So my wife wanted me to check out Francis Chan's new book. I crazy loved Crazy Love, so I was interested to see what he was writing next, following his exploits online after he stepped down from pastoring Cornerstone Church. My wife was referring to his response to Rob Bell's Love Wins, titled Erasing Hell, but instead my Amazon search yielded Unleashed: The Church Turning the World Upside Down. (random linky observation: christianbook.com doesn't carry Love Wins) This was a win-win. I was already studying the book of Acts with an expository book and a couple of commentaries and this would tie in perfectly. I also knew that he would be speaking at this year's North American Christian Convention so I checked that out too and what do you know, the theme of the conference is Unleashed!
Of course this isn't coincidence. The NACC president, Dudley Rutherford, compiled the book with the full intention of it being this year's theme. I said this was a win-win not only because the book fits in with what I was already studying, but the NACC is a convention of Restoration Movement churches, of which my family of churches is a part (though not a participant in NACC (I take that back, turns out Daryl Reed is part of my family of churches, woohoo you go Daryl!)), so I was going to follow this convention anyway.
The extra neat part is that the NACC will be streaming their lessons live and on a three hour delay for us West Coast-ers. Now I apologize because I thought this was kicking off tomorrow, but is instead it starts tonight. You missed it live, but you can catch it at 7:00 pacific here: http://2011.gotonacc.org/program/video-streaming/
Unfortunately, my book hasn't arrived yet from Amazon, but I expect it tomorrow so I shouldn't fall too far behind. I don't know if I'll be able to blog real-time (or time zone delayed anyway) updates, but I do want to post some of these lessons from Acts. So we'll see. At least you'll get a recap once the convention has concluded and I've had a chance to get into the book.
7/6 6:00 am Ok, I'm just going to add updates here instead of writing new posts. I tried the live stream last night and it worked great during the worship leading into the opening session, but once Dudley Rutherford started speaking it froze a lot. So I'm going to recap what I read others found notable:
Interesting bit of history that the early Restoration Movement included African Americans but encouraged them to have their own congregations. Maybe wise at the time, but it perpetuated a trend of segregation on Sunday mornings that we still see today. I am grateful that my family of churches is very diverse, and in some ways intentionally so. "For there is no Jew, no Greek..." Rutherford made the call to be intentional in diversity.
He also noted how the early Church in Acts was "radical" in its culture. Of course this theme isn't new with best selling books of the same name. Even the call to our churches to be radical forces of change in our culture isn't new. But I do think it is the Holy Spirit that is leading so many churches/denominations/authors/etc to the same conclusion. Yes, our church needs to be radical. Yes our church needs to turn the world upside down for Christ. Let's see if the next few days teaches and guides us how.
Next stream starts in about a half-hour on the East Coast. That's right when my carpool shows up, so I'll try the West Coast feed from work (shhh, don't tell anyone). If it doesn't work, I'll follow the discussion on Twitter and Facebook. Oh, I didn't mention that this is one really cool feature of the stream: you can check out what other people are saying in real-time. Now this isn't new, ESPN, U-stream, and others all have live chats, but I haven't seen the capability to link in to active social media like this. So while I couldn't catch most of Pastor Rutherford's talk, I did see comments to keep me updated. If you can't access the stream you can follow on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/gotonacc and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#search?q=gotonacc
Check back later for more updates.
7/6 6:20 pm Sadly streaming was blocked by my work's firewall so I wasn't able to listen to today's speakers Daryl Reed, Greg Nettle, and Miles McPherson. But here are some tweets to reflect some of the content:
@CooperTim Christology must drive Missiology which must drive Ecclesiology
@lkmeding let's not let restoration/reformation/luther/calvin/stone-campbell divide us. we need to carry Christ, not our movement.
@sethadamthomas How do you help your church thrive? "Kick them [members] out [into the community]!" -Miles McPherson
@macblountman "I love the Restoration Movement."; Daryl Reed. Amen and amen!
@westbrook_RobD @MikeBreaux, the disciples could have never imagined what would happen in just three years!!!
@westbrook_RobD #gotonacc #NACC... @MikeBreaux, Jesus call to "follow me" prohibited the disciples from NOT telling everyone about Him...
@BenCachiaras You don't want to look back on your life and wonder what would have happened if you really followed Jesus.
@mbj8448 "Following Jesus isn't always easy but it's never complicated. Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly (Micah 6:8)." -Mike Breaux
Makes me regret I can't watch and listen to the stream tonight as I'll be at my own midweek service. But I got the book today!!! So I'll just have to read these chapters.
More updates later...
7/8 6:12 am I finally was able to catch one of the main speaker's streams last night!!! Really enjoyed and challenged by Jeff Vines' sermon titled "Hazardous". Some highlights:
It's ironic that I was online watching a stream of his sermon, tweeting about it, and now blogging about it when he threw out these lines: (while in Africa) "I didn't have my iPhone, my iPad, or my iPod so I prayed, I studied, I fellowshiped." and "We spend more time on Facebook than we do with our faces in the Book!" Hmmm, challenges me to a lifestyle change and an honest look at how I spend my time.
When he related how he learned more from the pastors he was there to teach and encourage and he felt convicted by their joy and perseverance, it reminded me of a story told by an evangelist who had recently returned from his native Ivory Coast. The recent uprising isn't something new, only most recent, and these disciples were in similar risk then as there was much turmoil out in the Ivory Coast. At the same time, our fellowship of churches were going through our own shakeup in the church. This evangelist was inspired by either of these affecting their faith and perseverance. Their church was growing. They were united (warring clans and different races, mind you!). They loved God. When the evangelist asked how they were able to do it, one of the local disciples answered, "we're only doing what we read in the Bible. Nothing else matters."
Finally, Jeff told the story of how he visits Rwanda and ministers to prisons there. One recent trip his translator took him to one of the high-level prisons which held not just participants in the genocide, but those who had ordered it to carried out. After receiving instruction after instruction on where to go, what to say, what areas to avoid, and so on, Jeff stopped and asked, "wait, are we in danger?" to which is translator answered, "does it matter?" It doesn't get simpler than that. Spreading the Gospel can be hard, it can be dangerous, it can be awkward, but in the end "does it matter?" The only thing that matters is Christ crucified and sharing that with the world. Our worries, our fears, our insecurities don't matter.
Also during the day, the conference was picketed by Westboro Baptist. I'm not really sure why, other than that they starve for attention. But it made for some funny tweets during the day.
And I regret missing the breakfast talk with @ScottWilliams whom I greatly respect. It wasn't streamed anyway, but I wish I could've been there. Hope he's getting something out of being there this week too.
I have some tweets to copy/paste, but I'll do that later (still buggy trying to import from Twitter and I still need to fix the links above).
Up next... Francis Chan in just a few minutes.
7/8 8:28 pm So I intentionally went in late to work this morning to watch Francis Chan, got swamped at work, been busy tonight, and am just now getting back online to update some thoughts. Let me begin by admitting my love for Francis Chan. My wife always seems to find his best sermons online and "makes" me watch them. He always encourages me with his humor, challenges me with his convictions, and humbles with his awe for the Almighty God. This morning was no different. Though the gist of the lesson was nothing new, reflecting on the life of King Asa from 2 Chronicles 14-16 was a good twist. Francis' statement, "I don't want to go out like that" after reflecting on how he used to be so "fired up" when he was young yet stopped relying on God as he grew older really hit home. I think we can all relate to that. And none of us want to go out like that- dying because of some foot disease because we were too prideful.
But what I will probably remember most from his lesson was his story of shooting a balloon held in the teeth of some kid with a BB gun. Reminds me of the story of the high-wire unicycle rider. He asks if anyone can believe he could cross a high wire between two skyscrapers on his unicycle. After everyone sees him do it he asks if anyone believes he can do it blindfolded. He does that with ease and then asks if they believe he can do it blindfolded pushing a wheelbarrow. After he does that he asks who believes he can do it again. Of course every hand goes up. So he asks, "so who wants to get in?" That is faith. Not just talk, but action. And not just action, but giving up all control.
So faith isn't just talk, but is followed up with action. As we grow older we need to continue to rely on God as we did in our naive youth. But the overall point of Francis' brings this all home- it's not about you or me. God is going to do what God is going to do with or without us. We just have to get out of his way and then get on board. The lesson was called "kinetic" so that train isn't going to slow down. It's not going to stop. God's Kingdom cannot be stopped! (and the church says Amen!)
Sadly I wasn't able to stick around for Jeff Walling but I heard he knocked it out of the park too. I'll be back tomorrow morning for some final thoughts, and some other of my favorite tweets.
7/9 8:51 am Last thoughts after the NACC. I didn't attend, so this is completely an outside-observer point of view. The streaming was a great feature and I liked how they allowed a three hour "tape delay" for those of us on the West Coast. It was buggy at times between being choppy or the sound cutting out, but those issues worked themselves out. Now, given that this was streamed "all over the world" which was pointed out on the last day, they need to consider the audience on their computers as well as the audience in the seats. One case in point is worship. A lot of the worship I saw was more performance-oriented than corporate worship. Now I'm opening a can of worms because the NACC is the "instrumental" break from the conservative Churches of Christ, but a capella wouldn't have been better in my opinion. The problem was, on the computer screen there was no sense of being part of a greater worship. The sound was keyed on the main singers and the cameras were fixed on them. Occasionally you'd see the children's choir singing backup, but that was it. Mix the sound better, show more of the audience, and make the viewer feel a part of the worship. Honestly, I'd walk away and do something else when they would be singing because I just couldn't get into it. Maybe that's just a consequence of viewing it remotely and there's nothing really you could do, but I found it ironic that the worship was ho-hum when worship is such a divider in our family of churches.
My second nit to pick is when the did show the audience. Maybe it was the demographics, but most of the people I saw were old and white. This has been a problem in the Churches of Christ/Independent Christian Churches for decades. I appreciate the younger corps of speakers trying to make NACC "hip" but the audience didn't appear to reflect it. This will be a problem if we can't get our present generation and the upcoming generation (Busters and Mosaics depending on your terminology) engaged with the Gospel. In the book Unleashed, Dudley Rutherford points out that in 1990 there were 300 churches of Christ in California but in 2000 that number had dropped to 200. I'm afraid of what that number might be for 2010. No group of hip speakers, best-selling authors, multicultural preachers, and returning missionaries can save this movement if the Gospel does not catch on to the younger generations. This is a well-documented concern, but something the NACC needs to take head-on.
Anyway, enough pontificating. Here are some more of my favorite tweets. Oh, here is another observation. The large fad conferences like Catalyst, Acts 29, or even Orange Leader have hundreds of people tweeting during the conference. I like how the streaming engaged social media, but I didn't see it in the participants. I figure two to three dozen people were tweeting from this conference. Ok, off the soapbox.
@EricStangland We're in trouble if the sacrifice of Christ stops being our inspiration...phil allen @spiritchild
@BenCachiaras "An open heart cannot maintain a closed hand." Warren Wiersbe. @DaveStone920 encourages lavish generosity
@davehamlin Some have replaced the cross w/the flag. They both represent freedom but only one is eternal! - Phil Allen
@kirkbolen I have never been more proud of our movement than this morning when westboro showed up to protest our convention
@MelissaSandel Preaching @gotonacc was as strong as I've heard here. Experiencing God's Word communicated in fresh ways fires me up!
@preachblake headed home after a great week at the @gotonacc great preaching, and awesome connections made...now time to live it out
@gabejohnsonlive "Comfort and Christ start with the same letter, but don't end at the same place." -Jeff Walling
@jeffpartain "Who you are is not what you have done, but what you do next." - Jeff Walling (@preacherwalling)
@tomcooperider Some of the greatest accomplishments in the Kingdom were done through people who didn't want to do them - Jeff Walling