Continuing from the first post, here’s my remaining observations and summary of some of the teachings from the Send North America Conference.
12) There was an emphasis on urban church planting and we even heard from some men who are currently living that out. Some reflections on this… Engaging cities is tough. People don’t trust pastors in cities; they view Christians as hypocritical and fake. We need pastors/elders who will live holy, authentic, and honest lives with the people.
13) The city is a place of great diversity, which often produces conflict. Without compromising our faith, we need to build relationships there and love those that are different than us.
14) The city is a place of brokenness and destitution. People are in a great state of need, both physical and spiritual, and it’s usually more overt and apparent than in the burbs. Lives are stacked on top of lives and it creates tension. There isn’t a nice house on a cul-de-sac that folks can hide behind, and ultimately, all kinds of needs are exposed. People in cities need truth and compassion.
15) The city is a place of loneliness for many. The nations are streaming in, many who don’t know but a person or two. They are strangers and we can welcome them with the love of Christ.
16) The city is full of lots of people, and where people are, there are idols. We need to learn the stories behind our cities, come to love the people there and understand how the gospel addresses their idols.
17) The church should reflect the demographic makeup of the city. Segregated churches in our cities speak loudly. They say the gospel isn’t powerful and Christianity is only for certain types. But that’s a mockery of the gospel. My wife and I visited a multi-racial gospel-focused church in Atlanta and it was so refreshing to see how being in Christ breaks down racial barriers.
18) JD Greear preached on the great love of Jesus for sinners, demonstrated in the anguish he endured in the Garden of Gethsemane. His thesis was this – Effective Sending is the Result of Seeing Jesus. It was, for me, the most impacting sermon of the conference. Under the crushing weight of sin and the unbearable separation from His Father who he had known perfectly and intimately throughout all eternity, Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. What was that joy? It was the gift of the church from His Father. Truly, Jesus loves his church and he died for us.
19) John Bisagno received a warm and honoring round of applause. I think it’s great to celebrate men who have come before us, carrying the gospel torch. He spoke about the need for balance in ministry, but what stood out to me most was when he talked to the high drop-out rate among pastors. He gave four main reasons – morals, money, ministry conflict and discouragement. I think this gives us much to think about. Again (see point 1 from post 1 of 2), without being continually compelled and amazed by the grace of God demonstrated in the cross of Christ, pastors will likely flame out.
20) Tony Merida held a great workshop on Preaching & Contextualization. There was a ton of great info but I’ll only offer a few nuggets here.
- Preach the gospel, not moral improvement. Satan isn’t scared of your moral improvement plan. In fact, he may encourage it in order to keep Christ out of the church.
- The resurrection serves as the bookends of gospel preaching. See 1 Corinthians for example. Paul starts off in ch 1 & 2 and closes in ch 15 with it.
- Expect biblical cluelessness when you preach. I agree, it’s easy to assume others know. On the flip side, it’s easy for us listening to nod and act like we get it when we don’t.
- Preach the grand narrative over and over. This may sound cliché to many, but it’s not happening in our churches.
- Drip method: don’t do “vision sermons” a couple times a year. Instead, drip it into your sermons week in and week out, letting it continually take root.
- Contextualization: we must key in on people’s idols (point of contact), sympathize with them, and determine how it runs counter to the gospel (point of conflict). See Acts 14-17.
- Preach to those not in the room. Drawing from Tim Keller, Merida encourages us to preach to the groups we hope to see in our pews who aren’t there yet. Preach to them and they will come (Field of Dreams anyone?). Either you’re members will feel comfortable to invite them or they’ll hear that their questions are being answered.
21) There was a workshop on “Church Planting Lessons from Year 1” given by Tony Merida and Jon Akin from Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC. It’s 13 lessons in all and it was the best workshop I attended. They set a really high bar for their members and I think these lessons will aid new churches in establishing a healthy foundation. The content has been provided at www.tonymerida.net: Part 1 of 3 – http://bit.ly/OfKrfH; Part 2 of 3 – http://bit.ly/NJh1uI; Part 3 of 3 – http://bit.ly/OwTn3w
22) Finally, date nights are great, but date weekends are better. I’m so glad that my wife came with me. We dropped our daughter off in Kentucky with my parents and enjoyed four full days and nights together. So good.