I've been connecting with all kinds of people here -- thus, here are some snippets and tidbits from conversations and a summary of major points from the panel discussion with representitives from churches in Israel, Pakistan, and Brazil (or rather immigrant Brazlian communities in the US)
* I met moderator Joan Grey -- she's humbled by this experience of being moderator -- she covets our ongoing prayers -- not just for her strength and energy and wisdom, but also for Revival.
* I met a PCUSA Mission worker who is very concerned that efforts like this will drain funds from and hurt existing PCUSA missions within the denomination -- she reminded us that her work is not just hers individually, but also negotiated through a vast network of support that most congregants dont see. I took her card and went straight to the folks from Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship who are working with the Outreach Foundation and the Worldwide Ministries Division of the Church to develop new and effective ways to keep the good missions that exist funded and supported.
* I spoke with a Brazilian pastor who challenged me to consider working with immigrant communities.
* I met up with an old friend who has been disappointed -- he was looking for more direction "This is basically just a worldwide mission conference," he told me, "I wanted more direction on where we're going and how we can get there." He told me that he was likely going to recommend that his church go with the New Wineskins movement becuase they have a structure in place.
* I've reconnected with folks I met at General Assembly this year, and with old friends from across the denomination. In many ways this is a sweet family re-union.
* I've bought books (surprise surprise) on the missional church and missional engagement -- look for reviews forthcoming in the Eagle and child
And things that I picked up in this afternoon's plenary session -- realize that this is filtered through me trying to apply the comments to myself. The participants didn't shake their fingers and say "listen up, western church" -- they spoke humbly, but passionately. They shared their hearts frankly, but they also reflected joy that they were participating in God's great mission. They were deeply thankful to be among us. That said, here are the challenges to my thinking that I heard:
* The western church can stand to learn what it means to suffer -- to be brokenhearted alongside our mission partners. An American missionary came to stand among the ashes of a burned Pakistani church and to weep with the leaders -- and that meant more than the resources that worker brought along.
* The american church can learn a lot from the Middle eastern church on how to interact with and reach out to Muslims. Right now the US has 8 million muslims living here -- their birth rate is 6 times that of the general US Population -- meaning that by 2015 (9 years!) there will be 16 million Muslims here. We can listen and learn
* The western church can learn patience from the world church -- we can let go of our timetables and our procedures and deliverables for a little bit and realize that communications are slow and erratic, timelines get derailed by life, and change must happen quickly. We can learn to be flexible by not getting bogged down in process so much.
* The western church can learn how to approach the global church on a peer to peer level rather than as recipients of some vague exchange of beneficence. We can both listen and receive from the world church. Our ways are not always superior to their ways, and we don't always have the answers.
More to come later --
Soli Deo Gloria