Kris and I were invited by the good folks connected to the Zoe Conference to come to Nashville last week (Woodmont Hills, Family of God Church): Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We loved it — and there are so many things to say I can’t possibly say them all.
Let me begin with this: the hospitality was for us perfect. Everything was cared for but they gave us some time to ourselves to wander around a bit. I spoke four times and this gave us some time to wander around Vanderbilt University and Franklin, Tennessee. The good folks at the conference provided everything: coffee and snacks (as in homemade brownies made right in the church kitchen and the sweet smell wafted throughout the church) between sessions and a potluck-type dinner — is there anything better in southern churches than their cooking? And I have to say this: at these events we experience the genuine “ecumenicity” the gospel alone brings. We were at one with these good folks. (Who, by the way, love to sing a cappella.)
This was a conference for leaders in the Churches of Christ and we loved getting to know ministers, preachers, pastors, leaders … from middle America. Greg Taylor invited us; he was sensitive and intelligent and articulate and laid back. Greg is with Wineskins magazine and I hope you know about it; it’s a jewel. Just check this edition out and you’ll see they cover the spectrum … perhaps as well as any online magazine out there. We met with Wade Hodges who had some of the best questions I’ve been asked in a long time. Very thoughtful … read some of his stuff in the magazine.
Our friend, Jim Martin, was up from Texas. Kris met Jim for the first time and we had several times to chat — the longest one Friday night at Panera’s over some coffee. A parishioner at Jim’s church in Waco died and Jim had to get home early … but it was great to be with him again. Our hearts were warmed to hear some of the things Jim is doing relationally as a pastor and mentor.
My talks addressed Ironic Faith from the book of James: Fearless Faith … Looks to God … Receives … Loves … and Works Missionally. I’m excited to turn more and more of my teaching and preaching toward James, a book I’ve been working on for years.
We had breakfast Friday morning with Tim West from Abingdon Press at Noshville in Green Hills, not far from Lipscomb University (where a former student, George Goldman, teaches). And we had lunch just off the Vandy campus at Sunset Grill with my friend, Greg Daniel. The highlight of that time was to learn that the Daniel family added two adopted young brothers … and when I spoke later that day on James 1:26-27 I had to bite my tongue from telling the audience that a modern-day example of what James was talking about was among us.
Saturday morning we drove down scenic and monstrous-homes Franklin Rd to Franklin. My goodness, those homes make some of the big ones up here look like cracker boxes. Anyway, Franklin was where we took our hard walk. Kris then wandered around looking for things for our very-soon-to-be-born grandson while I found a shady park bench and read (and wandered into prayer and pondering over my last address to the folks at Zoe). We had lunch at a unique place: The Franklin Mercantile Deli (great tomato basil soup) and I had some coffee at the Curious Gourmet Cupcake Cafe where they serve up a good brew: Stone Cup Roasting Company.
Old Franklin has a “roundabout” and on that roundabout Saturday stood an elderly man with a red and blue sign that looked like a political slogan. Everyone who drove by could see him. On one side, in red, it said “Vote Jesus” and on the blue side it said “Campaigning for Jesus.” When he spun it was purple!
Thanks Greg and Zoe for the wonderful time.