Leadership editor Marshall Shelley is in Atlanta this week for the Catalyst Conference, where 9,000 mostly younger leaders of churches are meeting to discuss ministry in today's culture. Here's his first report.
The conference officially begins tomorrow. Today was filled with "labs," 15 seminars on topics ranging from "Passion" (led by pastors Eugene Peterson, Craig Groeschel, and Mark Buchanan) to "Culture" (writers Andy Crouch and Lauren Winner, and the National Endowment for the Arts' Erik Lokkesmoe) to "Mission" (Shane Claiborne, Mike Foster, and Gary Haugen).
Right now I'm sitting in the balcony of the Performing Arts Center, where in a few minutes an informal "unplugged" session will feature a conversation between neo-church pastors Chris Seay of Ecclesia in Houston and Rick McKinley of Imago Dei Community Church in Portland, Oregon, and a Rwandan pastor whose name I don't know.
I heard McKinley for the first time this afternoon when he presented a lab on "This Beautiful Mess: a conversation on the Kingdom." Most people, especially the Catalyst crowd, know McKinley as "the pastor of the church where Donald Miller of ?Blue Like Jazz' goes." So I was somewhat surprised that Miller's name was never mentioned during the introduction or the hour-long session. But McKinley didn't need any borrowed credibility.
To the crowd of 300 or so, he offered a concise and provocative discussion of the relationship of the church to the Kingdom of God. This was theology, imminently practical theology.
"As pastors, we are tempted to build the church," he said. "So we send out postcards to targeted Zip codes and we promote church programs." But that misses the point, he argued. "Our job isn't to build the church. We're supposed to BE the church, ...