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My father grew up in poverty in Nashville, Tennessee.
My grandfather was a pastor, who also happened to be an Irishman named Bunyan. He was somewhat forced to move from church to church because he would tell the truth about the departed at funerals. However, my grandmother was determined that my Dad would get out of their poor neighborhood and - while making something of himself - he would make something of her life as well.
She could not go but she could send him to be successful.
As many of you know, men who become successful often discover the allure of expensive cars. My Dad discovered Jaguars... or they discovered him. For my father, they represented something more than success. I don't think I have to explain this to you because many of you grew up in similar circumstances and have been discovered by something alluring yourselves.
Jaguar, while a magnificent symbol of success, was not always a quality product. You can read about the tired owner who went to the factory to complain, and on a wall was a chart of the number of faults per 1,000 cars. At a time when 200 faults per 1,000 cars were considered unacceptable in North America, the Jaguar chart showed 1,200 faults per 1,000 cars.
Apparently Jaguar owners loved telling stories about their car’s flaws –mostly small talking in the shop while the cars were being repaired. In fact, Dad would laugh about needing two Jaguars…one for the shop and one for the road. One of the guys in the shop was known to say, “You allow four hours for a trip, one for driving and three for repairs.”
It was all true, but there they were sitting faithfully waiting for their Jag to be loaned to them for one more week - maybe two at most.
But one thing most people don't know is Jaguar's long-time sales slogan: Grace, Space and Pace. As the founder of the company once said, "The car is the closest thing we will create that is alive.”
I thought a lot about that slogan while preparing my opening remarks for The Gathering conference this past weekend. The Jaguar slogan is actually perfect for the time we spent together at The Gathering this past week.
The Gathering is always a place of grace. “Graceful”describes the way a Jaguar moves and handles; it attracts attention but does not demand it. Grace is a pleasure just to be around when it is present. We all know people full of grace, and hopefully, that described our time together in how we related to each other in Dana Point, as well as every other day of the year.
We will be graceful and kind in spite of our flaws.
Of course, we also hope The Gathering community is always a place of grace for people who are bearing burdens and need help. I like what Philip Yancey says about that kind of gracefulness. "Grace does not depend on what we have done for God but rather what God has done for us. Ask people what they must do to get to heaven and most reply, ‘Be good.’Jesus' stories contradict that answer. All we must do is cry, ‘Help!’”
I can tell you that The Gathering is a good place to ask for help, at the conference and the rest of the year. Please let us know how we can help you. It is our privilege.
We also want The Gathering to be a place of space for you, both at the conference and in community. I have five chairs in my office modeled after the seats of a Jaguar and everyone tells me how roomy and supportive they are. You don't fall back and get lost, but they don't press in on you either.
The Gathering is a safe but not sterile place. We are a space to discover and to ask questions without feeling stupid. We want you to find support and encouragement without getting overwhelmed.
Finally, The Gathering has a particular style of pace. Everyone who has been to a Gathering conference before can tell you we work hard, eat well and even laugh some. This year we have plugged in some classes without formal speakers, roundtables for open discussion, special interests that might pop up unplanned, and of course, the usual free time and opportunity to choose to do nothing at all if that is what you need.
A friend of mine says, "We come to beginnings only at the end." Those words are true.
Now the good part. The conference may have ended, but we have come to a new beginning.Comments
Every year I get about 200 inquiries from ministries and Gathering participants asking to talk about the possibility of their organization or their favorite ministry making a presentation at The Gathering. While The Gathering is not a grant making foundation, it does have one asset that is valuable to ministry leaders: exposure to present and potential funders. The opportunity to be visible with those who attend the annual conference is a rare one and I understand that. As well, if a ministry is doing it’s development job right, it will have Gathering participants asking me and the program committee to invite them to speak – whether it is a general session or a class breakout.
So, just as grantmakers provide ministries with guidelines for making requests, I thought it might be helpful to give some guidelines about what we consider when deciding who speaks.
1. Does the person have any understanding of the mission and core values of The Gathering? Many times I get calls from people who have never been to the website or talked with anyone about our purpose. They have heard this is a conference of wealthy people and that is enough information.
2. Does the person have an interest in the people of The Gathering primarily as an audience for their presentation or do they start with the interests of the participants. How does my cause or ministry align with the interests of the audience? This may be an issue or cause that is either too new or not relevant to enough people at the moment to generate an interest.
3. Do they have something unique to say to The Gathering that will increase their learning about the issues or are they simply another ministry working in a field that is already full of duplicate ministries? It doesn’t mean they are not a good ministry but it may be hard to distinguish their work from that of others.
4. Are they good communicators? Do they have evidence of their ability to connect with people or are they so dependent on powerpoint and visuals that their message is about technology and graphics instead of their calling to the work.
5. Are they recognized by others as doing good work that can be substantiated or are they very good at presenting and not so good at getting results?
6. Finally, is this the right time to bring them to The Gathering? We never have a theme or a slogan for the year. It’s more like cooking a stew than anything else. That’s probably the hardest element to describe because everyone feels (or should) that people in The Gathering need to hear this message right now.Comments