Reflecting on Ecclesia 2012

I just returned from Washington DC and my fourth gathering with Eccleisia: a network of missional churches. GCM helps a number of folks here raise ministry funds, but I didn't just attend for my role. Instead, this community, which has both old and new friends for me, has increasingly been a personal fresh wind in my sails as I struggle with what it means to follow hard after God in the church, and watch others do the same. Some short reflections:

Academic

This year's gathering was decidedly less academic than past years: Dunn, Barth, Yoder, Haurwass, Wright, Willard—these names were present in passing quotes but did not hold focus. Instead the daily stories seemed more vivid than ever: cooking BBQ ribs for the semi-homeless, speaking Jesus into Republican and Democrat talking points, children contributing to home group discussions. There were laughter and tears about the things people say to church planters. There were moments of high vision and low reality checks.

I would be sad if some of the informed and honest theological dialog faded from Eccleisia's DNA, but this year seemed a welcome path through the less abstract.

Momentum

Ecclesia hasn't ever tried to create a Conference in the Large Video Screens, Sponsors, Christian Buzz sense. And the gathering seemed somewhat smaller than last years. But while size sometimes feels like momentum (or lack), this didn't feel like the case here. Maybe it was simply the stories of faithfulness and failure, but Momentum seemed to be everywhere.

Being a Part

I originally sought out Ecclesia because I was thinking seriously of what it would mean to launch into a new church plant. Who and How and Where? Instead, my path has taken a different route as I help lead GCM, which puts me in an ancillary role: constantly working with church planters, but never doing it myself. How do I feel about that?

There was a moment in the last two days when I felt sad: when Ecclesia did an amazing job of having new church planters stand up front and welcomed them with personal exhortations. Didn't I have a dream to be up there? For I moment, I was tempted to feel I didn't belong. But reflection points out the many other minutes where the shared mission and mutual hospitality made me feel right in the center of things, cared for, and excited to help and challenge others.

Plenty more thoughts on ideas, people, and God-work at the conference, but on the whole, I felt encouraged by being in the company of friends on the same mission.  Oh, and here are my top 10 twitterquotes of the gathering.