Had a great trip to Louisville for the Acts 29 Boot Camp: Ambition. Thankful for a church like Sojourn and good friends who serve there as well as many friends in Acts 29. It was a like a family reunion and I'm not even in Acts 29! It was a great couple of days. Check out Chuck Heeke's Flickr account for Ambition photos. (Photo on this post is from Chuck.)
Though I'm not going to talk about any details, the wives' track really impacted Molly. Huge. Just what she needed.
Otherwise, throughout the conference a couple of reoccurring themes stuck out to us. We are still processing and praying about what we learned, but we wanted to share a four things with you that we.
1. Believe the Gospel. -- We all struggle with unbelief with all sorts of issues, at all kinds of times. This was hit upon by many speakers, of course. But it was lasered into me by Steve Timmis (Total Church, http://twitter.com/stimmis). We need to always be encouraging each other to believe the Gospel, not just seek practical advice. We need Gospel intentionality, to bring Gospel truth to bear on our lives and the lives of others.
A part of this is the overarching emphasis at the conference of recognizing our sin and having a life marked by confession and repentance. In a time when conferences are more and more practical, Acts 29 has done well to keep it theological, doxological, and Gospel-centered.
2. Know and love your city. -- Kevin Cawley (http://twitter.com/kevincawley) talked about decoding your city and knowing it like a life-long resident, a cab driver, a geographer, and a spiritual anthropologist. We need to get on the inside of our city and then speak as one of them. We need to let our ambition for the Gospel drive us to become students of the space we are in. We need to learn the questions people are asking and speak the truth of the Gospel as the answers.
Other speakers talked about calling and how our call should affect our heart for our city. A great reminder and encouragement.
3. Be yourself. -- Matt Chandler (http://twitter.com/mattchandler74) said, "You wanting to be anyone other than you is sinful." I chatted with and sought advice from an Acts 29 church planter and friend who said much the same thing, but from the angle of freedom. Be free to be yourself as you serve and love your city. You will be bad at being anyone else.
Don't seek to be like another pastor, or preacher, or whoever has a similar calling. Darrin Patrick talked about knowing our divine design. Who are you? How has God made you? Go be you. That's who Jesus made you to be.
4. If you want to know more people, blog about your wife's health and tweet photos of your kids. -- Holy cow. Everyone knew Molly. Ok, overstatement. But so many we didn't know came up and said they've been praying for Molly's health issues. One couple said they've been praying together for her for years. How much blessing have we received from the connections made through Reformissionary and Twitter? We'll only learn on That Day. We are continually blown away by the love and prayer of brothers and sisters all over the world.
We had a similar experience with our kids, as people recognized them from the blog and Twitter. They were at Sojourn on Wednesday afternoon because there was no room for them at the inn, and we heard that one person said (when we weren't there to hear), "Hey, those are the McCoy kids." Weird, but cool.
I regularly tell other pastors of the blessings of blogging/Twittering. It can connect you to a community of coworkers and friends that you wouldn't otherwise know.
Let me add this here at the end, as something worth spreading from the conference. Matt Chandler gave an outstanding and devastating quote during the last message of the conference. It's from Eugene Peterson's Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, which I read way back in Bible college. Here it is for you...
For a long time, I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.
Course I: Creative Plagiarism. I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.
Course II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling. We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys and unmistakable aura of sanctity.
Course III: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return all phone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all the letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desk—not too much, or we appear inefficient, not too little or we appear underemployed—we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do.
Course IV: Image Projection. Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.
(I have been laughing for several years over this trade school training with which I plan to make my fortune. Recently, though, the joke has backfired on me. I keep seeing advertisements for institutes and workshops all over the country that invite pastors to sign up for this exact curriculum. The advertised course offerings are not quite as honestly labeled as mine, but the content appears to be identical—a curriculum that trains pastors to satisfy the current consumer tastes in religion. I’m not laughing anymore.)