Reflections are good. There is such kindness in listening and learning from our story, so sitting on the plane last week flying home, I realized that writing my thoughts down would be most helpful - even if it was just for my benefit.
Todd Wilson is a remarkable man. To have been the primary catalyzer of this event and yet to do so in the shadows speaks volumes of this man's humility. In a celebrity driven culture, it is so tempting to get your bit of the 'sun' [the spotlight] and yet to see Todd consistently avoid that, is amazing.
Geoff Surratt similarly. As the one who is the administrative leader, he too avoided 'fame like the plague'. His quiet but persistent commitment to practical excellence made a very complicated event run smoothly [or so it seemed to me] - 5300 leaders present, with many workshop, sessions and conversations, plus a global link up... a very good job.
I went to 'listen, look, learn', more than I went to teach my sessions. It was very humbling to see the width of movements, denominations and organizations present. I was deeply impacted by the passion that all had to serve Jesus, plant healthy churches, influence the nation through the gospel. It felt like I had a little God window to see what he feels about his church in the USA. It is so easy to forget about the broader body and zone in exclusively on our part of the vineyard. Not only is it sad but I wonder if it is not simply rank arrogance under the guise of focus?
There are still many lessons of translation that I have to learn. Many of the words, thoughts and ideas are still being communicated by a cultural framework with which I am comfortable but which is lost in translation. I watched my friend Alan Hirsch [ a fellow South African] as he too taught and communicated his ideas in a way that was understood by the audience. I am still learning to 'speak American'.
I also loved the fact that the pulpit was not used to self-promote. We did all receive a request to steer clear of that, but I did feel there was an honest desire to walk humbly and transparently before God and man. This was very much appreciated.
There is always more to say, but let me move on to some of my saddnesses:
A young church planter and I were in a conversation - a great guy, born in Argentina but raised here and is replanting a Baptist church in a major city here in the USA. When I asked him how he was enjoying the time he leaned forward and spoke in a whisper "the perspectives in the workshops have been so pragmatic. I am used to all matters being taught through the text, yet that is not the case here all the time". I have to agree. Some of that which I listened to was more filled with psychology and economics than scripture. The text still needs to be our primary matrix.
Although the statistics vary, one that I read said that around 80 - 85% of church plants fail in the USA. One of the workshop leaders said that around 6000 churches close their doors in the USA annually. Around 3500 are being planted but we currently need around 60,000 church right now. The urgency that these statistics indicate that we have to look at our approach to planting through fresh lenses - biblical lenses. The answers can be found there, but it will require us to be patiently tenacious ['through faith and patience we inherit the promises'] to complete the reformation that we are currently in. I am a little nervous that the business of church planting [coaches, mentors, consultants, even sometimes networks] are surrogates or scaffolding for the true biblical 'partnerships' of apostles and prophets walking alongside these brave, bold and courageous men and women...
I loved the time and trust that you look at dialing in for next year's conversation around "Seek and Save that which was Lost". There is a humility in learning from each other, yet there are many from different movements, denominations and organizations from which we can learn much - "many streams make glad the river of God" Psalmist.