I spent all day today—from about 8:30am until 9:00pm tonight—at Mariner’s Church here in California. I skipped the labs yesterday because, well, I don’t do labs. I’m sure they were wonderful, but, no. It has been a great day. Here are some highlights.
- Andy Stanley—Andy kicked off the conference with a wonderful sermon. To be honest he started off a little shaky with some questionable historical references, but I’ll forgive that easily for what might be one of the most inspiring messages I’ve heard in a while. He displayed some sweet Stanley Zen and said that there are three aspects of being courageous (the theme of the conference). Number one is staying when it would be easier to leave. Number two is leaving when it would be easier to stay. Number three was about the need to bravely face your secrets and get help with them. All three spoke to me.
- Dave Ramsey—Dave was good, but following Zen Meister Andy must have been tough. Ramsey’s presentation was heavy on cliché’s and low on actual stuff that might help. He told the story of the Tortoise and the Hare and reminded us that the Tortoise—slow and steady, always wins. I did appreciate that reminder.
- Soledad O’Brien—She had a good batch of stories. Honestly, the best part of her presentation was her just being there. It was nice to hear stories about life and our world, a world in need, that were not from a heavily Christianized perspective.
- John Perkins—The Civil Rights activist and author was highlighted in an ‘interview’ format. I found myself enraptured by his testimony of fighting racial injustice and his hope in this current generation. I believe he is onto something when he says this current generation—and he is not talking about my age but the 20 somethings—might be the first generation to fulfill the great American creed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal.” I hope he is right.
- Eugene Peterson—this may have been the professional high for me. Peterson was formatted in the same interview style as Perkins and it was fantastic. Peterson talked about his life as pastor and how he once exclaimed in a leadership meeting at his church that he didn’t have time to be a pastor because he was too busy “running the damn church.” That made me laugh. I bought his new book. I wish he’d been signing today. That is one signature I would have wanted.
- Judah Smith—I had never really heard of him before; which is odd because he ministers in Seattle. I can only say that he brought it. Judah’s sermon was a sermon—in the classic style of actually using the Bible as a text. He was the only preacher who asked us to read the Bible and then deliver solid exegesis. His message was accurate and moving. He spoke eloquently about disappointment in God’s apparent unfulfilled promises from 2 Kings 4. It was something every pastor in that audience of 3,500 people could identify with. I hope to hear him again.
The music was really good as well, but I don’t come for the music. The facilities were nice. Mariner’s church has a beautiful campus. The food was kind of lousy, I must say, but all the free coffee was nice.
I am looking forward to tomorrow and the flight home.