Last night ended the conference. It ended on a high-point for many, and I’m glad for that. To me it kinda highlighted that I’m swimming in a slightly different world than a lot of the folks at the conference. Try as I might, I just simply couldn’t get “into” the preaching style of the final keynote speaker. I asked my friend Frank if maybe it was just me and he said, “Well, God’s obviously using what he’s doing so perhaps you should pray that you can get beyond the presentation to the content.” Given that it’s what I tell people all the time, this was good advice. It’s still not my cup of tea (I don’t understand the need to create a “preaching persona,” I have enough trouble being me) – but at least I’m not depressed about it.
Yesterday afternoon I kinda “outed” myself as a post-evangelical (which has been a rare breed here). I did it during a conversation in the afternoon that made be feel “unsafe,” but not so much so that I couldn’t jump in a have a conversation. A good portion of the people kinda drifted away as I started, but one guy from PA really engaged me and we had a wonderful chat (thanks Alex). I’ve also met some great “geek pastors” (I am not the only pastor in ABC-USA who likes Linux!!). One of whom I have a genuine connection with – hopefully, we’ll keep in touch.
For me there were three highlights to the conference (I don’t included the closing session because, really, I got in the way of experiencing it). Here’s what they were for me:
- The conversation between Lee Spitzer and Paul Borden was, to me, the best moment of the conference. To get a group of baptists together with different opinions and have people come out encouraged was simply wonderful.
- Chats in the central lounge were a key to connecting with people, and I formed the start of some good friendships while I’ve been out here.
- The closing feedback session on Friday morning was positive, honest, and helpful. It was a sign of great maturity and hope to me.
I could also list filming the videos we made at the conference, but that was kinda my job and I so I’ll leave it off.
Here’s some things I would like for a follow-up conference in the future:
- Cut down on the long speeches, I’m just not sure we need so many (though I understand the desire to get people “up there” from each region). I think the conversations would have been wonderful as keynote sessions – and we could have ended with a sermon.
- Cut down on the width of topics and create 2 or 3 “tracks” which enable more lengthy conversations.
- Bring in some non-Baptist Evangelicals to help stretch our spirituality (a lot of people kept talking about the “spiritual feel” to the conference – but I’m honestly not sure what they meant by that word). Being deliberately stretched by people friendly to the group they are presenting to, without being part of it, would be a nice change of pace at a conference like this.
So, as a first attempt at something like this, I’ll give us a strong B, but not quite a B+. That’s a good, solid, rating, which brings out that relationships like the ones being formed here take time to develop.
Now, the trip home looks like it’s going to be really interesting. The good news is that I have my video camera (I found out that my laptop bag counts as a “purse” so I can bring the camera bag as well) – so I’ll be taping the descent into dishevelment.