Sorry this is a little long, but it has a ton of links for you!
I had a fantastic week at the Right Now 2011 Conference subtitled “unleashed for the gospel.” The Team at Right Now continues to put on a really strong week that should be put alongside of any conference you are considering attending in a year. The keynote speakers were fantastic and the breakout sessions were well thought through. Wednesday and Thursday breakouts were packed with great small group & discipleship training. Also, the keynote speakers led breakout sessions giving them a chance to interact & do Q & A with those in attendance. All in all, a really encouraging & productive week. I’d encourage you to attend in 2012. My unplanned promo out of the way, here are some takeaways
1. The Gospel is not a Ministry Fad – I’m grateful the RN team sought to put the gospel at the front and center of this year’s gathering. The inclusion of J.D. Greear & his new book Gospel was a great call (I don’t just say that because he’s my pastor) to that end. What I found to ring true throughout main sessions & breakouts is that the gospel is not a buzz word or a new strategy. It’s the simple yet profound message that grounds and fuels the christian life. Sometimes conferences jump on the latest issues or trends & make a big deal out of them. That isn’t always bad, but I believe learning HOW to grow deeper in the gospel was very profitable for so many at this conference. Listen to at least the main sessions when they come available.
2. The Small Group World is moving in a great direction – I had the privilege to interact with so many who are point people for disciple making in their contexts. I was really encouraged to see such different models all finding common treading in this gospel theme. I was also encouraged to see the spread of ministry experience in the field. I saw
- key guys with some experience in the field like Steve Gladen, Bill Donahue, Bill Willits, Bill Search, Greg Bowman & Rick Howerton are very willing to engage so many guys newer to the field than they. I didn’t get to see Mark Howell this week but he too would be in this camp. Such an open, friendship-based learning community is so critical to a healthy continuation of disciple-making ministries in the coming decades. Notice, I did not say “old guys” because its not age, but experience and wisdom that make their influence so valuable. PS, these guys are all different ages.
- There are some really sharp up & coming guys in the small group world. They have a slew of different approaches, but seem to hold a common fervor for making disciples, not audiences. I LOVE getting around these guys because they challenge the heck out of me in how we are making disciples at the Summit. Brad House (buy his new book), Ben Reed (nobody leverages “the internets” better) , Todd Engstrom (Missional Communities & Notre Dame Football), Trevor Joy (A texan to the bone & calling group leaders UP to the challenge over at the Village Church), Scott Boren (buy his books too), Heather Zempel, Eric Metcalf (New Thing Network Guy), and a host of others. I know i’m missing some but the point is, these people are alongside me in the trenches and inspire me to get after it as a pastor.
- I met Many new friends who are groups point people in their local churches who are hungry to build disciple making ministries on the gospel. I was encouraged by the questions, the engagement in the sessions I led, and the great lobby conversations. last year some 300 people came to the first day small group training. This year over 2200 came! ARE YOU KIDDING! Praise God! I am praying that momentum provides a desperately needed jolt to the american church. After all, Under our watch in the next 40 years, the church will either return to relevance or drift into complete detachment from cultural influence.