It’s hard to believe over a week has passed since returning from the Convergence gathering in south Florida earlier this month. About 80 Christian leaders from around the nation came together to think and dream about the future of the church, and the conversations and planning were energizing.
Part of the reason I went to Convergence is that my doctoral project is examining rural cultural emergence and Christianity. Much writing exists on emerging Christianity, and much exists on small town ministry, but virtually no writing connects the two in any way.
I’m convinced more than ever that 1) post-modernity is impacting rural culture with each passing day, 2) that diverse groups of Christians have much to learn from each other, and 3) that in partnering together we can better meet the challenges of the new paradigm.
I felt, in many ways, like a fish out of water, as did others, including (one of many) a new friend named Colby Martin, who blogged about his own experience here. There were leaders from all over the country with more notoriety than I’ll probably ever have. There were people from all walks in life and a wide variety of faith traditions.
In going to Convergence I was hoping to meet some people to bounce ideas off of for my final project this Spring. I definitely did that, but the event was more than a networking opportunity. I came away with new sisters and brothers in the faith, utterly amazed at the mosaic of the Body of Christ.
In going to Convergence I was hoping to meet some people to bounce ideas off of for my
final project this Spring. I definitely did that, but the event was more than a networking opportunity. I came away with new sisters and brothers in the faith, utterly amazed at the mosaic of the Body of Christ.
I even met a few people from small town churches, and had a chance to hear about their experience dealing with postmodern understandings in rural ministry contexts.
Most of all, here are my take-aways from Convergence:
- For the sake of the church, for the Gospel, for the Kingdom of God, and for the world, the labels that have so long divided Christians must fall away. The planning that took place at Convergence was the beginning of something beautiful, and something radically significant. When we choose to see the other through the eyes of Christ instead of through tired dogma, denominational filters, or social stereotypes, the Kingdom of Heaven begins to break through.
- The future of the church is bright and the narrative of decline is defeatist. Every person that gathered at Convergence showed up because they are deeply concerned about the future of the faith. Groups met during the week to discuss the future of Christian worship music, the deep need to reform theological education, the possibility of creating a cross-denominational network of 10,000 like-minded churches, and to develop a plan for media engagement promoting a more generous view of Christianity than is often portrayed by (usually) fundamentalist talking heads. The church is alive, and moving, and renewing.
- This movement is deeply rooted in the Bible, and in the Good News of Jesus. Non-fundamentalist Christians have often been accused of not taking the Bible seriously, but in my experience (not only with Convergence but personally) nothing could be further from the truth. Deep and abiding principles in Scripture lead us to work for a world and for a faith that reflects the Gospel of Christ, the ethos of Christ, and the radical love God calls us to live out through following the two great commandments.
- Convergence and the projects that will come from it will benefit churches not only across North America and around the world, but especially rural congregations. Theological education retooled and made more accessible, 10,000 churches sharing ideas and resources freely without denominational and publishing house strings attached, a music sharing service placing theologically sound worship songs and charts in the hands of worship leaders in a cost effective manner, and initiatives seeking to better steward the earth as God’s creation are all initiatives with incredible potential for rural congregations.
We are a diverse bunch, from multiple backgrounds including evangelicals, mainline protestants, congregationalists, and anabaptists. Being the church together is far more important that all that might separate us. The world is in desperate need of God’s love, in desperate need of more just and holy narratives, and in desperate need of people of faith leading the way. This is what Convergence is all about.
Many of you (friends, family, and readers) made it possible for me to attend Convergence through your generous donations. I would not have been able to go without your kind and generous support. Praying God blesses each of you for your giving hearts.