Today I got to hear from three people who are considered "ground breaking" in Christendom (well, two are atleast so in Methodism) and gotten to talk to several other young pastors who were invited to the event as well. Today was actually the YPN and tomorrow begins the "Change the World Conference" With this post I want to introduce the speakers I heard today but will divulge my notes in a later post...
Anywho, there are young pastors from the southeast/east and next year they will do the same thing for pastors from the west/midwest. The setting was the "original" ginghamsburg church building. The sanctuary has been refitted to be more of a living space with large plush couches, a kitchen in the back (complete with dishwasher, fridge, etc.), and a very warm abiance. A very personal setting for 50+ folks.
First, we start with Mike Slaughter. Head pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC - he's been here since he was 27 and started here as a "teaching" appointment. He never left and turned the church into something massive (for both the Kingdom and the UMC). When explaining why they wanted to do the YPN, he said it was because basically he and Adam Hamilton wanted to get together young leaders and provide them with some of the practical ways of practicing leadership that were not taught in seminary. Using his "Momentum for Life" material, he talked about how pastors need certain things to remain faithful to God's call where they are, even if they are in a "teaching" position. His analogy was that God does God's best work in cemetaries but we as pastors often try our best to just survive such situations. Well... he talked on two things.
Self Leadership - the idea is if you can't take care of yourself you can't take care of your ministry. More on this in my notes section.
Prophetic Leadership - this was more about modeling proper behavior and casting vision than it was about dicerning some voice from God. He said often, people tend to put Jesus into their worldview rather than putting themselves into Jesus' world view. To his credit, he used Micah 6:8 as his base and divided his talk into acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God.
Impressions: this guy has been around the block. He's been there (wherever we are) and continues to do amazing things at Ginghamsburg. Missional could accurately describe Mike.
Second, we move to Adam Hamilton. If you have been methodist for more than a few years you've probably heard of a book he's written. His church in Kansas City, The Church of the Resurrection, is a thriving community where Adam was told there could never be one (by denominational leaders). He told us the reason for this conference was to prepare pastors to serve in churches larger than where they are now. He readily admitted, God might not be calling us to massive churches, but he wanted to give us a network of other pastors from outside our conferences by which to connect and provide leadership that he apparently never got. He made the point that the Methodist theology is sound, VERY sound. We don't need to change our theology, we need to change our methodologies.
Strategic Leadership: God has called us to be leaders. This means we encourage people to seek God and provide the pastoral leadership that enables the Kingdom to flourish. Pastors help Christians bridge the gap between the ideal (the Kingdom of God) and the reality (the Kingdoms of the world) through sound leadership. More in my notes later...
"Staffing": Adam did another talk about how we surround ourselves with people who help share the Kingdom of God with us. As Methodists we can sometimes be dragged down, but in a way we as leaders should have infectious hope about the Gospel that sees positive change in every situation (church).
Impressions: Adam is a very likable guy. He's much better in person than he is in his videos because interacting with him he doesn't seem as polished. IF that makes sense...
Last (for today) was Brian McLaren. He is so soft spoken. You wonder how anyone could attack this guy for his views on Christianity, although most people must respond to his writing rather than his demeanor. In my mind, he was the most humble although he wasn't striving for such lofty goals as Mike or Adam. He has planted churches as well, but is better known for his critiques of post-modern Christianity and the transitions we face from how things were to how things will be.
Emerging Missional Churches: Brian's whole shtick was that Methodism and Calvinism are duking it out for the future of Christianity. Right now, Calvinism has one because of "broadcast christianity" but Methodism is best placed for the future of Christian hope if we can overcome (as Wesley did, he pointed out) our current systems. We have the challenge of recentering the Gospel message on Christ and the Kingdom of God and not on some "this is how you get to heaven" mentality that Christianity adopted sometime in our past.
Impressions: well, as I said, this guy was the cleanest, but he also had the least time to screw up. He jampacked a 60 minute talk on why Methodism has such great chances in the future into a 20 minute talk.
These guys definitely want to plant seeds of hope. Not just for Kingdom building, but for our denomination. Kind of strange to hear from guys who have (as Brian McLaren said) built a scaffolding around which to continue the work of the Kingdom without being trapped by our organizational structure. It might sound like they dislike the heirarchy, but if they do, they only said it between the lines. It sounded more like they were against the naysayers and not the people in the system who are working for change.
And yes, as I mentioned in a note on another post, I am keeping track of how many times these guys plug their own books or the books of the other speakers. Its the natural cynic in me that if things are REALLY successful, are they for the right reasons?
Phew! I'm done for the night. More tomorrow.