I've been in Austin this week for Q, a conference that brings together leaders to discuss how the church, culture, future and Gospel all relate. The event brings together people from numerous spheres of influence, slightly more than half were primarily connected to the church. Over the course of three days we heard 18 minute presentations on topics ranging from the narrative of Scripture to nuclear disarmament to neuroscience. Interspersed with the presentations were a lot of opportunities for conversation. This is one of the first conferences I've been to where absolutely every session sparked something for me. It was also great to catch up with friends I haven't seen in awhile and meet a lot of new people.
Alan Hirsch gave a great opening presentation and I had the opportunity to have several follow up conversations with him about a missional approach to church, technology, ethnography in a digital world, and how age-specific ministry fits with a both/and attractional/missional ministry model.
Probably most important takeaway from this session was that discipleship is much more important than conversion. Hirsch uses the example of the disciples in Scripture, who by modern "baptized by the spirit" standards weren't converted until Pentecost, yet were still disciples. It's about the direction of your life and learning to follow Jesus than getting people to a statement of faith. The church should be more about helping people grow than about trying to convert them. People who are being truly being discipled (as described in Scripture) will come to faith because their lives are moving in the direction of God.
Some other thoughts:
- The church has gotten really good at extracting people from culture but is not very good at keeping people in cultural relationships once they become Christian.
- Holiness has been defined negatively (by what we don't do) rather than the way Jesus exhibited holiness redemptively.
- Christianity should be about redeeming the world, not fleeing from the world. How can we ensure that discipleship isn't an isolationist activity.
- Current church models will realistically only connect with 30-40% of the population. What models need to be developed to reach the other 60-70% of people?
I'll write some more about other sessions, but now I have to get on the plane.