The truth is that we need to be light on our feet and open-minded to creativity and innovation; to new ways of considering how to connect with people and adapt to culture; to interpret theology and biblical understandings with the myriad of lenses available to us.
Next Church executive director and this year’s Next Church National gathering preacher Rev. Jessica Tate is a voice urging this movement.
Dr. De La Torre’s keynote is what I am most looking forward to at NEXT this year, not because I will enjoy it the most but because I am convinced he will speak to me words of discomfort and hopelessness that I need to hear in order to sit in the dust and ashes that properly fuel the gospel.
Dr. Blount also taught me about the power of proclamation (even though I never took a preaching class from him) – how to make the gospel relevant, how to use stories and metaphors to illustrate a difficult-to-articulate biblical concept, how to awaken your listeners to the awareness that even we, broken as we may be, have within us the capacity to make God’s kingdom a reality, here and now.
The National Gathering of NEXT Church is perennially inspiring, fun, and motivating. Yes, there have been speakers who jolt us and spark new ideas. The 2020 National Gathering – in particular – promises to make us uncomfortable.
Keynoters Mike Mather, De’Amon Harges, and Miguel de la Torre will make us decidedly uncomfortable in Cincinnati March 2-4, 2020. And this is very good.
With 700 amazing church leaders descending on Cincinnati for the 2020 NEXT Church National Gathering shaped by that Joshua passage, the team tasked with inviting key-noters, preachers and testimony-givers for this conference knew that our invitations needed to go to people actively involved in relevant ministry. The team needed these speakers to help us look to the future, to reflect on the way in which God has worked in them and through them, and to give us a word of challenge to ignite our witness, hope, and power in God.
There was one thing they agreed on; I would be leading the music ministry. I was their musical Boy Wonder whose gifts they had nurtured for over 20 years. There was the chance, I thought, that I could fix this problem over the next few weeks by producing soothing melodies from our stellar choir. After all, these same impressive salves had eased the pain in smaller past upheavals.
It was not to be so. And the shipwreck would be my fault.
This was a morning of many failures. I never made it to the church where I was scheduled to preach. Luckily, they had a backup plan due to the poor weather conditions. I failed to know my own limits. I had fooled myself into thinking if I set my mind to something I could accomplish the task at hand. But in reality I have had no life experience to help me navigate these roads in the snow. And though I work in a prison and make it my task every week to offer grace, and love to all people no matter what is in their background, I made assumptions about the angels who rescued me because of a political sticker.
Mistakes are the holy stone in the shoe of perfection.
Mistakes pierce the ego that says, “I must get this right,” and offers the assurance that we all are in this together.
Big and small, forgivable and painful for years, mistakes are going to happen. Our best hope is to prepare and do our best.
“Now, remember, Steven, if you run into any trouble out there, you can always bail. There’s never any shame in bailing.”-Greg Universe
The quote above comes from Steven Universe, a children’s cartoon that often promotes messages about healthy emotions and decision making to children and adults alike. It comes from Greg Universe, father of the title character, right before his son attempts something that is both very exciting and unlikely to work. Although his words are few, his message is profound: sometimes, even when we don’t feel like we should, it’s okay to stop. It can be better to abandon the plan than to try and force yourself into something that you know just isn’t going to be worth it.
It’s not that I’m a big fan of failure, it’s just that I’ve had enough gaffes to know that if they haven’t killed me yet, they likely won’t. And as someone who values authenticity and vulnerability, sharing our failures is often a way to cut through the b.s. that’s so much a part of the world.