Yesterday I attended the Elephant Room, a round table discussion by seven pastors from around the country from different theological backgrounds and philosophical beliefs. I shared yesterday what I was hoping to get out of it, but today I want to share what I did get out of it.
The day was organized around 7 different conversations, with a moderator and two participants. After they received a chance to talk about the chosen topic, the remaining four participants could briefly give their feedback. The forum made for some interesting conversation and some thoughtful advice for pastors.
My Favorite Conversation
The one that spoke to me the most was Conversation 3: A Hard Day's Night (click on the link for a live blog of that session), which was moderated by Mark Driscoll and had Wayne Cordeiro & James MacDonald speaking. Maybe it is just where I am in my life at this point with a new position at church, going through a building project, young kids, a new house; but I often feel the pressure of ministry more than I should. When I read Cordeiro's book, Leading on Empty, I saw myself in several years. I saw where I will be going if I don't think about caring for my own soul and life.
I found Cordeiro so kind and gracious as he instructed everyone on how to care for your own soul and your own family. One thing that I remember him saying in his book is that nobody in your church is going to fight for your family. The pastor has to do that alone. And in many ways, the pastor that is going through things and is struggling feels trapped. How can they share they are struggling and still expect people to follow them?
I do not write as someone who is burned out or feels trapped. But I see that in the future as a very real possibility. One of the keys they said is asking or inviting other men to speak into your life. That's hard, takes humility, but I see the importance.
The Most Disappointing Conversation
This probably will not surprise anyone, but as I have reflected for several hours, I sort of feel like Driscoll and MacDonald punted on the theological issues with T.D. Jakes. Now, let me say something about Jakes before I share my concerns. This was the first time I have heard him speak in any way (but I have read some things he has written and been quoted as saying). The dude has some incredible insights and is very articulate. But in Session 2: Ticket to Ride, Jakes was asked by Driscoll a series of questions:
"Do you believe the Bible is the perfect, infallible Word of God? Do you believe God is Three Persons? Jesus is fully God and fully Man? He died on the cross for our sins? He rose from the dead? He is coming again? Apart from Jesus there is no salvation?
To each of these, Jakes responds, "Absolutely." This was my fear going into the Elephant Room and this is why I was left feeling empty. For someone who has taken a Modalistic view of the Trinity (That God has manifested himself consecutively over time, but not simultaneously at the same time), to simply answer in the affirmative is not quite enough. I wish Driscoll or MacDonald would have pushed him by bringing up some things he has said in the past that contradict his affirmation. I left confused as to which team Jakes is really playing on. I just hope and trust that those men would have had more detailed conversations behind the scenes with Jakes on this issue. And if they did, why didn't they have them publicly. After all, isn't that the point of the Elephant Room?
In addition, the larger elephant in the room is his view on the prosperity gospel which was never mentioned at all.
My Favorite Participant
I remember being a college student at Moody Bible Institute when Crawford Loritts came for a missions conference. From that moment, he became one of my favorite preachers to listen to. I even had an opportunity to take a preaching class from him in seminary. I was once again reminded why I appreciate this guy so much. Every time he opened his mouth, his words were dripping with wise counsel. I would love to have 30 minutes of his time. For instance, in the conversation I mentioned as my favorite, he gave these wise words of counsel to everyone:
I think some of us who mentor younger leaders are partly complicit in this trajectory. Everyone focuses on conference about leadership development, when we need to focus more time on leader development. We need godly brokenness and a focus on our forever need for the Lord. That's been my salvation. My identity is not my ministry. There needs to be a profound simplicity in terms of how we approach these things. God hasn't been using me because I know how to plan and strategize. Stop looking in the mirror and singing, 'How Great Thou Art!' God has been using crooked sticks for years. Younger leaders get on a treadmill of performance, when the truth of the matter is, God breathed on us. Gifts are oversold. It's what He uses. They are not our value. They're like Moses' staff. Stop separating your relationship with God from what you do. Lead with that instead, and that's when the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and helps us listen.
The Overall Theme
I would say that there is one thing that I took away from this was to stop stereotyping people by their denominations, but engage them in conversation. I think the way I was trained in ministry has shaped me to be skeptical of everyone until they prove themselves to me, particularly other pastors. When maybe I should be more positive about them and their ministry until I see things that show they do not hold to a biblical gospel.
Will I attend if there is another one? Yea, maybe. I think it raised many questions, but offered little answers. But that is okay. Sometimes I need to work it out with those I work closest with in the confines of ministry.
I would be curious: (1) If You Attended, What Was Your Favorite & Least-Favorite; (2) If You Didn't Attend, What Are Your Questions?