It felt a little like we limped into the event, which was kind of disappointing. The welcome and opening music were extremely low-key -- almost as if those organizing the event weren't quite ready for it to start, or maybe that they've done it so many times before that it ceases to inspire any excitement or energy -- but fortunately things are picking up a bit.
We heard a great sermon from Bishop Minerva Carcano this afternoon. She is a great storyteller. I especially appreciated her stories about visiting with church planters in the Philippines, where there is such passion for sharing the Gospel with nonbelievers, and about Christians ministering to immigrants on both sides of the border with Mexico. Clearly she is a faithful servant leader, and I appreciate her impassioned witness.
I am participating in an urban ministry track, called "God at the Crossroads in the City," led by Kelvin Sauls of the General Board of Discipleship. Here are a few nuggets from our first track session:
- More churches are closing in urban contexts than anywhere else.
- Cities are at the crossroads.
- Churches are at the crossroads.
- Cities are coming alive again. Urban flight is over, and people have moved back -- not the same people who left, but young people, many of them single.
- Urban churches have mostly reorganized to serve the poor, but those coming back to the cities are not necessarily the poor.
- How do we undertake an innovative both/and ministry that cares for the poor and advocates for the poor, while engaging newcomers?
- Newcomers to the city are experiencing "Post-Suburban Syndrome" as they react against the decisions their parents made. They are not churchy, but spiritual. They don't care about denominational labels. Largely, they think the church is irrelevant to their lives. They may not come to a worship service, but they're eager to engage worship through service.
And a couple of nuggets from tonight's plenary with Ed Jones, founding pastor of The Living Water UMC in Pearland, Texas, which we received as a live feed from Grand Rapids, the second site for this year's School of Congregational Development:
- We must lead from the overflow of our devotional life.
- Take the values off your charts and plant them in people's hearts.
- Pray for eyes and hearts to notice what Jesus notices.