Four Big Ideas from New Room 2014

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(pic by @katieheckel via twitter. I am not sure if she sketched these ideas, but it is fantastic work!)

Last week, the fine folks at Seedbed hosted the New Room Conference in Franklin, TN, and I had the honor not only to attend, but to help lead worship in a few ways. It has been a long time since I’ve been to a conference like this. It was part family reunion, part Wesleyan camp meeting, and full of people who deeply desire to see renewal in their lives and their churches, as well as the world around them. Actually, if I could use one word to describe the people who attended New Room, it would be “hungry” - hungry for a fresh move of God, hungry for the Word of God to resound in hearts, hungry and humble and attentive to the move of the Spirit. 

In the upcoming weeks, Seedbed will release audio and some video from the conference, but until then, I wanted to share some of my big takeaways from the conference, both for the sake of sharing and the sake of processing some of the deep truths we explored further:

1. Christianity begins and ends with love. Dr. Joe Dongell, one of my New Testament professors at ATS, invited us into his journey of revisiting the complete writings of John Wesley over the past few years.  He began to see a theme in Wesley’s writings that he didn’t really want to acknowledge, but because it was so pervasive in every part of Wesley’s thought, he actually indexed all 14 volumes of his works to tease this thread out.

The theme? Love.

Despite the sentimentality attached to the term and the numerous ways “love” has lead into heresy, pluralism and loads of other theological problems, for Wesley love was the beginning and end of our faith. Love is more than an emotion (thus the use of the word agape over other words for love in the NT), and contrary to our cultural leanings, love is something deeper than our actions (meaning love is NOT primarily a verb). If the cross is a demonstration of God’s love, God’s loving actions stem from the much deeper love that is a part of God’s very essence.

All love, then, is a gift from God. And the only loving things done for others are those that draw from this gifted love to act. For we love only because we were first loved. How many seemingly loving actions could be done in our world, even in our churches and homes, that do not stem from this given love of God? It is scary to think about. 

Dongell also emphasized how this Wesleyan prerogative leads followers of Jesus to recognize their deep need to abide in the love of God. Love cannot be diffused to the world that has not first been infused into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Our capacity for love, mission, and holiness will only be limited by our willingness to be deeply loved by our missional and holy God. 

2. Incarnation is the mode of ministry our world needs most. We had a couple of different interactions with Alan and Debra Hirsch at New Room, and their overarching message was simple: if you are not willing to do the work of incarnation alongside people, you are not willing to do what Jesus would do. The act of positioning and posturing yourself among those you are called to reach is missiology 101. We can no longer expect people in our communities to do the work of crossing boundaries to come into our churches. We must take up the uncomfortable work of being all things for all people. 

In a way, one of the other amazing talks at New Room emphasized the same ideas. Justin Wise taught on social media and its role in our churches, and simply noted that social media is part of our world’s native tongue now. If we refuse to speak it, we are like missionaries who refuse to learn the tongue of the people we live among. 

The big question we kept hearing was, “To whom are you being sent?” How you answer that questions will tell you a lot about what it means specifically to be incarnational in your context. (For me, it might mean watching more UK basketball. I hope not.)

3. Love the Word for yourself. Jessica LaGrone brought a simple and powerful message to us about learning to love the Word again. In a world where there are more devotional materials and bible studies than every before, we have a more and more biblically illiterate church everyday. This could be, in part, because we are looking to others to do for us what we are actually called to do ourselves: to learn to and then read the Bible for ourselves. In her words, “If you were a matchmaker, and you made a successful paring, you would not continue with the couple on the date. You would leave so the magic could happen. So why do we keep looking for the middle man in our relationship with God’s Word?”

4. Systems have to learn to repent, not just people.  Alan Hirsch also talked about how systems die when they do not learn to un-learn and re-learn in the face of the problems they face. This is repentance: turning from what we know to be false or fatal and embracing what is true and life-giving. Churches and institutions, and leaders as well, have to be able to un-learn and re-learn if they are going to grow and change. Your system is perfectly designed to achieve exactly what it is achieving; if anything more will come, you must repent and change. 

There are a number of other things I am still processing from the conference, but these ideas were huge for me. When the audio/video posts from Seedbed, I will make sure to post links so you can connect with some of these ideas for yourself. 

Seed-Thoughts - Stage A

I’ve been processing my trip to Guatemala for the past week (OK, I’ve been physically recovering from the sickness I caught there, but I’ve been thinking too). I felt like this trip was a game-changer for me in some ways, but I’m only now really working on how to articulate why I feel this way.  Right now, I’m beginning with some of the seed ideas that were planted on the trip. Here’s one of them; let me know how you respond to it. 

"There were so many broken ideas that came with the orphan care system of Guatemala when we started the children’s home five years ago." Kenneth Sese, the director of Hope For Tomorrow Children’s Home, sits with us between training sessions, patiently leading us into the culture of his employees so we can better meet them where they are. At this point in the trip, we are just starting to catch glimpses of the systemic problems that complicate every aspect of orphan care for even the best intentioned workers in Guatemala, as well as some of the huge strides forward both H4T and other orphan care specialists are making there every day.

"One of the largest lies we had to overcome was the lie of the short-term solution. Most orphanages treated kids like they were short-term stops for kids as they awaited adoption. Younger kids were usually taken over older kids, and even then, the thinking was that kids would only be there a few months, maybe a year, tops. Long term goals like education, health screenings, care for those with special needs - these kinds of things were pushed aside because the real goal was for a kid not to be there long enough to actually need those things. 

"But what happens when you have a kid who goes unadopted? A kid who is seen as too old, or who isn’t wanted for some reason? They sit in an orphanage or children’s home and miss the kind of long-term care giving they need to flourish, even to survive, because the system itself doesn’t think with that kind of care in mind. We’re having to introduce the idea that we should treat kids like long-term family members and not just temporary house-guests."

(NEXT - My thoughts on this concept…)

andyandbeyond:

The Gospel of Matthew is one of the most important books of the Bible. Many great New Testament verses are memorized using the Matthean version. This Gospel also bridges the two testaments. Dr. David Bauer presents a survey of the Gospel—one that will be helpful to use in preparing for Bible study or sermon preparation.