Today, my brother Shayne and I attended The Whiteboard Sessions, a one-day church leadership conference that was organized by Ben Arment who is a pastor of Reston Community Church. Heh, that would explain why the event was held in Reston, VA. Silly me.
Honestly, I had no idea who Ben was or practically how this event event got started before I came. I don’t even remember where I found the link to the initial information, but literally my impression a number of months back was like “Hey, some dude thinks he’s gonna put on a conference and Mark Batterson’s gonna show up. Sick.” I figured what the hey and signed up. Of course, the official Web site looked pretty slick once it went online and some of the other speakers were pretty notable as well, so both Shayne and I were jazzed to come.
I got to hear more about Ben and RCC at the conference today and actually was able to meet with him and chat in person which was fun. Seems like a super guy. He said the original idea was that maybe if they were really lucky, they could fill up a partition of the ballroom at the Hyatt with, say, 200 people, and that would rock. Well, it turned out God had other plans. I’d say there were at least 1,000 people there. The whole ballroom was packed. No partition necessary.
Mark Batterson, lead pastor at National Community Church, was brilliant as I expected, but the thing I appreciated more than anything else about him wasn’t what he said but the reasons behind what he said. Here is a man who really cares deeply about chasing after God and doesn’t consider his present condition or that of his team, his church, or his congregation as any kind of role model to emulate like it’s a finished product. He said point-blank that he was a work-in-progress and they’re still trying to figure out what they’re doing, and I believed his sincerity. God is indeed doing a mighty work in their midst, and I have no doubt that as long as Mark and the rest of NCC chase hard after God no matter the cost, without fear, and with conviction of heart and a complete abandonment to the Holy Spirit, they will go places they haven’t even dreamed of yet.
I’ll post some notes on what he talked about along with the other speakers in a (near) future post. Before I close this one though, I’d like to give a shoutout to the other presenters who particularly spoke to me and then finish off with some general impressions of the conference.
Vince Antonucci was a blast. Kind of daft in the head perhaps, but very powerful and God-centered in his exhortation. His personal background was that of an extremely “un-churched” variety, so he had a great and important perspective to share on the sometimes bizarre world of Christendom here in America and how vital it is that we focus on going out and saving people who are truly in need of a savior instead of catering to the weaknesses and comfort levels of seasoned churchgoers.
Darrin Patrick presented a challenging message about idolatry and how we often fall back on the desires of our human nature instead of relying on the One who is greater than anything we might treasure, worship, or give our allegiance to here on the earth. Until we seek out the root sin of idolatry in our lives, we will not be able to accomplish the mission God has for us.
Finally, but certainly not exclusively, I really enjoyed seeing Perry Noble in the flesh. I’d heard of him and heard him in a podcast interview recently, but his preaching in person was off the charts. God is really using him in an awesome way to speak to the state of the Church today. I can’t even go into all that he talked about, but basically his message was that if we’re not walking close to Jesus everyday and intensely seeking revelation from the Holy Spirit so that we can accomplish the work of the Father just like Jesus did, we might as well just give up now and throw in the towel. If we KNOW we are called by God to be in serious church ministry and leadership (and the calling has to be real and genuine), then we have to walk in that calling and claim the authority that God has for us to do what He has called us to do. Powerful, powerful stuff, and it absolutely convicted me to reaffirm what God has called me to do in my own life and not be afraid to chase after it wholeheartedly!
Overall, the conference was very, very good and honoring to God, and I truly hope it happens again next year. A few additional thoughts: these leaders are considered to be on the cutting edge of mainstream evangelicalism today, and being a fervent believer in the charismatic movement and the even narrower world of the apostolic-prophetic movement, I went in with a degree of curiosity mixed with trepidation to see if I would leave excited or frustrated. I’m happy to say that I perceive that the state of the church at large is strong if this is where it’s going. However, I am still somewhat sorrowful that the incredible supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are not given the limelight they deserve and that people generally aren’t focusing on His outpourings in these circles. I see glimmers of hope though, and I know that Mark and possibly a few of the other folks there are “closet charismatics” who really are trying to walk out what the Holy Spirit is showing them, so I’m trusting God to work everything out in his good timing and that revival will not pass by the evangelical church as a whole.
And with that sentiment, I say Goodnight and God Bless. See you next week!