Last week I attended a Conference called “Exponential” in Orlando, Florida. This was a national new church development conference organized by the Exponential Network. This is a network that seeks to encourage church planters who start reproducing churches.
The web site for the conference is: http://www.exponentialconference.org/
The web site for the Exponential network is: http://www.churchplantingnetwork.com/
It’s fair to say that the Exponential network is made up of people on the conservative side of the church. The conference featured speakers who are stars within the conservative movement—Erwin Mc Manus, Craig Groeschel, Tim Keller, and many others.
I was amazed at the number of people who attended—over 3,000. I know that our main-line denominations are struggling with New Church Development; however this conference is an illustration that the church as a whole is not struggling with New Church Development. It wouldn’t surprise me if thousands of churches are being started right now in our country and hundreds of thousands across the world.
At the conference I enjoyed spending time with Philip Lotspeich and Ray Jones. Philip is the coordinator for church growth for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Ray is going to take an Evangelism position for our denomination in Louisville. Among other things they helped me learn to play Texas Hold’em.
I attended a Pre-launch track. This was for folks who haven’t had a first public worship service. I went to workshops that were about “Building a Launch Plan, “How to plant a church and still have a life,” “Building an Indigenous Church,” “Building Relationships one Act of Service at a time,” and “Building a Launch Team.”
One speaker who I particularly enjoyed was Larry Osborne. He is the pastor of a huge church in California. I have rarely heard a pastor speak with such honesty. He talked about having a life while building a church—which is what I desperately want. I don’t mind working my tail off to build this new church, but I won’t do it at the expense of my family. He shared some thoughts and ideas about this in a honest and refreshing way.
I went on to purchase one of his books called, “Spirituality for the Rest of Us.” It is an excellent book of essays about spiritual formation—again written in a refreshingly honest way. I know that his theology is much conservative from mine, and I still take away a lot from him that can help me grow in my own relationship with God and help me grow in my own skills.
It’s my experience that one of the greatest mistakes we Presbyterians make is we ignore any idea from people who have different labels then our own. If a person believes that women shouldn’t be ordained (which many people did at this conference and which I categorically reject) then we won’t be willing to listen to the person. Or if a church believes that the elements of Communion can become the actual physical body and blood of Jesus then we won’t pay attention to what the church has to say.
We have to get beyond our own silos and admit that we can learn from people who view the world in a much different way. Are we willing to learn from others even if we come across some ideas that we categorically reject? We Presbyterians better be willing to wrestle with that question.
At the close of the conference the speaker invited folks to come forward to receive anointing of oil. I was touched and can still visualize all the young men (yes, they were all men) streaming forward to be anointed by oil. They were literally on their knees in prayer. These guys are passionate about planting churches and being successful in ministry. A few of these guys will plant huge, successful, and re-producing churches. Their passion was inspiring to me.