|The largest hotel in Europe|
This was my experience in Madrid,
Eighty Christian leaders from 16 different European countries representing a broad spectrum of denominations came together to talk about leading national processes for church planting.
The conference was a Learning Community. What that means is that rather than operating like a traditional conference, where all of the information and expertise comes from speakers at the front of the room, participants are given an active role to play. Only about a third of the time is dedicated to the presentation of information. The rest of the time is spent in groups of 5-8 around tables, processing, understanding, and synthesizing the content of the presentations. And in the end, national teams are given time to make plans of action, considering how they might actually apply or implement the things that they have discovered through the process.
What's even more inspiring is the fact that as we come together as believers, the Spirit of God is also among us, leading us, helping us, correcting us, and challenging us. The organizers build time into the schedule to stop and listen to Lord, inviting Him into every conversation, giving Him authority over every decision, trusting Him at every turn. We worship together. We pray for each other. We study the Word. The facilitators do everything in their power to make sure that Jesus is on center stage, all the time, no matter what. And as these men and women lifted up their gates, the King of Glory came in.
Please don't interpret my wonder about what happened as ignorance concerning the complex issues facing the evangelical church in Europe today. The diversity between countries is much more pronounced than any similarities they might share, and what works in one nation may not work in another. There is no pat answer, no one-size-fits-all method that will result in healthy churches popping up on every corner. But this same complexity might also be a strength, allowing for multiple streams of success and promoting cross-pollination. It also keeps leaders from seeking a "magic bullet" and gives them permission to wrestle with the challenges, imagine creative solutions, and seek dynamic partnerships that have never before been considered.
I have been in the midst of the faithful, the fearless, and the forward-thinking. They can see a future where the Kingdom of God is expanding in the continent of Europe in tangible, redemptive, and transformative ways. And they want to go there together.
My role was small (miniscule, really!), but I felt privileged to play it. I was invited to lead the daily meditations, or times of spiritual reflection, on the subject of unity. I love it when the Lord speaks clearly, and in my time of preparation, I did have a sense of the Spirit's leading. But oh, the overwhelming sense of inadequacy as I stood before some of the best leaders and theologians on the continent and dared to open my mouth.
"Who am I," I kept asking myself, "that I should address such a room full of wisdom?"
"The least among them," came the response. And I could almost see the hint of a smile play around the mouth of God as the words entered my head. "The very least among them."
Yes, isn't that just like God? The one who welcomes children, who dines with sinners, who seeks and saves the lost. Of course He would be able to speak through the most unlikely person in the room. Of course He would. For in this way, He would be seen. Not through my titles or diplomas or authority--for I have none! But through my weakness and my brokenness.
Yes, I am convinced that the Lord had his way in Madrid. And He could have done it with or without me, or any other person in the room, for that matter. Only He invited us, each one to the table. And in faith, with fear and trepidation, we sat down.