#Verge14 ended almost a week ago and as I reflect on the few days of binge-tweeting and listening to speakers at a conference they are honestly a blur. It was too much information to digest in the moment, the evening, or in the process time. I guess that’s why they have a digital access pass.
In the midst of the blur, a few things stand out in my mind as highlights.
The Stage was Set Well
The opening session once again set the stage for the Verge conference, which has become known as the place to learn practices for missional communities, but the main thread for the entire conference was about the worship and love for Jesus Christ. The practicals mean nothing without this and opening night created the perfect framework for the conference.
Halim Suh, who is not a conference circuit speaker, but a faithful teaching and preaching pastor at The Austin Stone Community Church, displayed that his gifts are needed for the entire body of Christ. He called out the downside of the missional dialogue, the side where mission becomes greater than Jesus.
“With Jesus mission becomes worship, without Him it becomes slavery.”
His invitation was to go sit at the feet of Jesus before running to activity for Jesus. It was a perfect beginning to what would become an overwhelming amount of speakers and information.
Of the next few days, a few events and speakers stood out.
Anything John Perkins is Always a Highlight
John M. Perkins is an incredible man of God. He’s 83 and has more passion for Jesus and people than just about anyone I know. His work in the civil rights movement, in planting churches that love and transform communities, and being an advocate/creator of many social justice initiatives is inspiring. He is a living legend.
Verge had a session on Incarnational Justice that included Holly Burkhalter from International Justice Mission on ending sex-trafficking and a video on a Palestinian Christian loving his enemies followed by a panel on Racial Injustice and White Privilege. That alone is a conference in and of itself, but at Verge, it’s one session.
The entire panel was brilliant, included an analogy using Monopoly to highlight White Privilege (at a very white conference), and immense gospel-centered wisdom on facing the lingering effects of racial injustice throughout many centuries with honesty and humility. The panel was 20 minutes, but could have been 3 hours and some will say it didn’t do enough to provide clarity and next steps on the issue. But what conference gives a main session to addressing racial injustice and white privilege at all?
This was just 1 step in the right direction for this conversation that must continue. Duce Branch, The Ambassador, said wisely “This isn’t a conversation just for a conference, but for our dinner tables, in our homes, and in our communities.”
But the highlight was John Perkins saying at the beginning of the panel,
“I come in grateful with 53 years of expectations around this conversation of racial injustice. I am honored to be a part of it.”
Wow. Decades of expectation, of hope for even the conversation, let alone any resolution. That’s powerful, as is his passion that I thought surely was going to bring him off his seat. It was amazing.
Helen Lee, John Onwuchekwa, Hugh Halter, and Kevin Peck
I didn’t count, but I think there were 100 or so messages, spoken words, or videos. It was insane, but again a few rose to the top.
Kevin Peck, Lead Pastor of The Austin Stone, spoke on leadership development and the value of systems as a means for people to flourish. The need in this area is so significant. The church is in a declining situation because of our inability to make disciples and develop an intentional approach to multiplying leaders. If we hope to embody Jesus Christ at all, we must be willing to empower others to be greater than ourselves.
John Onwuchekwa, Teaching Pastor at Blueprint Church, had the topic of prayer, which can cause major guilt or frustration, but his approach was brilliant. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more thoughtful, careful, truthful, and empowering approach to speaking on prayer. It was incredible and one more example that God is doing great things in and through Blueprint Church in Atlanta.
Hugh Halter, “accidental” planter of Adullam Church and leader of the Missio Project, spoke on evangelism. Hugh is the prophet/evangelist that makes the conservative evangelical establishment nervous and uneasy. He finds himself amongst people who are far from God and shares the Good News of Jesus Christ in a way that causes people to be attracted to it. He shared about a tattoo artist who voiced that he felt like he was a part of their family and saw Hugh as a father figure in his life through Hugh’s love and care for him. The point was a call us to live incarnationally, which means to follow Jesus’ example of putting on flesh and living amongst people in a way that displays and attracts people to God. It’s challenging and inspiring to remember that we can never be missionless pastors or Christians.
Helen Lee, author of The Missional Mom, stood out for a few reasons. Helen spoke of the reality that moms and kids have a greater opportunity and connection to mission than anyone else, but we’ve allowed our culture and created churches that communicate that their mission is solely the kids and not God’s mission to make disciples. This does a disservice to God’s intent for motherhood and children, let alone moms and kids.
Is there such a thing as too much good content?
If a conference could commit gluttony on too many good speakers, worship and spoken words, then Verge was in sin. I’ve never been inundated with that much information that was both amazing and hard to process all at the same time. There were multiple times where it felt like we all needed about 10 minutes to sit with Jesus, beg Him to forgive us for our wrongs and invite Him to change us.
I may need to start Verge Processing Support Groups. (VPSGs anyone?!?)
You always leave Verge amazed at what they were able to put on, processing and wondering what to do with the information you just received. I’m thankful for Verge and look forward to #Verge15.