greek … and our culture is now reflecting that.  The fastest growing population in our zip code is Asian.

At the Wiki Conference: “Start Something New, Do Something Now”

Rev. Bill Woolsey, founder of FiveTwo, CrossPoint church pastor and host of the conference, shared a video “mash-up” of music from the Summer of 2013, and related it to the “mashed-up” culture in which we live.  “Mash-up” is a term used to describe a mixture or fusion of separate songs, or other elements, into a single unified final product.  American culture is the perfect mash-up with elements from so many ethnicities, and even moreso, differing ideologies and values.  He also shared the importance of our churches being “incarnational” in our communities – literally bringing the gospel of Christ in-person to those who need to hear it.  He challenged us to the goals of baptizing 1 person for every 10 in worship, and also to start one new ministry for lost people in the next 10 months.

Dr. Michael Frost, Australian professor and author of the book The Shaping of Things to Come talked to us about how mission is rooted in a through-going belief that our God reigns! … But we must also recognize that we carry this mission out in a fallen world where the capacity to understand and access his reign is fitful, partial and mysterious.  He presented a powerful image of a dilapidated house with soot covered windows.  Outside of that house is a beautiful sunset, but all that can be seen inside is a faint glow.  Our job as missionaries is to clean the windows.  We don’t make the sun rise and set… but we help people see this work of God! Consequently, we must ask ourselves what will the “age to come” look like?  If it looks like healing, hope, wholeness, joy and laughter … then we must work now to allow that Kingdom reality to be seen.  Our mission is not to make those inside the Church comfortable, but to work together to announce the reign of God, and bring more to Christ!

Bob Goff, attorney, bestselling author of the book Love Does, and founder of Restore International was perhaps the most whimsical person I have ever seen!  He said we in the church are like Jesus “stalkers!” What does a stalker do?  They stay at a distance and find out stuff about people they don’t know.  He’s suggesting that we want to learn more about Jesus, but not really have a relationship with Him.  He challenged us to not just “invite” people to church, but to “welcome” them.  In other words, truly embrace those who find their way to our church – being more like a “porter” who asks the question “how can I help you on your way?” His motto is, “Love God, Love People, Do Stuff.” He thinks we should “leak Jesus” like wet tennis shoes leave a mark after skipping through a puddle! His greatest challenge is to move from what we are able to do … to what we are MADE by God to do!  What has God MADE you to do in life? Do that!