Spire Conference - Pre Conference - RePOSITION - David Vaughn, speaker
The first note I have written is “What is this guy selling?”
Probably not the best way to start the show. I had the feeling I was being sold something from the very beginning. This feeling continued throughout the convention and I get it. The stuff they are promoting are helpful tools that have been successfully used in a variety of ministries but that isn’t the reason I left my family for a week, placed strain on my wife, and got behind in my regular weekly duties. I came to the Spire Conference to answer one simple question, “Should I continue to think of myself as a part of the Stone Campbell Movement?”
It’s the wrong question for Spire. In fact they didn’t seem to care about that at all.
What they did care about was church leadership. The following is based on my notes.
Leadership in the church can be fun. It can be work. It can be war. David Vaughn, the first speaker pointed this out. Justin, my best friend, said he came off as a jerk. I didn’t pick up on that. I thought he was using dry humor to emphasize some of the mistakes he made in leadership. Those words though... fun, work, war... they all resonated with me. I’ve had all three.
Vaughn suggested that church leadership today is about helping people change their attitudes in and around church.
Consumerism should be replaced with commitment. The church ought not be a place where we go to receive spiritual goods and services. Instead it is a community of people and ideas to which individuals commit themselves. When I was in seminary they were using the buzz word “relational”. The concept is sound but I still hate the word.
Religion should be replaced with relationship in transformational community. I hear this a lot. It’s a buzz phrase and should be dispensed with just as we have done with relational. (While we’re at it please stop saying “doing life”. We have a word for that - living.) I think we should be slow to abandon religion. By religion, I mean the cultic or ritualistic practiced associated with the faith. The rhythms of the liturgy are significant. They help to ground the ethereal elements of Christianity into the physical world and that is important. Simply look to the incarnation for proof.
Pragmatic leadership should be replaced with pastoral leadership. This seems to be a given since leadership in the church ought to always be pastoral first and then pragmatic. Applying this consistently is one of the greatest challenges I have had as a pastor. I think the secret is remaining focused on the long game rather than short gains.
“Come and see” should be replaced with “go and share”. Another given. Again one that is easier said. It’s much easier to shout “Look at what I can do!” Faithfully sharing the gospel to people who repeatedly reject it requires discipline most of us lack. Going and sharing has far greater biblical support than creating a spectacle. We ought not be clowns. The gospel is serious. Act like it.
Attending the church should be replaced with being the church. This is true but needs some explanation. The corporate gathering of believers is a critical part of the Christian life. There’s no getting around this. Go to church. At the same time, the life of believers is not only lived out in the worship service. It is lived daily in each and ever circumstance. This is being the church the other six days. Consistent application of good ecclesiology must be taught, encouraged, and demanded among congregations.
Identify mission critical pathways for your congregation. Healthy congregations understand their priorities. Knowing what is important forms decision making so that non essential preferred activities can be minimized in favor of that which is more impactful.
David Vaughn said, “It is easier to disciple lost people than to energize Christians.” That’s a rough quote. Neither of those things are easy or happen quickly. Just a fun little reality check.
Justin, my best friend who attended the conference with me said, “Get your old people to be nice, or at least not a—holes.” I think this can be extended to everyone in the church, especially personally. I’m trying.
Overall I thought the first lecture was decent. Repositioning a congregation for more effective ministry is a continuous activity that extends beyond practicality into the theological, social, and emotional development of both the congregation and the individual. I’m pretty sure we all knew that but a reminder doesn’t hurt.