5 Favorite Things About the Christianity 21 Conference #c21Denver

Two weeks ago I attended  Christianity21 – still loving on it. I’ll admit, some of it is the “high” gleaned from a great experience. Another part of it though is I keep thinking about the stuff I heard and the people I met. Those things  outlast any high and  in looking back here were my 5 Favorite things.

<strong>1. The vibe of the gathering.</strong>My first impression was how relaxed it felt. Not relaxed in the disorganized sense, relaxed in the friendly sense.  Second “the room” felt very friendly and gracious. As the time went on, I sense it was  an “us” place as opposed to “we are the experts, you are mere peons” sort of thing. I didn’t sense any pretension and if there was, umm, sorry about that, didn’t mean to be that guy.

Seriously, it was one of the least pretentious rooms of informed, “coolish” people I’ve been in. There’s a lot of accomplishment and hustle in that room and still a lot of humility and relational intelligence. It also helped that the organizers offered a attendee-friendly schedule. For example, two hour lunch breaks so our group of 10 doesn’t have to yell at the waiter/waitress to move faster so we don’t miss our next session on Christian compassion – thats helpful. And even more, this allowed for more conversations, which I’ll get to.

That said, obviously when you feel relaxed, your mind and body are able to listen and connect easier.

<strong>2. The C21 Presenters were great .</strong>There were 21 presentations 21 minutes each. All of them were solid, Of course some resonate with you more than others but really, all were quality – no one sucked. And most left you wishing we had more than 21 minutes and that’s the point.

Sometimes you go and you already know exactly who you’re going to “accidentally miss.“ (“Oh no, I missed him? Again? These schedule are so darn confusing.”) I’ll do my best to make sense of my notes and post a reflection or two but I’d really encourage you to get the mp3’s that were just released yesterday here.

Messages I most resonated with and will likely steal err, borrow from:
Jonathan Merritt – got us off to a great start by saying many of us started with a small view of God. “”he God I was introduced to was a decent chap if you did not piss him off.” Seemed that way for a while.
Kent Dobson – If this is the guy leading Mars Hill Bible in Grand Rapids, they are in for some serious goodness throughout the years – no joke.
Anyone named Sarah with an ‘H’. Seriously. Bessey, Lefton, Bailey, Cunningham. Brilliant, articulate women with great messages for us.
Phyllis Tickle! She’s retiring from public life and her work and words on the “Great Emergence” is seriously a gift that many in the Church haven’t opened yet. Check out her just released works by her and about her.
Jose Moralles – Living in the hyphen! For those who feel they are in the middle of different worlds like Egyptian-American or Post-Evangelical, Jose gets it. Definitely stealing the hyphen.
And absolutely loved the last afternoon session with the three organizers Sarah CunninghamTony Jones and Doug Pagitt.
Sarah Cunningham on loving our enemies and “no man’s land” was brilliant.
Loved Tony’s idea of the need to reclaim the apocalypse. He’s right but I’d rather reclaim just about anything else. But I have to admit, those Tim LaHaye jokes get me every time.
Two words come to mind when I hear Doug Pagitt – “casual brilliance.”

I know I’m saying a lot and this is only half the presenters. I haven’t mentioned yet Charles Lee, Nadia Bolz Weber, Ani Zonneveld, Jamie Wright, Josh Dubois, and so many more.

There were also 7-21 Talks (grateful to have been given the opportunity to share one!) and the Group Discussions on things like on the power of story, the theology of Charles Wesley, and Child Sponsorship and ethics and marketing. Also really enjoyed the Blogger Panel Discussion and the kind people of Patheos for being generous with their time and experience.

<strong>3. The music of HeatherLynn</strong>. What’s so great about her? Let’s begin with a great voice, great talent, great poetry and a likable soul. But here’s what I found really unique:  Many of her songs are us singing to each other when it’s usually us singing to Jesus. This is ideal for gatherings, these types for sure and in thinking about this, these types of songs have a place in our worship services. Lastly, I truly enjoyed my conversations with Heather and her husband Jason – good people and I highly encourage to check out her music. Here’s her site, listen and download.

<strong>4. Beer & Hymns.</strong> Not only would Martin Luther have been proud but Guinness tastes better when singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” I know what some might be thinking – wasn’t this a bunch of drunk people singing and to them, that’s always fun – It could be karaoke, this just happened to be hymns.  So to the concerned yet curious, I witnessed zero drunk hymn-singers.  Second and most importantly, it was quite powerful to be singing with such conviction about the resurrection and the love of God. This really was memorable to me.

<strong>5. Friendships and Community</strong> Community is such an essential factor in life. We’re always in need of being part of a good local one and there are many different forms of community.  When it comes to conferences, it’s not really something that organizers can really plan for. You can invite wonderful people but it’s up to you and the person next to you to be part of the building of community. (By the way, if you meet someone from the Disciples of Christ denomination at something, sit next to them and get beers with them afterwards – some good, fun Christian people.)

So I know I said this in the last post but there is so much goodness in the Body of Christ and it’s great to see as many different angles of this. Hopefully you are fortunate enough to have found community where you are. And hopefully you get a couple opportunities to travel throughout the year.
You can’t take all your new friends home with you but it’s amazing to me how easy it is to meet incredible people and enter into life-giving conversations. I’m sure some of it has to do with commonality, some of it social skills but I also think a good deal of it is spiritual. Frankly I haven’t gotten over this yet and while I’m clearly behind on my blogging, I’m still enjoying having been to C21.

They just announced next year’s date – January 22-24 (location TBA). It will certainly be on my radar, maybe you’ll go with me?

In the meantime, check out the mp3’s, check out/buy the great photography of Courtney Perry and here’s the C21 website.



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