There we were watching someone speak of the horrific evils of trafficking and poverty from 3000 miles away. Our minds filling with statistics, principles, history lessons, missional terminology, our hearts breaking from the stories of elementary-aged school children forced into horrific situations. And at the moment what may have hurt more acutely were our ears were wincing from the buzz of the feedback.
During Lynne Hybels’ excellent presentation, she invited us to sit in silence to hear God’s voice as she had shared how God had “spoke” to her. But the feedback was so deafening that when she stopped speaking I wanted to yell out, “No keep talking, please!” But she was 3000 miles away and running on an eight minute delay.
Can God speak through feedback? Where is God in simulcast with an eight minute delay?
Being the emcee of our simulcast, I tried to remind myself and my fellow attendees, “The feedback is a first world problem, and we only paid 30 bucks for this so hang in there.”
It definitely gave me perspective. If we can’t get over feedback then we are not going to get far in our fight against injustice.
In between the valuable content and the worthwhile conversations was the exercise of answering questions like, “What is this and how can I do the work of justice more and more? And what exactly does that look like?” Dedicating the better part of two days to this was invaluable to me.
I am not one who thinks you can get something out of every presenter (hence my encouragement to fellow attendees to get out of their seats, “…Spend some time in the prayer chapel, have coffee with someone, you can likely watch the presenter you missed later but perhaps the best way to steward this opportunity is to literally get out of your seat.”) If there were fewer presenters or more, it feels arbitrary. Usually those things are figured out by organizers who have a million logistics to balance – it’s not inspiration. I do think God is at work in the whole of it and there is something very valuable offered to each of us. It could be the person you had coffee with more then the brilliant speaker presenting on screen.
I don’t think every cause is yours, I don’t think every celebrated author, speaker, musician, thinker, preacher, film-maker, storyteller can connect with each person. This is part of my appreciation for individuality and my love for plurality. God does extraordinary work with so many of us doing so many different things. It’s a beautiful Kingdom.
But when I wasn’t thinking about the big picture cosmology of it all, I was literally trying to figure out what was going to happen next in terms of the simulcast. The schedule says this but we have deviated a bit. I and others could not figure out what was really live anymore. I thought we were live until the emcee said “Good morning everyone!” and it was 4 in the afternoon on the East Coast and no longer morning in the West.
I also learned that 90% of simulcast attendees are not interested in any of the musical guests, although any of them live would have been amazing. And for some reason, the volume levels between presentations kept changing. I kept texting the tech team to turn it up. But at least the buzz was gone – thank God. Ok Lynne Hybels, I’m ready to hear God’s voice in the silence now.
Speaking of the tech team, that was composed of my lifelong friends Bassim and Manaal (Noula!). I tell you, there is nothing like doing ministry with your friends. In my previous two churches, my closest friends were the volunteer youth leaders or those serving in some capacity related to mine. I’m finding a similar pattern here. I love conversing over coffee, beer, burgers, music, movies and now children’s birthday parties with my friends. And as valuable as some of these things are, serving with my friends for the benefit of others (and for the way of Jesus) is among the richest of blessings.
When my friend Bassim and I left last year’s Justice Conference in Philadelphia, we drove back in icey conditions, plotting how we were going to get our wives to join us to this year’s Conference in LA. What about the kids? Do you think our families love us enough to watch all of them for a few days? There’s five of them ranging between 5 years old and 9 months old. Even we thought it was a stretch.
So when the opportunity came for us to apply to be a simulcast site, it was an easy decision except for not knowing anything about how simulcasts work. Turns out it was very doable and the Justice Conference organizers did an amazing job communicating and preparing us.
As I think of the Simulcast event, I have to say, nothing beats the live thing. But if you need to save a $1000 in airfare, hotels, registration and being away from your family and community the $30 simulcast is a legit option (even with that darn feedback :) And our wives were able to join us for parts of it.
Which brings me back to our live Pre-Conference Event with local organizations and being part of the simulcast together. All in all there were about 200 of us participating at our Simulcast Event and I feel a special commonality now with those at our gathering. Some have even joined our latest Reading Circle on Pursuing Justice with Ken Wytsma (Link is to my review of it).
Our hope is to not host the Justice Conference Simulcast at our church next year. It seems best to gather at another church, college, organization and cycle it through the years. We would love to see the Justice Conference be a gathering of justice lovers/practitioners of the Greater Boston area who once a year gather together, compare notes, share stories, exchange hugs, and get back to fulfilling the calling God has placed on our lives. May God be with us.
Check out Part 1, stay tuned for more, feel free to connect however you wish and if you were there, feel free to share your highlights/thoughts.