In my last post I briefly reviewed two thematic threads that ran through the NEXT Church gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina earlier this week, namely worship and failure. Since then, Maryann McKibben Dana has very helpfully posted a blog roundup of the event.
This post will share two other prominent ideas at the gathering: invitation and creation.
The great strength of NEXT gatherings is that they invite participants to experience the things they’re talking about. There’s lots of talk about new practices for worship–as we worship–, and we’re invited to practice new things (like improv) before anyone says a thing about the importance of invitation.
Which they do. Patrick Daymond gave a great talk about one-to-one conversations in the church as a vehicle not only for building relationships but also for inviting God’s people to take specific actions. He decried a culture of mass email invitations and insisted that people must re-learn the art of the face-to-face personal invitation.
I was coming out of my seat during Patrick’s talk, because my church is pushing all our chips to the center of the table on this. It’s part of a “listening campaign” made up of one-on-one meetings between church members. The Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and its philosophy of relational community organizing is the backdrop for all of this. IAF language has been part of NEXT from the beginning.
Dr. Paul Roberts (see tweet above) gave the first talk of the event and enjoined the church to fulfill its vocation of creation. This wasn’t a simple repetition of the harmless plea for “creativity,” though. It was a plea to create: to make stuff, try new things, even if those things don’t seem particularly “creative.” He drew upon the parable of the talents (Matthew 25) to say that refusing to create draws God’s judgment.
Given this, we created. Again led by the inqonquerable Theresa Cho, we made stoles for ourselves. Armed with Sharpies and a cloud of words, we penned our callings and then shared them with a stranger who placed it on us with the benediction, “Your calling is to . . . ” I posted mine to Twitter:
This calling to create is a gift from the first Creator. I, for one, am happy to be chasing down this calling with this company of folk. Thanks to Jessica Tate and all the event organizers for seriously inspiring, useful, transformative stuff. See you in Minneapolis!