Taking a drink of water from a fire hydrant.
Drive Conference this morning, collapsing into bed at about 4 AM. The three days was inspiring, amazing and challenging.
Andy Stanley is the founder and lead pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. In the last decade and a half, North Point has developed into a multi-campus church that is devoted to moving people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Their vision: to become a church for people that don't like church.
They've had some success at it, too, reaching thousands of unchurched and de-churched people that, for one reason or other, have avoided church and, by and large, Jesus for their whole lives.
The thing about this sort of conference is this: what I learned isn't so much mind altering as it is affirming what I already believe. It challenges me to return to my basic assumptions about ministry and church and implement them in fresh ways. For example . . .
The church is the only institution that exists, primarily, for the benefit of those who do not yet belong. Over and over we heard Drive presenters tell us that their goal is to remove whatever obstacles that unchurched people have between them and the church. They're not afraid of offending people with the gospel - the gospel was offensive in Jesus' day, and remains so today - they just don't want to offend them in the parking lot, in the foyer, or when they drop their children off in the nursery. To that end, they work very, very hard to make sure their guests are treated well.
The folks at South Lansing Church of Christ do a good job in this regard - at least from my perspective. But I don't know about the perspective of someone that has never been to church. How can I assess that? It is a question I need to come up with an answer to.
We also heard about the importance of the Sunday worship service in communicating one clear, unified, concise message. This is done through the singing, through the sermon and through the elements that accompany those. Our Wally Lowman does an amazing job with our singing. (I knew at least 2/3 of the tunes we sang at Drive because Wally is right there on the leading edge.) I need to make sure that I am doing my part to present the message in compelling and clear ways.
I attended breakout sessions that detail how North Point does their fund raising, how they provide opportunities for community service, how their students ministries work and a handful of other elements within their church.
Frankly, my head is spinning a bit.
It is like trying to take a drink from a fire hydrant on a hot summer day. You don't know how much water you're able to rally ingest. Probably not that much. But you do get awfully wet. And the very act of trying to take a drink becomes more refreshing that, perhaps, you thought possible.