This week I have been participating in Exponential in Orlando. It has been a four day experience filled with all sorts of big ideas. I have never participated in Exponential before and purposely built it into my schedule because many of the speakers and presenters were people I have not heard from in a conference or seminar format before. As well, I really enjoyed having a ton of smaller workshops built into the mix of things where you could interact and learn from practitioners. While I am pretty sure this was a one time deal for me, it was a rich experience.
The theme of the event was “transformation: it starts in the heart of one.” I wanted to share some of the big ideas I heard that if taken to heart, embraced and practiced have the potential to unleash a fresh kingdom revolution. I am also grateful that I am staying in Florida for a few days to unwind, decompress and think through some of this stuff. My usual practice has been to jump right back into the work and this is the first time I can remember actually blocking out the time and space to process some of the stuff.
Batterson, Chandler, and Chan: Before the event started, I participated in a pre-conference seminar led by Mark Batterson, Matt Chandler and Francis Chan. I greatly appreciated the way these guys openly shared with us. Matt and Francis are going through some really challenging life situations right now and they were open and authentic with us.
“Most people have not made a decision to follow Christ; they have asked Christ to follow them.” (Batterson)
My take on this is that there is a big difference between asking Jesus to follow us into the world (into the places we live, work, play and learn) and actually following Jesus into the world. Many of us (myself included) are committed people of faith and we truly welcome and desire Jesus’ presence in our everyday life. We want to glorify God in our everyday, ordinary lives. But what would it look like if we actually asked Jesus to lead us into the world. Where do you want me to go today, Jesus? Where should I live, work, learn and play? What if we actually gave Jesus the permission to set the agenda for us as opposed to asking Jesus to bless our agendas?
Three big ideas from Matt Chandler:
- Whatever you are teaching, even if it is moral, right and true must come through the lens and centrality of the Gospel.
- The study of Scripture without the intention to apply its truths is a frightening thing.
- What you don’t like about your church is most likely what you don’t like about yourself.
Matt’s teaching was wrapped around the centrality of the Gospel. he talked about the Gospel on the ground (God, Humanity, Christ, Response) and the Gospel in the air (Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation). These are the two sides of the Gospel and both are found in the Scriptures. Matt reminded us that there is a time and place for both expressions of the Gospel and that we should allow the texts we are teaching on lead us toward the most appropriate expression. He also reminded us that most teachers/preachers lean more heavily toward one or the other approaches. I am definitely a Gospel in the air kind of guy and love the whole narrative of salvation history and its communal and missional dimensions. Be on the lookout for a few more Gospel on the ground messages.
Francis Chan dropped the biggest bomb on us. He told us that on Sunday we had announced to his congregation that he is stepping down from his role as pastor of Cornerstone, a church he founded 16 years ago. Francis and his wife have discerned a call to step out in faith and follow the leadership of the Spirit. They are unsure of where that might be although Francis believes it most likely will be into a large urban area like the inner city of LA. Kind of wild to consider walking away from a very successful church and ministry into the unknown to you but known at this point only by God. You can learn more about Francis’ transition here.
Three big ideas from Chan:
- If Jesus says to do something, we don’t actually do it – we just memorize it.
- If I arrived in America after being on an island with just a Bible, I don’t think the first thing I would do is to start a Sunday worship service.
- Do we as leaders calm people down or spur people on to love and good works?
Chan’s last statement reminded me of words I heard years ago from Michael Slaughter who described the task of leadership as finding a spark in people’s life and throwing gas on it. Ken Blanchard said something similar at Exponential with these words: “some churches say we can do, it you can help – others say you can do it, we can help.”
Those are just some of the big ideas I picked up from the pre-conference expereince. More to come in the days ahead.