I've been at the Exponential Conference in Orlando for over 24 hours now, and I have been impressed with the shared message of those who are leading it. Every clan has its tribal leaders, and Dave Ferguson and Alan Hirsch seem to be the chiefs who set the agenda, but many others add their take on all things "missional" here.
I heard Dave Ferguson and Jon Ferguson and their team first. Ferguson and Ferguson are the authors of Exponential, and starters of Community Christian Church in the Chicago area. Their "Leadership Path," while not new (what is?) is practical advice to help us develop leaders. The best quotes, "Don't skip a step" while training leaders and "Everything I learned about church planting, I learned in small groups."
Neil Cole woke me up this morning as he bounced through his original work, Organic Church. I had read (and read reviews of) his Organic Leadership with the Ph.D. cohorts at DBU, and had sensed he was really angry with the church--many of the reviewers felt the same way. But, in person he does come across that way at all. He has a deep love for Jesus, then His disciples, and then the church; so, he spends most of his time calling church people back to being disciples before they are church professionals and consumers. I appreciated his sometimes-slanted exegesis of the parables of the kingdom (but who doesn't do that?), and his DNA for church: Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Apostolic Mission ring true. It's all in Organic Church, and I recommend you read it and wrestle with what he is saying.
My first live encounter with Alan Hirsch was much like my first meeting with John Eldredge of Wild At Heart fame. I wondered, "Is this guy the giant behind this movement?!?" Alan is a small man who you would not pick out of a crowd as the leader. But, he is a man with a huge mind and open heart for the things of God. He doesn't win you over with charisma or stature, but he pours into your head and heart insights from God dug out of the mines of boots-on-the-ground kingdom practices in a country not far ahead of America's post-Christian culture. On The Verge will be another step in the path of discovery for those wanting to be the church rather than manage one.
Francis Chan continued to process his personal, spiritual journey in real time through his cathartic confessions during the opening session. He so wants to get it right. I did appreciate his stories while in India and China and his persistent call to take the Bible seriously about who we are in Christ and who we are as the church.
Good News: Legacy Church continues to make its way along the path Jesus intended it to become in its rapidly changing mission field. What I hear here is not foreign language to our people, but we are still learning how to live as missionaries in our mission fields.
Most Interesting: All this missional talk is going on in the buildings of First Baptist Church, Orlando, which are lined with vendors, located beside its Christian Academy, and sitting on a well-manicured, multi-acre campus. As Matt Stone, who suggested I join him on this expedition, said, "There are so many layers of irony here." If you ache for the missional revival of the church, you know what he is talking about.