Monday, October 27, 2008

Change the World?

I'm not sure what I was expecting from the Change the World Conference at Ginghamsburg (UM) Church this weekend. I was expecting some bold statements (given that the keynote speakers included Brian McLaren, Adam Hamilton, Michael Slaughter, and Jim Wallis.

I've heard Wallis speak before, and I didn't get much new from his speech (though I was expecting something a little different than what he got, given that it was given as the central focus of one of the host church's main worship services).
The highlight (for me) of his speech was his comment that we have a choice between hope and cynicism. I often find myself a lot more cynical than hopeful, so this was challenging.

Brian McLaren once again impressed me as brilliant, an excellent speaker, and very willing to dialogue with those with differing opinions than he had. He is also probably one of the (if not The) current Christian leaders who would be awesome to hang out with and get to know personally. He seems fun and playful along with his brilliance.
He talked a lot about 4 global crises: Crisis of the Planet, Crisis of Poverty, Crisis of Peace, and Crisis of Purpose, and he challenged us to stop living out the current narratives (domination, revolution, blame/purification, isolation, victimizaion, and accumulation) but to embrace Jesus' new narrative.
It was during Adam Hamilton's speeches at Annual Conference (West Ohio) two years ago that I first felt proud to be in the United Methodist Church, so I was looking forward to hearing him speak again. He seems to be one who would most rather err on the side of grace (I'm looking forward to reading his book "Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White" (which I purchased at the conference)), and I can understand that. The problem is that we (the church) are seen as judgmental, and often (usually?) we've earned that reputation. So to show grace, to show God's unconditional love, to listen to someone's story and get to know them, to accept them just as they are... these are traits of Christians.

We have to trust that the Holy Spirit will convict them of their sins, but that means we have to help them to meet and understand the Holy Spirit...

Hamilton talked a lot about a gap between Kingdom priorities and our current priorities; we need to "mind the gap" and address it with specific leadership (for example: our church isn't doing well in the area of mission; thus our leaders need to lead in the area of mission).

It was Michael Slaughter's speech that disappointed. Slaughter grew the Ginghamsburg church from a small, country church to a megachurch, and he has been there for 30some years (extremely long for the United Methodist Church). He made some ridiculous statements, including that people on his staff tell him (all the time) to, "sit down, Michael." Yeah, right. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is saying, "sit down, Michael." Not the District Superintendent, not the Bishop, and certainly not members of his staff. Nobody is telling him what to do.

I keep reading that my generation (and the generations coming up) value authenticity, and I've found that true. When you then misrepresent yourself, you lose your right to speak. This is kind of what happened with Slaughter. He came across as a pretty straight shooter, unafraid to say whatever was on his mind (including a couple of minor expletives), so why not shoot straight with us and admit, "Whatever I say around here goes..."

One thing that can't be ignored is that his church is doing amazing things in Darfur, and I look forward to the day when Millersport Church is doing such amazing mission work. Understand that I believe this is what it looks like when people actually grasp Jesus as Truth: then we must live out what He said. But that isn't the only goal...
Slaughter did a great job of showing the difference between the "cruise ship" and the "missional outpost" and asked a pointed question: What would Millersport look like if the Millersport UM Church closed tomorrow? This is an important question to ask in this context; I know that the people "within" would be affected, but how would it affect our community?


mike slaughter said...

Hi Brother. I agree. On the big issues almost whatever I say happens. In the context of your statement I was referring to the light show that my twenty-somethings wanted to do that I thought was cheesy. You have to know when to take a stand on the big issues and when to sit down. God bless, Mike Slaughter

The Thief said...

Thanks, Mike - it just seemed to me that you went on a little about it, so it seemed that it extended beyond the scope of the light show. You're right - you do have to know when to take a stand and when to sit down. Thanks for the comment.