I was incredibly encouraged today. That was after about 40 minutes of discouragement in the first plenary session of Exponential.
Ed Stetzer began the conference’s first main session, and his “presentation” consisted of statistics and research. Terrible way to begin a conference that should be inspirational and encouraging. In addition to that, everything he shared seemed targeted for the megachurch, in essence telling them that they need to be planting churches instead of growing monstrously large. (I agree with that but see no problem with them doing the latter if they’re diligently and sacrifically doing the former.)
In short, I give Stetzer’s presentation a D-. Seriously. The content was good, just inappropriate for the context.
However, the second half of his presentation was a panel with different pastors of large churches who were modeling church planting. That was what was encouraging. To a “T,” all of them had wonderful words of encouragement and affirmation for the gathering of almost 3000.
Ron Sylvia, pastor of The Church at the Springs (very cool, Mac-like website) said some very deeply encouraging things to the group, as did the other panel members which included Neil Cole, author of Organic Church.
Then came Andy Stanley, pastor of Northpoint Community Church, and he hit a home run. Not only did he speak with humility and complete candor about everything from his dad’s divorce to his church plant/split, but he shared some profound insights about vision – mainly from his book Visioneering, which I am continuing to read and drink deeply of. I’ve read dozens of books in the past 18 years about vision, and it is hands-down the best.
Throw in some wonderful one-on-one visits with Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosaic Church in Conway, Arkansas; Tim Smith, (former campus ministry buddy) executive pastor at Pinelak Church in Brandon, Mississippi and numerous conversations with others in the hallways and organizational booths, and it was a great day!
I spent the evening reading Visioneering by the pool in the gorgeous central Florida weather.