Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seeking Excellence (3)

Returning from the conference at Green Lake I have many thoughts. They were a great group of pastors and their graduation banquet on Thursday night was inspiring as they reflected on their two year program together. They were all grouped in sixes or sevens, each group with a coach who had kept them closely together in their studies. One of these coaches said to me: "This is all about connectedness. Ministry goes wrong when you drift off on your own - then it's difficult to stay close to Christ. But the closer you stay connected to the other pastors in the group, the more likely it is to stay close to Jesus Christ." Certainly, I have never seen such honest and joyful connections among pastors.

About my part I am still reflecting. Two contrasting comments say much.

  • At my first meal I was introduced to one of the other main speakers at the conference over breakfast. Straight off he said: "I see you are talking about "transformational preaching." Those two words don't belong together!' Taken aback I asked why. ' Because preaching is something that comes top-down and transformation only happens from bottom-up. I do not believe preaching changes anything! John Wesley didn't change Britain by his preaching but by his methods of organization." I was surprised by the suddenness and strength of his challenge. I realized yet again how disillusioned many (able & thoughtful) Christians are about whether God can use preaching to build community for mission. It was a wake-up call.

  • At the end a pastor saw me in the parking lot. "Thank you for ruining my preaching," he said. "Your teaching really pulled some of my practices apart and made me think again." However, he did smile! I had mentioned in one session that effective preachers are always keen to learn more about preaching. I did sense that he was seeking to be more effective as he returned to his church.

We rarely know the outcome of events like this. I was grateful to share my passion for preaching and leadership, but I return even more aware of the mountain of skepticism and resistance that has to be climbed.

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