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I attended my first Q conference this year in Portland. While it is hard to compare Q to The Gathering, I did have one especially vivid and riveting experience. No, it wasn’t the tattoos and dredlocks or the testimonies about growing up in a Baptist church and then coming to faith.
It was something even more challenging for someone, like me, who hosts a conference. Normally, we try to round up participants out of the halls and the classrooms and meals to make sure everyone gets to the general session on time. We even ring bells and send staff out to remind everyone that the session is starting. We crank up loud music to get their attention. Sometimes, I’ll start praying from the podium if nothing else works!
Yes, it’s like church in that way. We want to make sure everyone is there before the preaching starts. During one of the main sessions at Q I stepped away to get some coffee downstairs.
When I got to the coffee bar below the Crystal Ballroom I was stunned. Almost a quarter of the attendees were there having conversations instead of being in the general session. Not only that, but Q had provided them with a large screen that allowed them to take in the session from the coffee bar. Small conversations were going on all over the room. Now and then if something was really interesting on the screen they would pause and listen but, for the most part, they were focused on their conversations. But, they did not want to miss the access to the general session.
This is not the kind of programming we do! We want their full attention and no distractions! Then I started thinking about it from the perspective of the participants. They come to learn but they also come to connect. In fact, the connecting is more important than the learning. Q has simply recognized that and made both possible.
I don’t know if I have the courage to do that or can unlearn my own values. I don’t know if I can place what the customers value over what we value as conference organizers. I applaud Gabe Lyons for doing it…and I am hoping his example will inspire me to think about doing the same.Comments
Several times in the Gospels the disciples ask Jesus about who will be great in the Kingdom. It’s not a bad question. In fact, it’s a question I encourage younger people to ask themselves.
How you define greatness makes a difference…and you cannot know unless you ask. It’s the question we should be asking when we are young and should keep asking all our lives. Yet, one time in particular the disciples ask Jesus what it means to be considered great or more literally to have the appearance of greatness. It’s a totally different question, isn’t it? It’s one thing to have a genuine interest in the qualities of greatness and another to desire only the outward show of greatness. It’s a relevant point in our lives because we too can be distracted from the pursuit of truly great qualities toward what passes for greatness. Jesus called it becoming Benefactors whose susceptibility to flattery eventually corrupted them. “None are more taken in with flattery than the proud, who wish to be the first and are not.”
What’s the antidote? In Luke 22:26 Jesus tell us. First, we are to be neoteros or people who are always new at something, always learning, always novices. Nothing keeps us humble like always being a beginner at something. So many of you have been continuous learners all your lives and have inspired the rest of us. Second, we are to be those who serve - diakonos. The phrase is one who serves with confidence and competence. So many Gathering participants have continued to serve, to volunteer, to inconvenience themselves when it would be so much easier to simply be a benefactor. For those whose lives that have inspired and challenged us to be learners and confident servers we are grateful.
You are great. You really are.Comments
I had heard about the app YouVersion (www.youversion.com) and the story behind it a few months ago. Last month I ran into Bobby Gruenewald, the innovation leader at Lifechurch.tv in Edmund, Oklahoma and the developer of YouVersion. What began as a service to the congregation has now been downloaded by 20 million people around the world – and I am one of them.
I use it for a daily Bible reading plan and, sometimes, in church. My family doesn’t like me using it in church as it looks like I am checking mail. People have spent over 7.5 billion minutes on the site – mostly on Sunday mornings. It looks like the pew Bible is headed toward obsolescence along with the hymnal. Soon there won’t be racks at all. What will kids do without all that reading material during church? Well, that’s not what I’m thinking about this morning. I asked Bobby to send me some statistical information on YouVersion and what I discovered made sense. Out of the billions of minutes spent reading the Bible, the huge majority of people were reading two verses more than any others. For me, that fact confirmed what seems to be a powerful theme today – fear.
Economic fears are keeping housing and financial markets in turmoil. Healthcare fears. Natural disaster fears. Job fears. Retirement fears. Fear of the future. Fear of strangers. Fear of terrorists. Fear of the known and unknown. What are the verses that have been accessed by millions of people millions of times? First is Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Second is Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” People are anxious and not confident. They are not listening to their leaders who preach a sure return to normalcy and stability. Millions of people wake up every day looking for hope, confidence and a future.
I am delighted they are turning to YouVersion in growing numbers to find assurance.Comments
We came to Tyler 25 years ago. Not long after we arrived, I had the privilege to meet and know men and women who had carried public and charitable responsibility in this community for a long time and did so until they died. I don’t know if all of them would have described it this way but to me they had a call to this community. They had wealth and they had an ingrained sense of caring for others. They had allowed this community to have a claim on their lives.
Allowing others to have a claim on your life is what money is supposed to free us from, isn’t it?. It is supposed to give us options and freedom to choose our life. For some, it does. They live unconnected lives of constant travel, enjoyment of rare experiences and the knowledge they are free from being tied down to any particular place with all its limitations and complications. But that is not wealth. That is the deceit of being merely rich. Wendell Berry in his fine book, “Jayber Crow”, puts it this way. “And so I came to belong to this place. Being here satisfies me. I had laid my claim on the place, had made it answerable to my life. Of course, you can’t do that and get away free. You can’t choose, it seems, without being chosen. For the place, in return, had laid its claim on me and had made my life answerable to it.” That is what these men and women who had become a part of this community had learned about wealth. It joins you to a community with an invisible web. Riches, too often, separates.
Scripture often talks about “wealth and honor” in the same phrase. They go together. God-given wealth and God-given honor are inseparable. But honor is not merely recognition for being rich. It’s far more than that. The Hebrew word is kabod – which means weight or substance. It means when God gives wealth He also gives weight and substance to a person’s life and a sense of responsibility for their community. You can be rich and irresponsible. You can be rich and weightless but wealth means you have accepted the responsibility that goes with it. Merely rich is about counting money. Wealth is concerned with what counts in a life well-lived. You can be independently rich but you cannot be independently wealthy because your community has a rightful claim on your life.
In Tyler, we have both, don’t we? We have merely rich people and we have wealthy people. As I have looked around this room tonight, we have an abundance of wealth and weight. Wealth and substance. Wealth and commitment to our community. It’s natural to desire riches but it is better to desire wealth. All of us can choose to be merely rich or accept the calling and the claim of being wealthy.Comments
Carol and I recently had dinner with David and Mary Ann Bishop. We met them when they were a young couple. David was managing his family business and Mary Ann was teaching Bible Study Fellowship in Myrtle Beach. When David sold the various businesses ten years ago, he and Mary Ann had the freedom to explore an idea that had been in their minds for years. They never had a call to be traditional missionaries but because of their business travel in the Far East they had developed a heart for missions. While they have always been supportive of traditional missions, they wanted to find something that would use David’s business skills and knowledge.
Ten years ago they opened White Harvest Trading Company (www.whiteharvesttradingco.com) as a platform for importing products for sale in their retail outlet here in Pawley’s Island as well as online. The operators of the businesses are traditional missionaries who need legitimate reasons to be in closed countries other than teaching English. Their work with White Harvest creates jobs and positions them in a community as productive members. It sounds easy but it is very difficult and is subject to all the risk of a regular business start-up. David and Mary Ann have been pioneers in the growing movement of Business as Missions. Instead of going into a country with business as a cover that never makes a profit as a business, BAM believes legitimate and profit making businesses have great merit on their own. Ken Eldred (www.integrated-life.org) has been a champion of this for many years. If you are interested in finding out more or meeting others involved, go to www.businessasmission.com.Comments