Monday, October 6, 2008

Renovare "Life With God" Conference

Spent the weekend in Houston at the Renovare "Life with God" conference. I had an amazing time, and learned enough to keep me thinking for about a year. Also the books I bought will keep me busy for quite awhile - see the last post for a pic of the books.

I am sitting here at the airport waiting for my flight and sipping a sugar free nonfat mocha, and eating a carrot muffin to make up for it. There is no free internet to distract me, so I thought i would type up some of the thoughts from my notes for posting later.

I can't do justice to any of the speakers, so just a couple of bytes from each of them on how they affected me.

Dallas Willard: I've heard much about this man, quotes from various other books that I've read, but I confess I've never actually read anything by him. I also confess that I didn't not buy any of his books this time either, as I was already trying to figure out how I was going to pack what I bought, but there is always Amazon later. The main things I took away from his presentation are that emphasis needs to be on what type of person I am becoming, and then routine easy obedience will come. In other words the emphasis on character transformation rather than behavior modification. Of course it took nearly two hours to unpack those points, so for more I recommend the cd!

John Ortberg: I really liked his way of speaking and need to see if his church does sermon podcasts. Of course him starting off with a Monty Python joke didn't hurt! He made the point that modern evangelism reduces the gospel to the minimum entrance requirements to heaven, and as an example compared the entrance to Heaven to the bridge at the end of the holy grail where the characters just have to have the right answer to get across, whereas if they don't, they plunge down into the chasm. He compared being an admirer of Jesus to being a follower of Jesus, and brought out the point that our core beliefs are not necessarily what we say, but are demonstrated by our actions, how we respond to certain situations, etc.

Chris Webb: A Welshman who likes books! (I stole that quote from Larissa. *waves*). Chris is the new president of Renovare, an Anglican priest, and absolutely delightful. He dressed in a monk's habit on Saturday for the feast day of St Francis, and introduced himself first as a Jedi Knight. I wanted to ask him if he had heard of the Jedi Chefs, but didn't get the chance. We took his workshop on Friday on reading the spiritual classics. He explained a bit about the process of Lectio Divina, and that we should read classics "not as we read John Grisham" (which in my case would be Tad Williams, Carol Berg, Stephen Booth, etc) but slowly and relationally. The purpose of the classics, and indeed the Bible, is not to give us entertainment or information, but to draw us into the presence of God. He gave us a lovely reading list which is going to make my wishlist explode.

Lauren Winner: Lauren is exactly how I pictured her, in a good way! She started off by saying that she was intimidated by sharing the stage with people like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard, but if Sarah Palin could share a podium with Joe Biden then she could do it. She said she tried to get her hair in an upsweep which didn't work, but she thinks her glasses are cooler than Sarah's. (I agree). Her talk was on the Trinity, which was very deep. What I took away was her illustration of Jesus' baptism as a trinitarian event - Jesus of course being present, the father's voice from above, and the spirit in the form of a dove (hey that rhymes!) all converging, so to speak in one place. She also had the criticism that many churches in America are functionally unitarian - emphasizing one aspect of the trinity over the other two.

After Lauren's talk we had an evensong service, which was a really nice end to the day, considering how much I had swimming around in my head, the periods of silence were especially welcome.

Saturday started with

Ron Sider: who gave a talk on social activism, and how the good news of the Kingdom of God does not end with salvation.

Todd Hunter: I took Todd's workshop on spiritual formation as the new evangelism. He started out by talking about how the culture has changed, the church and Christians no longer get automatic respect, and actually more the opposite. Coming from NYC, nothing he said was new or shocking to me, but I could tell it was to those around me. His main point was that the only tool of evangelism that will work is the authentic lives of Christians.

Richard Foster: was the last speaker, and I didn't take any notes during his presentation as he had given us an incredibly detailed outline in our packets. He has a ponytail down to his waist! Gorgeous, actually. Chris Webb teased him that he had been growing it since he was called to minister to the Woodstock generation, and the complained that no one ever asks him about his hair (Chris has crewcut shorter than my brother's). Richard is a powerful presence, strong and yet gentle, with a terrific sense of humor including about himself. He spoke on the importance of spiritual formation, sort of summing up what all the others had been talking about all weekend, and then we had a time where all the leaders prayed for us.

The conference as a whole was wonderful and I will definitely go to another - I wish they'd have some closer to home! Now, I need to decide which book to start...

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