“I can’t wait to get back to Nashville”.
Those are the words I heard across the table at Chick-Fil-A as I was enjoying the sweet ambrosia of my new favourite American cuisine. I was at the Orange Conference in Duluth, Georgia in the United States and I overheard these words uttered by a lovely young woman with a thick accent.
Admittedly, these aren’t the words you want to hear when you’re being inspired by the minute at one of the largest NextGen ministry conferences in the world. So in true Luke form, I introduced myself and asked her what she meant.
After trying to explain that I don’t know Chris Hemsworth personally, she told me that she wanted to get back to her home Church to start implementing what she’s learned through the week.
She was inspired and motivated to change her Church (and community) for Jesus! How awesome!
But this got me thinking; how often do we come back from conferences with a fire in our bellies only to quickly become re-engaged in the rut we were in before stepping into the stadium?
We find ourselves bogged down by the same counter-productive conversations that have been happening for too long. We become reacquainted with the frustrations and perceived futility as we continue to navigate necessary change. Putting it bluntly, we quickly lose the drive that gets instilled in us as we slip back into normality. “If only everyone in my faith community ‘got it’. That would make things so much easier!”.
“We become reacquainted with the frustrations and perceived futility as we continue to navigate necessary change.”
I believe part of the issue is that we don’t bring people along on the journey with us. They don’t understand why we are so inspired. I’m convinced that good leaders have the ability to share the vision and passion the obtain from elsewhere.
So with this in mind, I’d like to share some of my key learnings from the Orange Conference ’18. In this part one, I will focus on Andy Stanley’s message on ‘Unity’. So here we go.
The importance of unity
Unity is a word that is thrown around a lot in Church leadership circles, and for good reason. We need to bind together as a community of believers for change navigation, outreach, strategy, vision-casting and community-impact. The issue is, we often don’t know how it looks, let alone the people in the congregation. Andy Stanley shared a fascinating outtake from Acts 15.
Whilst I won’t give you an entire verbatim of his message, the ‘big idea’ is that we, as the Church cannot make it difficult for unbelievers to come to know Jesus. I’m not sure many of us do it intentionally, but we can do it in our jargon, our styles of worship or lack on ‘on-ramps’ into our Church. That is, have we made it clear in how people without a faith get connected? We can’t make the mistake of becoming so insider-focus that we unwillingly give the message that you must have a rudimentary level of faith or knowledge to be welcomed.
If you’re reading this scoffing at this idea, I encourage you to stop and reflect in how your Church welcomes new people. Are the ‘next steps’ clear? Or do we drive people away with out inward approach?
It’s a hard question to ask yourself, but perhaps that’s why you aren’t seeing many new people in your Church community. We need to be united in our mission, and it should be tied to seeing people be discipled in order to disciple others.
Andy Stanley gave a great line that I know I took back to my Church family here in Melbourne, Australia. “Unity is mission-critical. Disunity disrupts the mission”. Let’s drive forward together.