I had the chance to attend the first ever New Room Conference put on by Seedbed this past week in Franklin, TN. Disclaimer: I write for Seedbed and did my M.Div. work at Asbury Theological Seminary so I recognize the bias I may have. With that being said, the very reason I write for Seedbed and found the New Room Conference to be so meaningful are the ways in which Wesleyan theology is embraced and articulated. It is not so much that the information is entirely new or those who shared are new to the Wesleyan movement, the newness comes through an awakening of understanding what it means to be a Wesleyan Christian. If you weren’t able to attend this year, be sure to put September 16-18, 2015 on your calendar and enjoy some of the takeaways I had from the conference.
Ed Stetzer talked about our need as Wesleyans to connect our great heritage with our situation today as we find ourselves in a “post-devout” culture. We must rediscover our frontier ministry by finding the cultural frontiers today and figure out how and where the Church needs to show up.
Stetzer said that if we’re not planting 3% of our current churches per year, our trend will continue to be decline, which in my context, is The United Methodist Church. We must renew the characteristics of a movement: applicable preaching, being a church of the common person, a simple reproducible model, and intentional spiritual growth.
Deb & Alan Hirsch talked of the importance of incarnational living through the practices of presence, proximity, prevenient grace, powerlessness (humility), passion, and proclamation. It is through this sort of missional living that we better understand the context of what the ‘Good News’ looks like for the unchurched, de-churched, and anti-church.
Joe Dongell highlighted the importance of love in what it means to be Wesleyan and how this love is distinct of an action but rather is a disposition, something that precedes the action taken. Any and all love we express is the result of the love we have received from God. We must be filled up with God’s love in order to then truly love the other. This being “filled up with God’s love” is seeking after the gift that God so graciously gives, it is the journey of becoming holy. This is a shaping of our wills, desires, and affections into the heart of Christ.
Kim Reisman spoke about the importance of creating space as foundational to evangelism. It is inviting individuals into an embrace rooted in trust while also respecting the integrity of the other by waiting for a response, not forcing the message.
Kevin Watson spoke of our need to return to a class meeting structure that invites individuals into living their relationships with God together. The addiction to curriculum in our churches has provided the perfect distraction to avoid talking about our own faith journeys. The class meeting structure combats this by using our life with God as the group curriculum.
Watson also described worship as an example of prevenient grace, class meetings as an example of justifying grace, and band meetings as an example of sanctifying grace. I found this to be a particularly interesting model of church life.
Tim Tennent spoke about how we have lost the ability to live in the prophetic margins. We have gotten so comfortable within the broader cultural stream that we have lost what it means to possess a distinctive Christian identity and live within the margins. A part of this will require seeing the rebirth of Christianity as a church planting movement, mobilized by the involvement and engagement of non-clergy.
Phil Tallon dropped this nugget: confirmation serves as the completion of the baptismal sacrament. Then he dropped the mic and walked off stage…or didn’t, but still, boom!
Phil Meadows reminded us that the Church can be full of good people and still die. That if we are doing mission without spirituality we will burn out, if we are purely spiritual without real mission, we will rust out. The effectiveness of our mission is directly related to our willingness to abide deeply in God. The outgrowth of our own discipleship is missional living, which is sharing the whole gospel through our journey of sanctification. It is sharing firsthand out of the experience of following Christ.
Those are a few of my takeaways from the New Room Conference. If you had the opportunity to attend, feel free to share some of the things you found most meaningful from our time together. Needing clarification on a point I’ve mentioned? Just ask.