Paul and I hit the Convergent Conference today and will finish up tomorrow around 2 pm here in Raleigh, NC. We did the trip on his frequent flyer miles (that's a good deal for me). The conference is on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was great to meet up with Patrick, one of Paul's friends and Jon Rogers, an old friend from Lee.
Ed Stetzer spoke. He always shares a message that the Holy Spirit uses to convict me and focus me back to the main business of preaching Christ. Ed always make me almost want to be a Baptist. Since the conference focused on the emerging church, Ed shared how that:
- the emerging church exists because the church in North America is largely ineffective.
- evangelicalism is struggling for its soul.
- we are in this place because we have forgotten the centrality of the cross.
- we must look to Luke 24 and recapture a. the centrality of the cross, b. repentance and forgiveness of sins, c. the importance of the witness.
- we must live like missionaries.
- missionaries look like the world and live radically different.
- but, many of us live like the world and look radically different.
Then, Mark Driscoll spoke. Excellent stuff. I watch Mark's Vidcast every week. If I could pick a church as a backup church to attend other than Life Pointe, Mars Hill Church would probably be the place. In watching, listening, and reading his stuff, I've had a mental picture that he is a 6'4" trucker looking guy. I guess he's about 5'6"? So, my mental picture of his persona was off a bit...though he still comes off truckerish, engaging, funny, abrasive, and insightful.
With that said, he has HUGE words for the Church. He talked about:
- the difference between the three streams of the emerging church (the relevants, the Emergents, and the confessional contextual calvinists).
- how that Brian McClaren, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell are basically sell outs when it comes to Scriptural integrity. He presented a strong case and held nothing back. Interesting stuff. Without a doubt, this is the most direct, I've heard Mark address these issues.
- He specifically cited their views on the Atonement, views on homosexuality,rabbinical study, their influences, and theology.
- There were some very vivid conversations and references to the virgin Mary and McClaren's new organization, "Deep SHIfT".
- Most importantly, he spoke of how there is a generation of people on the scene now who have no historical knowledge of the Church and how we must engage them.
- If we fail to do so, the Church will continue to compete for an ever shrinking circle of angry children of liberal or fundamentalist religious people.
- Rather than embracing syncretism or sectarianism, we must practice the art of subversion.
- We must follow Paul's example in Acts 17 and "Go and see" the world. We must understand our culture and speak effectively to it whil remaining faithful to the message of Jesus.
At the risk of making this post go on longer than it needs to, I have to say that Driscoll and Stetzer are tapping into a lot of emotions and feelings I have about the Church. It is encouraging to hear and challenging to practice. Great stuff all the way around.