For this hyperactive guy, the carnival atmosphere, the cacophony of competing advocates, and the maze of sudden turns to the left and right energize me. What’s more, the infinite variety of awaiting conversations promises to refuel this extrovert with high-grade nuclear energy.
No, this is not just light-headed enthusiasm. This is a serious-minded reminder about the best part of our biennial gatherings, namely, the way they help us to live into our commitment to be a connectional church.
Rumor has it that connectionalism is going the way of the VCR. Individualism is morphing denominational loyalists into church shoppers and turning the covenant community into congregationalists.
So they say.
But, have you ever heard of the Willow Creek Association? Or the Vineyard churches? Many non-denominational folks now realize that the grass is greener on the connectional side of the fence, so they are banding together in covenant accountabilities. They are experiencing not creeping congregationalism, as we often decry, but creeping denominationalism.
Rightly so. Disconnected believers do not grow mature in the faith. Likewise, disconnected churches fall into patterns of groupthink that lead to an unbalanced theological diet. Spiritual malnutrition sets in. While the congregation provides the primary locus for living the faith, each congregation’s effectiveness in ministry gets shaped by the variety of resources and relationships it shares with other believers in other places.
Those who will gather this June 21-28 at the GA in San Jose, Calif., will be rewarded — even if they’re not hyperactive or extroverted — with a treasure trove of mind-bending theological insights, inspiring worship services, novel ministry resources, outside-the-box mission reports, and tender fellowship.
But what about those who cannot attend the GA? Alvin Toffler’s Megatrends 2000 (published in 1991, i.e., before the Internet went global) claimed that we are moving away from representative democracy to pure democracy, where every person wants to participate directly in visioning, in planning, in decision-making, and in the sheer experience of engaging others. It’s not enough simply to entrust a commissioner — whoever it is — to represent you to a General Assembly. You want to participate, too.
The Presbyterian Outlook is trying to supplement the official gathering.
We will be reporting and blogging throughout the GA.
Then, after the GA, we’ll kick into yet a higher gear.
Along with the Cross-Cultural Alliance of Ministries and the Montreat Conference Center we are sponsoring the “Church Unbound” conference, coming on July 1-5 to Montreat in western North Carolina. Housing limitations will keep the number of attendees below the several thousand folks at the GA, and we won’t get caught up in the frenetic pace of voting on hundreds of legislative proposals. We will, however, hear from a wide variety of voices giving witness to God’s work among us today. We will feast on a smorgasbord of visionary hopes for God’s work ahead. In the process, attendees will be rewarded with mind-bending theological insights, inspiring worship services, novel ministry resources, outside-the-box mission reports, and tender fellowship.
It’s not too late for you to register.
The Outlook is going further than that. We’re putting the finishing touches on a new Web site that will offer not only the articles published in the magazine but also user-generated content — news articles, opinion pieces, blogs that you find elsewhere on the Internet, sermon illustrations and exegetical gems to help the preachers among us prepare upcoming sermons, a Facebook platform for building communications in your congregation and beyond it, expanded classifieds to help call or hire church staff members, and lots more. And all this will be provided free of charge. Keep checking our existing Web address (www.pres-outlook.org) so you can be one of the first to explore its vast possibilities.
Why do all of this? Because connectionalism matters. It behooves each one of us Presbyterians, in this individualistic age, to utilize all the mechanisms available to maximize our connecting efforts.
I can’t wait.