Kris and I were invited down for a Saturday event at North Point church in Alpharetta, Georgia (northside of Atlanta). I was asked to address the Starting Point leaders on Embracing Grace. Starting Point, North Point’s weekly small-group conversations with those interested in the Christian faith, is directed by Jason Malec and Norton Herbst (I’m sure there are others, but I can’t remember all the names). Our theme was “Engage!”
Three words, but again I want to say I love to engage others with the ideas from Embracing Grace. This book was written to start conversations not to provide all the answers. I propose that we need to broaden the gospel to include transformation of the whole person in community and not just to save individuals for eternity. I think we need this conversation; I know the younger generation wants this conversation. Some are a bit put off by the conversation; some are threatened by it. My suggestion: here’s my idea; you read the Bible and see if it is true to the Bible. If not, chuck it; if it is, let’s work at some change. Some at North Point want this conversation; some are already having it. I’m honored to be a part of it.
We were uber impressed with Norton and Jason. If all churches can have strong, young leaders like Norton and Jason, Kris and I hope we live until 150! It would be an honor to hang out with them each week.
Now the three words for our day:
Hospitality. I’m willing to bet 30 different times we were asked if we needed anything. Can I get you something? Would you like a coffee or a bottle of water or a soft drink – these were questions asked by various people at the church? Norton and Jason picked Kris and me up at the airport, took us out to dinner, and ushered us to the hotel — and everything was taken care of. Thanks for the extra effort for looking after everything.
Event. The day was an event — it began with a stomp version with some guys banging on barrels, slamming garbage cans, and then using drill bits to grind metal into the air with a flash that was rhythmical — very cool. Then Jason got three folks to come up on the stage to challenge me in shooting a basketball — you know, the little hoop you find in stores with the netting so the balls roll back to you. (I’m not lying when I say I didn’t lose — but they gave away some Braves tickets and a basketball and then season tickets to a team name I didn’t recognize, and I’m hoping like the dickens it wasn’t soccer or hockey because I’d hate to think I helped someone go to soccer or hockey games.)
Then we addressed the leaders on Embracing Grace on Engaged Eikons (4 directions: with God, self, others and the world), Disengaged Eikons, the Fully Engaged Eikon, and then Engaged Eikons in Community. They broke up into small groups and had a go at my ideas. Then we got together for a marvelous skit on how “not to” conduct small groups — it was hilarious. Jason interviewed me on some of the themes of the day, including culture and how Christians are shaped by and responding to culture. Then we had a powerful oral presentation by a young woman who expressed the theme of God making us all we are meant to be.
Learners. When we finished the event, Kris and I went down to a room with Bill Willits and then later about a dozen or so others joined us and we had a great conversation about all sorts of things. And I’ll tell you what I liked about this the most: folks came to engage in conversation; they had good questions; they wanted to talk about them instead of grill me to see if I stacked up tall or short; they wanted to engage the questions because they wanted to think about them; they weren’t looking so much for answers as how to think about the topics. Topics included: emerging, megachurches, reaching the next generation, etc.
Something else: we loved the aesthetics of North Point’s Alpharetta campus. Not very churchy looking; it looks like a school building. Even better in which to have a conversation with many rooms that were like homey, comfortable living rooms. And the kids areas were as clever as I’ve ever seen.
One more thing: Bill plays golf. Attaboy. I’ll be back brother; and when you are here my clubs are in the car. Have clubs, will play.