The 3rd annual missional learning commons was last Friday and Saturday in Fort Wayne (I believe it was at Westview Alliance Church on Ill. Rd.). Tom and I rode together, but were only able to be there for the two Saturday morning sessions. Fortunately they have audio of all the talks on their website though.
I took minimal notes, and I will post them at the bottom. The main thing I noticed though... and I actually thought about this when I was getting dressed that day... It seems like so many people wear blue jeans to things like this, so I purposely wore my tan corduroys... and sure enough, I think I was one of only three people (out of maybe 75 or so) who didn't have blue jeans on. Ha!
I did force myself to talk to somebody during the break too. After standing around and having no one come up to me (we were supposed to talk to someone we didn't know), I went up to a guy that looked familiar for some reason. It was Jim, from Chicago, and I finally discovered that he looked familiar because he did the videotaping at last years nonconference (which, btw, he said Bill Kinnon apparently has all the tapes and has done nothing with them). Anyway, we had a good chat.
Overall, even though Tom might not agree, I thought it was a worthwhile morning. To me, any time I can get together with others to discuss church and faith issues it's a good time. So, oddly enough, I'm not as hard to please in this regard as you might think. Next year I hope Jane can go with me again though. I will say this though... "deeper church" is a very relative term.
Here are my notes (from Saturday morning only):
The title of this (non)conference was "Deeper Church: Churches As Whole Communities." The first two speakers were Chris Smith and Ben Sternke.
Chris talked about what it means to be "whole communities," as opposed to simply "religious communities." He says religious communities tend to be more concerned with soul issues (primarily the afterlife); whereas whole communities are concerned more with the redemption of ALL things (ethics). Two key areas where whole communities are distinguished from religious communities are: time (when they meet/don't meet), and money (how resources are used).
Ben then talked about the significance of the eucharist in moving us from religious communities to whole communities. He discussed how even in our physical bodies blood is not allocated just for certain/specific areas, but blood flows throughout. And how pagans of old were drawn to Christianity, not because it made sense, but because of the sense of community; the wholeness of life they experienced. The idea of 'belonging' and then 'believing.' He says "the ritual of eucharist reminds us of the deeper reality of life together."
I also liked how Chris said, "The church is the primary interpreting community for all of life" (or should be). I wish it were truer.
Asked to give their definition of "deeper church," they both gave an answer like... 'church is about more than just Sunday; it extends throughout the week; reconciliation of all things in the world; inviting people into a community way of life.'
The next main speaker was Jeremy Dowsett from Lansing, MI, who pastors Blacksoil. He talked about Evangelism, and I was glad this topic was included. He even stated that those of us in the emerging/missional conversation are often prone to just running evangelism down, but we're not so good at bringing up any new ideas or models. We too often take that "use words only when necessary" phrase to NOT talk about the good news; but it IS "necessary" to talk sometimes.
He started off by giving three criticisms of current/former evangelism practices that no longer seem to work:
1. The Transaction (fire-insurance gospel)
2. Too focused on heaven/hell (afterlife)
3. Everything reduced to God solving the sin problem (substitutionary atonement).
He cited Dave Fitch's "On-ramp" idea of building relationships through many entry points, and suggested three clusters of language for talking about the Good News (from a biblical standpoint):
1. Kingdom language
2. Promises & Inheritance language
3. Powers & Slavery language
That's really all I have for notes. I recommend going to the missional learning commons website to hear the talks and for other info.
peace out; and in.