Holy Conferencing

I was at Annual Conference last week with two thousand of my closest friends.

The real work of Annual Conference happens in the hallways.  Its where pastors who have come to know and respect each other share their stories of victory and defeat.  

Most of our conversations begin with, “Are you still at Mosaic?”  “Yes.  Are you still at First Methodist?”  “Yes.”  And that’s usually followed by, “How is it going?”  
And that’s when the real work happens.  When we share how it has been … really.

Sometimes you hear how great things are.  This year, my standard response was, “I have never been more in love with my church.  I hope that when I leave they are taking me out in a casket.”  Not everyone feels as good about where they are. 

Sometimes its hard.  We tell stories in those hallways outside the business meetings of people who have it out for us.  Of youth pastors who defected to new churches, taking hundreds of people with them.  Of music ministers with deep, conflicting personal situations.  Of laypersons who struggle to understand our vision.  Of people who are just angry and mean.  

A lot of pastors lose a lot of sleep because of the conflicts they shoulder and the personalities they manage, often not because they have done anything more than show up.

And I don’t want this to sound like anything other than what it is but when I hear those stories, I grieve for the person sharnig and for the church that suffers.  But I also find myself very grateful for this church I serve and for this season we’re in.  I have heard enough stories to know what the options are.  

I love this place.  I love our people.  Steve, Claire Marie and I feel loved and when I hear some of the stories I hear, I realize what a gift we’ve been given.  We know this isn’t a perfect place and we’re not perfect people.  But we are grateful for what we’ve got. 

The lesson and the challenge I heard at this year’s Annual Conference was gained in the hallways.  It is a challenge to live gratefully in the coming year.  

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