I shared the lessons I learned from Session One of The Advance 13 conference earlier this morning. Before I get to the evening session, I wanted to share one other aspect of the afternoon session I left out in that long review. It was really impressed upon me that they are very concerned for life change. The leaders care very little about content transfer. They want us to learn and grow. They said that repeatedly. But in addition, we spent two different times in a concert of prayer. It was a welcomed change to be at a conference that emphasized the participants to pray that God would do something in their heart while they listened to the teaching. Now onto the evening session, which was composed of two main teaching times.
"The Multi-Ethnic Church" by Brian Loritts
Several years ago a team of people, including Brian Loritts, set out to plant a racially diverse church in one of the most racially contested cities in America: Memphis. His heart for a multi-ethnic church bled through as he preached on Ephesians 2. His emphasis was that the good news of Jesus brings people together. The good news of the gospel is meant to heal vertical AND horizontal.
I think the one statement that impacted me the most was when he said the most powerful evidence of the gospel is when two people with nothing in common come together for worship. It just doesn't make any earthly sense. Therefore, it must be something outside of this world.
To be honest, I have heard messages like this before and have left empty. I really do not believe that I have any racial bias at all. I would love for our church to be more racially diverse. The only problem is that the main city in which I serve is almost 97% white. I believe our church should be open for everyone. But even more than that. We should pursue everyone. But it does seem to me that the church in which you serve should be a representative of the area in which you minister.
I appreciated that at the end of the message, he did acknowledge that. It is the first time I have heard a message on a multi-ethnic church that was gracious enough to admit that sometimes we might serve in an area of the country that is just not possible to be racially diverse.
That said, his last point was well taken. He impressed upon me this thought: When was the last time I intentionally became the "only one."
"A Hunger for God: The Foundation of Faithful AND Effective Ministry" by John Piper
I love John Piper. There are very few people that motivate me to love Jesus like this man. I would love to spend time with him. He draws me in, not because he is extra special. But there is something in him that lures me to love and pursue Jesus. His joy and passion oozes from every word of his message.
He message focused upon the goal of ministry by Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:24: "Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy." Paul's goal . . . our goal in ministry should be to work for the joy of those we minister to every day. He encouraged us to make this our functional mission statement. The result of our working for their joy is that it produces in us joy. We are joyful when they are joyful. Their joy produces joy in us.
And it works the other way around as well. If we have joy, it will produce in those we minister to a joy. As Paul continued into chapter two, he thought that if he had joy, they would be joyful (vs. 3). And then the climax was that he had abundant love for them. That's the joy. When we are out to increase each other's joy, that's true love! It could also be said like this: when you find full satisfaction in Jesus, I find joy in you . . . and vise versa. This is Christian love.
The result of this pursuit of joy in others will lead me to a hunger for God. If there is no hunger in my heart, there will be no joy in their heart. We ended with a urgent call to fight for this desire or joy.
Piper got me in this message. There is no doubt that I want our people at CBC to abandon the things of the world and pursue Jesus with everything that they have. I know and desire for them to find their ultimate satisfaction in the joy of the Lord. But I wonder if it has been a secondary motivation for me. I wonder if I have put the pursuit of joy as a byproduct instead of the goal. This is something I will take more time to process in my own heart.