As a professional member of the clergy (I get mail addressed to Reverend Addis… it’s still funny to me) I have developed some mad skills at conference attending.
It’s a little known fact that there are varying levels of ability, not just among those on the platform presenting, but those of us who are skilled, invested and experienced professional listeners. Let me just outline a few for you:
1) Appearing Interested – while every session is good for someone, not every session is good for you. So, to keep from being rude by distracting others with accelerated, involuntary nostril emanations (AKA snoring), a skill set of forced eye contact, meaningful head nods and well placed nonverbal affirmations are essential.
2) Ninja Texting/Surfing – everyone knows you’re not reading your Bible on YouVersion, or taking notes for future references… you’re Tweeting, Facebooking, or looking for ‘Epic Fail’ pics to replace your profile photo. It’s ok, just learn the art of secretive cell phone use. Under the desk, inside the conference program, pushed into a coat or sweater on your lap are all good camouflage techniques for hiding the phone. Just remember, if you are in a darkened seating area, your face will glow no matter how well hidden the phone is, so, use at your own risk.
3) Tactical Seating Selection – there are several things to keep in mind here, but just start with these: aisle seating for fictitious bathroom breaks (limit 2 per daypart), outlet access for midday phone charging (let’s be honest, you’ll drain it before they drain you), support beam seating (usually sitting behind a pole is non-desireable, but the right seat behind the right pole can help you to lean one way for engagement and the other for disengagement).
There is much more that I could share, but I think you get the idea (maybe I should hold a conference on how to develop these skills… maybe not).
But, what’s the point?
A common question that I hear at all these ‘clergy-based’ conferences is this: what is the mission of the church?
There are so many people more intelligent than I. So many who have so much more experience. So many who have overcome so much more. So, maybe this isn’t an appropriate critique coming from a guy like me, but isn’t establishing the mission of the church above our paygrade?
I’ve always believed the Great Co-MISSION given by Jesus (the Son of God, Head of the Body, Groom to this bride we call the church) is probably the mission we ought to go with…
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
You see that’s the vision of the church, that is if you’re a church that worships Jesus.
Too often church staff and lay leaders get distracted with programs, incentives and ideas:
- Social justice issues like global poverty, eliminating racism, or protecting the abused
- Meeting human needs like food and clothing shelters, counseling services and recovery programs
- Finding a niche in the market to reach college students, teenagers, non-english speakers, married, singles or any other flavor of people
These are all incredibly important strategies for the church, but the problem with any of the strategies above is that they are strategies. A strategy can’t be mission anymore than a hammer can be a house. Strategies are tools to accomplish the mission, but we can so easily get lost in the strategy!
We can use any strategy in the world we want, but we can’t alter the mission, and Jesus has already made the church’s mission clear: make disciples.
The real danger of focusing on the strategy/programs is that we get caught up in how many we’ll reach, how much it costs, how long it will take. When those are the questions we ask, we become obsessed with surviving, or thriving as a church.
The mission of the church is not to survive, it is to glorify God. Survival is optional.
So let me encourage you (at whatever church you attend) to not fall in love with a ministry, not dedicate yourself to a program, not to fight for dollars/space/people.
Let me encourage you fall in love with the Savior and commit to His commission.
Never make the hammer the project, but use it to build the house.
There is more I’d like to say, but I’m starting to get some weird looks… I better get back to conference I’m attending. Besides, my iPad is almost dead.