This past week has been filled with observation and learning.
Last weekend the Beeson Pastors and families went to Cincinnati, Ohio to worship at two different churches and visit the Newport Aquarium. We worshiped at Crossroads Church and the Cincinnati Vineyard. Crossroads was a unique experience. Their lobby or gathering spot looks to be the largest open space in their entire building. The children's area is big with classrooms and walkways large enough to handle lots of kids. The sanctuary is an amazing feat in engineering. They are able to seat about 3500 people in a very small space - they have a second and third floor balcony. The feel of worship at Crossroads for me, was like going to a movie or a theater show. We sat in the dark and watched what happened up front. Their guest speaker in introducing himself said he liked a lot of things, among his list was red wine. Interesting. He also referenced Walter Brugemann in his sermon.
At Vineyard we heard a similar kind of music. Their building is configured differently and it feels less obvious as to where you ought to go. Both churches had warm and welcoming guest services people who directed us to where we might want to go. After worship and lunch at their cafe, the executive Pastor at the Vineyard talked with us about their story, especially the story of transition from their founding pastor to their new pastor. After this interchange he took us over to the most interesting place on their campus, their student ministry and healing arts building. They had some flashy stuff on the student side. Their healing art ministry is incredible; hosting a clothing and food distribution ministry, hosting english and spanish as second language courses, hosting over 40 different kinds of ministry to the body, soul and mind, and on Sunday, hosting a Hispanic service. I am amazed at the intentionality and passion behind their service to the those in need, to the looked over in their community.
At the Newport Aquarium, the great joy was in watching the kids delight in the manifold glory of God through the wonder of creation. They were impressed. Aravis and Kyrie loved the jellyfish. Moses and Asa loved the shark tank.
This weekend the Beeson Pastors have traveled to South Bend and then Chicago. In South Bend we visited with the Executive Pastor of Granger Community Church and then participated in the simulcast Willow Creek Conference at that site. Granger is a large United Methodist Church although you might have a hard time finding that out because it is nowhere to be found on the campus. A year ago they hosted a conference entitled "The And Conference." One of our BP's attended their conference and suggested to us that their desire is to be an attractional church and also missional. The Executive Pastor shared with us about some current building plans and what they have been a part of in India and what they hope to do in their home town. In India over the past 10 years they have helped plant over 1000 churches. In their own backyard they are making plans to launch 30 missional communities in the next year. A missional community as they talk of it is could be best described as a cell church/home church/small church from 10 to 50 people, who may or may never visit Granger.
Willow Creek's Leadership Summit was another gem. They had a great faculty. Erwin McManus did some great theological work. A dear woman from Egypt inspired us by speaking of her lessons learned in a hard calling in life. Patrick Lencioni and Steven Furtick were funny and biblical.
Yesterday we drove from South Bend to Chicago. Several of our BP's had never been to Chicago. We parked under Millennium park, took in the great city scape around us, walked to Geno's East for pizza, ate the pizza among pigeons in a park, went to Willow and capped the night off with a Thai restaurant. Bill Hybles didn't speak, but he was there and he led the congregation in a time of prayer. Something very different between this experience and the two previous was the intentionality, intensity and focus of prayer. Hybles led us to pray for people who we know and love who haven't yet opened their lives to Jesus.
Another endeavor that I've been working on this week is a class assignment called a spiritual autobiography. That has been a difficult and joyous project as I write about my life and where God has met me, challenged me, and been at work shaping me.
For several weeks Anna and I have been running. On this trip I went with another BP, Ken Nash. Ken is training for a 1/2 marathon in Lousiville at the end of October. He's trying to convince me to run the race also. I'm thinking about it. I went running with him two mornings and one morning ran more distance at one time than at any point in my life, over 6 miles. It felt great. If we can keep up the training through some other travel experiences maybe I'll join Ken in Louisville at the end of October.
While it's been fun, insightful and inspiring, I'm ready to get home. See you tonight Wilmore.