Friday, May 5, 2017

To Atlanta and Oklahoma?

To Atlanta and Back…to Oklahoma?
I don’t blog often, and lately it has been annually…which certainly is not very often.  Here we go on another quick road trip!
Pastor Chet Hensley and Nic Collins picked me up at 5am Wednesday for the drive to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Orange Conference.  This conference is a multi-denominational Christian event that includes large group worship as well as small group teaching for anyone interested in reaching and teaching his community for Jesus.
A LOT of people attend, from all over the United States and Canada.  This year, there was a large group there from Norway. Norway!  I don’t even know where Norway is, and I’m really glad I did not have to ride from Norway to Atlanta in Pastor Chet’s pickup truck.

Really a LOT of People

We arrived in Atlanta around 7PM, just in time for the evening worship to begin.  The music was loud, perhaps just because of where we were sitting, perhaps because I am old. Just kidding about being old.  I’m not old, I just have a lot of living experience.  This opening session was a worshipful pep-rally, sure to get you looking forward to the day to come.  The musicians and vocalists were outstanding.
It was too dark to take notes during the discussion that occurred at this meeting, but we were looking for new ideas and ways to be the church.  One of the things I liked about this meeting was the round table discussion that they had. It would certainly be a new concept, but certainly another way to present the Good News in a worship service.
It was “late” by the time we left this opening meeting, especially since we had started the day around 4am.  We quickly located our motel and walked a few blocks (uphill both ways, I might add) to a Waffle House for a quick bite to eat before retiring for the evening.  Our waitress was a young lady with a sweet countenance named Cheyenne.  We asked Cheyenne how we could pray for her, and she really could not come up with anything.  Ask me that question and I’ll give you a list….
I know you can see the reflection of a Denny’s sign, but we really were at Waffle House.
The evening lingered for Nic as he worked on a seminary paper, but I was able to turn in relatively early.  The morning was upon us before we knew it. We had a chance to visit with the desk clerk at the motel before we left for the conference. His name was "Jack", and he was from India.  He was Hindu. We learned from Jack that although hundreds of Christians had filled his motel every year for the past 5 years, no one had ever shared the Gospel of Jesus with him before.  Convicting?
We were soon back at the conference center for a day of worship and education.  I attended four break out sessions other than the main praise and worship sessions. 
Leading a Neighbor Minded Next-Gen Team gave us reasons from Scripture why we should be about loving and engaging our neighbors to open our eyes outside the walls of the church. They spoke of a number of financial opportunities, service opportunities, engagement opportunities, and education opportunities.  We must give children an opportunity to serve, or they will no longer see the need to serve.  Neighbor minded opportunities exist from preschool through adulthood.
I also attended Five Roles of a Small Group Leader.  In a nutshell, we learned be present, create a safe place, partner with parents, make it personal, and move them out.  I am looking forward to exploring and expanding these with our small group leaders at Baylor Baptist Church.
We had a surprise for lunch. Nic learned that his sister, a children’s director at a church near Atlanta was attending the conference also.  We walked (uphill both ways again, and in the rain) to a restaurant not too far from the conference center and met her and others from her church for lunch.  While we were there Nic got to hold his nephew!
Another really profitable session I attended was on Marriage Ministry.  It was enlightening to say the least. We explored what opportunities there are to engage people in this ministry, regardless of their current marital status.
The final break out session that I attended was on Time Management.  This was without a doubt the most popular break out session; it was held in the largest room and the room was full.  Perhaps that is an indication of the task that ministers face daily.  We must decide on how we will most productively spend our time; if not, others will decide for us.
The last large group meeting was a night of comedy, music and skits that were simply for entertainment.  Note that it really is okay for a bunch of Christians to get together just to have fun and enjoy our fellowship from time to time, but at the same time, be don’t want to lose sight of our commission.
The next morning, 3am came early…Nic and I had an early flight out of Atlanta to DFW, where a group of men from Baylor Baptist Church would pick us up for the second leg of this great journey.  Pastor Chet stayed in Atlanta for the rest of the day, then drove straight through the night back to Ennis. 
Stay tuned for the rest of the story…Rewired in Falls Creek, Oklahoma!

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