The Ecclesia National Gathering last week was, as usual, and as expected, a great week for me. Some of the most encouraging and stimulating relationships I have had in our church start-up journey have come through Ecclesia.
I was tired headed in, and I knew that. I was ready for the break. I didn’t quite realize how tired until I was there. There was more than one session where I just felt the need to sit and soak…worrying less about taking in content and more about just being able to have a break from things. Even so, the content I did take in was what I needed. While Ecclesia is typically a pretty thoughtful group, we shifted our emphasis some this year. We spent less time talking theology and theory, and more time talking about spiritual formation and soul care.
Every word from Dallas Willard, at least the ones that I heard and comprehended, was fantastic. Bob and Mary Hopkins were humble, authentic, and genuine as they shared the work they’ve been part of in the UK for the last 30 years. Aside from the content from the presenters, especially Dallas Willard’s first talk of the week, there are a few thoughts that are hanging with me:
Relationships. This is what drew me to Ecclesia in the first place, and what keeps drawing me back. When I first connected with Ecclesia a few years ago, it was the most I ever felt like I had connected with my tribe. It is a collection of thoughtful practitioners who value both the why and the how questions. There are no superstars, but there is a lot of humility and openness and asking and sharing.
Bi-occupation. Doing church planting work while drawing income from other sources was an ongoing conversation. It was great, of course, to spend time with my good friend Todd Hiestand, the staff from Life on the Vine, and others as we talked through the positives and pitfalls of bi-occuptional (or bivocational) church planting. I imagine I have at least one more blog post forming about this, but I’m encouraged that some of my own learnings and experiences are consistent with others.
Spirit-shaped mission. A significant theme for me this past year has been trying to learn how to hear and follow the leadings of the Spirt in life and ministry. On Wednesday morning, we heard from several speakers on the topic of Living Through the Power of the Spirit. I was able to introduce the topic that morning. As I shared then, I appreciate the diversity of method and practice within Ecclesia, while carrying a shared passion for mission. But if there is one thing we must have in common, it is an openness to the leading of the Spirit. Any church shaped around being sent out to mission must do so by following where the Spirit leads into mission. I’m looking forward to the day where I can walk that as well as I can talk it.
I know there are many readers of my blog who are within different stages of a church planting journey. As you are looking for networking or being part of something larger than your own ministry, I’d encourage you to explore the Ecclesia Network. Drop me a line if you’d like to know more.