Reflecting on the Ecclessia Gathering 1 Month Later – Post 1

A month ago, I attended the Ecclessia Gathering in Chevy Chase Maryland. While I had heard about it for a few years, it was my first time there and was grateful that a good friend made it possible for me to attend.
However, the timing was especially terrible for me. I had just returned from our Sr. High Winter Retreat (which went very well), was missing my family (who are fabulous) and was still recovering from my stolen Macbook and various other complications (which is life). I went for two reasons, as much as I missed my wife and kids, I needed a few days away, and two, Dallas Willard.

Like probably everyone at Ecclessia, The Divine Conspiracy was life-altering for me. What New Kind of Christian and Postmodern Youth Ministry was for me in my mid-twenties, Divine … was for me in my college years. I’d say now that God used New Kind and PYM to “save” me in ministry and that He used DC to save my understanding of Jesus and thus, my theology.

Divine Conspiracy came at an important time for me. It was further aided by the preaching of Pastor Mark at the Grace Church in Lynchburg, VA. He referenced Willard and Foster a lot and I am pretty sure the entire church was reading them as part of his influence. I remember leaving Grace naively thinking, “Yeah, churches read the same books as their pastors.” Uhh no, not so much. Now I think he should lead a conference on that – lol. Anyway, Willard is the man.

But he doesn’t act like the man and that’s why he’s the man. He’s a tender older gentleman in his mid-seventies, speaks lowly, slowly and sincerely. He doesn’t speak with a lot of persona but you tune in because the content of his message his anchored in wisdom. You also can’t help but listen to him and think, “His grandkids must love him.”

I’ve been looking over my notes as part of my Lenten reflections and am in the process of reflecting longer on the notes I take from conferences, school of course, and life in general and here are a few observations that have either remained in my mind or have been difficult to dismiss a month later.

In addition to Dallas, there was another pair of main presenters and they were the incredible couple, Bob & Mary Hopkins. They are considered to be the pioneers of church planting of the last 30 years in Europe. To quote from the conference program, their project Fresh Expressions “is an Anglican church-sanction movement that encourages new forms of church for a fast changing world …” creative expressions were very helpful for me. While it is true everywhere, being in the northeast, I think all of us need to reimagine different expressions of church-life.

Here’s a few things that I really appreciated:
“God so loved the world that He acted.” – Have we as a Church acted enough? When we have acted, how have we done in terms of the Kingdom? And probably my best question is “Have I acted goldy  Have we as a community acted God-like?”  Most of us know that this is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit, which brings up another set of questions, among them simply, “Are we Spirit-led Christians or just people who call themselves Christian?”

I’ve also been trying to consider the “4 Spaces of Belonging”
Intimate space – accountability
Personal space – small groups (you thought I was going to write “personal one on one time with God didn’t you?)
Social space – mid-size community
Public space – celebration

I’m still working on these but find myself thinking a lot about them in relation to my current ministry.

Reading the culture and finding gospel connections. Know your gospel …

I hope to post on Willard’s and others’ thoughts later this week.  In the meantime, you can check out what other pastor-bloggers wrote here.

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