Have you ever tried drinking from a firehose? It will quench your thirst and give you a good soaking too! That is what the ECO National Gathering is like. It quenches a deep thirst for God and soaks one in his presence. With 1,500 pastors, elders and ministry leaders in attendance, the singing is powerful.
Ruth Haley Barton led off the teaching and nailed us with the reminder that the whole world isn’t worth our soul and that Jesus is the one who holds our souls. Too often we are tempted, or at least I’m tempted, to want Jesus’ blessings rather than simply Jesus himself. In her breakout session she gave us some great tools for checking ourselves on this.
Lunch offered an opportunity to catch up with our friends from Pars, a theological center for Iranian pastors. We got an insider’s view on what is going on in Iran. It is messy but God is clearly on the move and Pars is helping position the church to respond to the openness God is creating in one of the darkest places in the world.
Our second general session was with Eugene Cho. I’m excited for his upcoming book “Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk – A Christian Guide to Engaging Politics” but his focus was on Luke 5:17-20, and five practical things evidenced there that lead to a mutual spurring: if we are marked by faith in Jesus, a spirit of compassion, action, a spirit of collaboration and perseverance.
Next came a breakout session with Don Everts, a friend and covenant brother who has done some amazing work that can help us engage folks in spiritual conversations. We just need to access where they are (unreceptive, receptive or seeking), pray for them and then develop a conversation tailored to where they actually are. Don’s work here is truly game changing and I’m eager to introduce it to you. (By way of reminder, we walked through an earlier book of Don’s called “I Once was Lost” on the five thresholds people travel through in the journey to faith a few years ago as a Lenten sermon series and we used yet another book by him “Go and Do” in the Sunday school class I taught this past fall.
We all had dinner together tonight and then worshipped together around those same tables, occasionally breaking into groups of three to four to pray over various things. It was powerful and an intriguing potential model for an alternative worship service.
Add to all this just catching up with people, sharing ideas and comparing notes and you can see why I compared it to drinking from a fire hose, and this was just day one. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.