Exponential 2011 Main Session 1
I was up at 3:50am getting ready to head down to Orlando for Exponential this morning, so it’s been quite a day!
Exponential is billed as “the largest gathering of church planters on the planet,” and I was thrilled to be among so many other men and women who I can only assume are either thinking about planting a church, preparing to plant a church, or currently serving in a church plant somewhere. I attended this event three years ago as one of those thinking about starting a church. This year I am in category 2! As a new church plant pastor preparing to start a new church from scratch I confess I am humbled, excited and terrified all at the same time!
I am praying that these three days in Orlando along with a week at New Church Planter Boot Camp in Fayetteville, Arkansas next week will help me get over some of the “terrified.”
I arrived in Orlando just in time to register and head in to the sanctuary for the opening session. I have to say that I find it a bit ironic that the focus of the Conference is on planting missional movements as opposed to planting churches, and here we are meeting in a megachurch! In any event, opening session began with a few songs and then an introduction to the Conference from Dave Ferguson and Alan Hirsch, co-authors of On the Verge a book on “the apostolic future of the church.” We were told that 60% of Americans are now “unaffiliated” when it comes to religious preference, and are therefore not going to be coming to our churches anytime soon. We must go to them. Alan reminded us that this is not as easy as it sounds, he said that “it is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” Dave and Alan then went on to explain the four movements that they outline in the book that will also serve as the guiding metaphors for the Conference: Imagine, Shift, Innovate and Move. Alan explained that the “fundamental task of a leader is to define reality” and that defining reality requires imagination. Alan also summarized the “shift” concept by reminding us that change requires a shifting of paradigms, ethos, and practices. Dave explained that innovation is not simply about creating something new, but really about multiplying imagination and implementation. Finally, Dave talked about the final piece of the puzzle: move. He explained that we need to recapture the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and even encouraged us to ordain our lay people so that they can step into their calling as disciples and ministers.
Francis Chan took the stage next and once again challenged and inspired me. I have heard Francis speak in three different venues: The Willlow Creek Arts Conference, Catalyst and now Exponential, and I think I agree with Perry Noble who said at Catalyst last year, “every time I listen to Francis Chan speak I wonder if I’m really a Christian.” Francis spoke from his heart about the disparity between what the Bible presents as “the Church” and what we have created “the Church” to be in America. He said that he explained American church life to some underground churchgoers in China and they laughed! He told us that until we are ready to be lonely and misunderstood we really have nothing to say. He then led us in a prayer of confession.
The messages from Dave, Alan and Francis challenged me to remember what my new church needs to look like. I do not need to be interested in building a fancy church building so that people can come to us; rather, I need to be about building a movement of sold-out disciples who are ready to take the gospel to the streets, and the neighborhoods and the community.
The Journey UMC will be a church that the people of Crestview will get to know very quickly because they are going to see us everywhere!
More to come …