Today I crashed my second Unleashed Conference, actually, it was more of a forum. The first one I attended was considered a conference and had Nancy Ortberg, another person and Reggie McNeal speaking on the subject of church. I loved it. Today's was considered a "forum" and had 7 speakers, I believe all were pastors from around the Bay Area on the subject of their church's best practices. Pastors from Walnut Creek, Santa Clara, the "deep south" aka Gilroy, San Jose, Redwood City, and Los Gatos.
Every pastor had a unique vision and passion for The Church, not just their personal church but the churches in the entire Bay area and beyond. Though all unique, many shared many common themes along the line of reaching outside the church, into the community and the world, showing compassion to all.
I was impressed with all of them but the first speaker really got my attention. Maybe it was because he spoke so quickly I had to listen to intently to understand it all. Maybe it was because he used words I only read in books about missional and incarnational church and community.
After the conference, everyone had the opportunity to have lunch with the pastor of their choice. It was hard to choose. I knew 3 people at the conference but only one of them was staying for lunch, and he was one of the speakers which meant he was "hosting" a lunch. (unfortunately he was given Round Table Pizza to be at while others were sent to Bucca di Beppo, Frankie Johnnie and Luigi's, Sonoma Chicken Coop and another place.) I'd have gone anywhere one of my friends went, but neither of them stayed for lunch. So I was torn: I could go to Round Table with my pastor's group, or get a little out of my comfort zone and meet some new folks.
But then I realized: I have no business going to the lunch anyways! I wasn't a "real" conference attendee. My questions and comments don't "count". Oh, I wrestled a long time figuring out where I wanted to go. One was more comfortable, and though I enjoy listening and talking to my pastor, I am fortunate to hear him speak every Sunday. This was a great opportunity to hear someone else's ideas.
It was such a tough decision but I chose to be uncomfortable. I was convinced I'd be in a sea of 20 others, situated at the very end of a table, so far removed I'd not get to even hear the speakers, let alone interact with him personally. Part of me liked that and part of me truly wanted to learn.
I can't tell you how many times I almost turned around en route to the restaurant. I did not know how to get there from the location I was at. (even with my iPhone) But eventually I made it here, 20 minutes late. I hate being late.
To my horror and surprise, there were only 3 others gathering for lunch. The speaker and his friend, and a guy from the hosting church. Wow.
I was partly happy because I could really learn from this guy, and partly scared to death because I felt so exposed. No hiding at the end of the table. No being in the back row. It was just me and these three other men.
I instantly admitted I had no reason being there; I wasn't a church worker. Just a church attender. No worries, they welcomed me anyways. I literally was shaking..... and after 4 cold diet cokes, I continued to shake! After about 20 minutes I realized I made the right choice. It never got easier, but I started to enjoy it more. His story reminded me of The Tangible Kingdom but it wasn't just in a book..... It was being lived out! Community, Compassion. Engaging with others on a variety of levels. Discovering God together, and discovering our own passion and service in Christ.
I felt I was given a bit more credibility when I listed some of the books I've read. Unleashed is doing another conference this summer and out of the 4 authors/speakers I was familiar with all but one's books. Added to my credibility: my pastor was one of the speakers and my church is "known" as a good church. Yeah, I'm strange to be so interested in church but they were too so it worked out well. I still did not say much, just listened, took notes and drank my diet coke. I was happy I attended and got out of my comfort zone, but I think I'd have enjoyed it more if I wasn't so jittery!
Still, it was a great day and Beautiful Day.org put on a well planned out, engaging conference. I loved that they are committed to bringing in authors and speakers to the bay area so we don't have to travel to hear them. If only I'd be in town the next conference.... I'd enjoy listening to Jim Belcher, Alan Hirsch, and Dan Kimball. I'm really bummed.
I love crashing these conferences.