The Uprising. I knew there would be church leaders there from all over the country from all different size churches, and I dreaded being around them.
See, I've been to many church conferences over the years. I know the routine. Everyone skips out on boring sessions so they can sit around and compare their latest sermon series or last week's offering. I wondered what I would have to talk about. We haven't even launched yet. I have a few people sitting around my living room every Sunday afternoon who are dying to get to downtown Greenville, but we aren't there yet. Still, I felt compelled to press through the insecurity and dread.
We decided to go for broke and enrolled in the pre-conference sessions too. There were three of them on Wednesday afternoon followed by a baptism service that evening. It didn't help my anxiety that it was exactly 1 o'clock when the friendly parking lot attendant pointed us to a parking space. The first session had just started as we walked to the registration desk. The volunteers quickly found our names, gave us our books, and offered to take us to the classroom.
Dave Griffith was already teaching as we walked in, but he greeted us and invited us to come in. Then it began. Dave is the Connections Pastor at Quest Community Church, the host of the conference, and his class was on Volunteerism: Unleashing the Power of Everybody. Some of his material I had heard before, but he is a great presenter and his passion for people became apparent very quickly. In one of his points he read I Thessalonians 2:8 "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." I'm sure every volunteer at Quest has this verse memorized, because for the next two days I saw them live out this verse with sincerety.
The second session I attended was Helen Musick's class called Beyond Sobriety. Helen is the Transformation Pastor at Quest and leads their very visible Redemptive Recovery Community. She started her class by telling her personal story leading the way for several other "Questers" to do the same at the end of the class. I began to see why I was here. These people are acting exactly like what I envision a Transformer to be. I have been part of recovery ministries for over ten years and have led a few myself, but I have never seen a church demostrate freedom the way I saw it in these folks.
The third session I attended was taught by the "Pastor of Facebook" Shaun King from Atlanta. He talked to us about how to get the Gospel out through social media (such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) I think the primary thing that grabbed my attention was his question, "Who is our competition?" The answer is not the church up the street, or another denomination. Our competition is any voice that tries to drown out the voice of the Gospel. Well, that's my interpretation of his answer. I love keeping up with Shaun on Twitter and Facebook. He is an awesome man of God.
I was glad to run into a couple of Exodus friends at the conference, and Chris and I got to have dinner with one of them. It was a welcome break. I had so many thoughts already churning inside me about how I want to implement some of the strategies and ministry approaches that I had heard. Little did I know how much more God had for me in the next five sessions.
I won't go into a lot of detail about those, but let me describe for you what happened in me during the rest of the conference. There was no sitting around tables comparing church size. There were incredible worship experiences and powerful testimonies from about 75 people whose lives have been changed through the power of Jesus. What I did see was a living, breathing, effective demonstration of Jesus' church. I thought, "This is why Jesus wanted to start a church!"
In the evening celebration, Pete Hise, Lead Pastor at Quest, told us that The Uprising is not a conference, it's a movement. I sure hope so. I want to move with a group of pastors and churches that are bent on preaching the Gospel, living the Gospel, and sharing the Gospel.
When God gave me the vision for Transformation House, I took notes for what I wanted it to be. At that time, I had never even heard of recovery ministries and downtown Greenville was largely vacant. (That's just two things that have changed in the ensuing years!) I feel like God led me to The Uprising to show me that the vision can be accomplished. There are people who want to love God, love people, and prove it. (That's Shaun King's slogan.) There is a world full of people who want the freedom that we have - if we just offer it to them.
Wouldn't you like to be a Transformer?