Recently, I had the opportunity to head to Atlanta with a couple of my buddies, Greg and Ken. We had a great time traveling on an airplane, staying at a hotel, eating together, and goofing around. We had great discussions, challenged each other, and worked together. We had some different interviews with some different applicants for the positions available hear and we processed a ton of information as we went to the sessions, breakouts, and large group sessions. Catalyst does things right each and every year. The conference makes things fun and exciting to be around. They provide folks with energy and a way to sort of get away from everything that is happening. All of those things were great and I really enjoyed our time in Atlanta. But for me, there were really three moments that stuck out to me in the entire weekend and they were inward looking things. They were eye opening and powerful in my mind in my life. I’ll try to outline them below a little bit to remind myself what happened out in Atlanta in the future.
1. Wednesday Afternoon “Drinking” session – 🙂 This is a funny name for a time that was impacting me. I went to a session with Shane Hipps who got me thinking about a few things. He talked about all sorts of interesting ideas of communication. He talked about the transition between an oral culture (as it was before the printing press and before many knew how to read) and a literate culture. There was a significant transition that happened and that major shift was centered around the idea of community.
with an oral culture- community was simply where people would come together to share stories. They were face to face, intimate, captured the center of the community, and made it very easy to have shared experiences among the people that were involved in the community of people. Generally, communities were small and to remember things, people needed to share things orally. They had to speak to one another.
with a literary culture- community became something very different than what it was in an oral tradition. Here’s why. The culture became such that the communities no longer necessitated having to come together to share stories because those stories could be written down. All of the ideas that a person had could be recorded and read by all but it was a choice as to whether they read it or not. And community became something different. It became much more disconnected and fragmented. The deepest of thoughts could really be read by anyone because the folks that would write things would begin to share things that they used to speak to intimate communities.
And then Shane went on to talk about the present culture. He talked about how we are a combination of the oral and literary cultures. It was interesting to me that there seemed to be a paradox here of having both the oral and literary ideas. You see, we tend to create micro communities of technologies. Things like facebook, texting, myspace, digg, and twitter are creating an “oral” culture in the sense that there seems to be an intimacy that is shared among ‘friends’ in each of these communities. There are things that people would never say to someone’s face but that they would say via a written word. (For instance, the other two things that I will write later in this blog, I probably would stand up and say on a Sunday morning, but if I wasn’t preaching, I would never say these things.) This causes some false community to occur and it also builds community in some sense. Hipps didn’t approach it in such a way that he was criticizing these things, rather he was pointing out the dangers and benefits. He talked about texting in such a way that I titled this section the way that I titled it. He gave some statistics that said that teenagers were polled and they said that they texted. 92% of the teens had texted something that they wouldn’t have said in person. 40% texted someone to invite them to “date”, 42% had texted to break up with someone. Then, Shane said, “These are all things people do when they are drinking! Texting is the new drinking!” 🙂 And that was challenging to me. I think that texting and facebook and twitter in and of itself are not bad things but if we aren’t coaching people to use them well and not abuse them, we may be hurting our chance for authentic community within a church, a body of Christ, that desperately needs community. On a side note, Hipps talked about the “texting language” also known as “leet speak.” What first began as a way of shortening up sentences to provide for more efficiency in texting has become something that many people use as “secret language.” You can read a little about it here. I walked away from the time with Shane Hipps wondering if I should ever touch my blackberry again. But I did and it was efficient and effective the rest of the week. But I still wonder what we are doing to community when we are reliant on all sorts of text to communicate…are we learning how to create a culture of authenticity but only when there is a screen to hide behind? Thoughts?
2. Francis Chan and Grace – The next part of the weekend that was powerful for me was when Francis Chan talked on Thursday night. I quite honestly don’t have a clue what he said but he was leading us in a time of worship and communion. I sat there basically the entire time and pondered God’s grace in my life. I pondered what could have happened had God not stepped in and given me eternal life and a relationship with him. I pondered the grace that he shows me each and every day when I am thick skulled and pride ridden. I pondered his amazing grace as he hung on the cross for the sins of the world. I pondered God’s radical, amazing power as I thought about all the people in the room, all being forgiven by our great and wonderful God. It was a powerful moment of worship for me and I am overcome with his grace, mercy, strength and power.
3. Compassionate people that bring out emotions in me – So, on Friday morning, Catalyst turned to sort of the compassion side of development of leadership. They began to talk about Compassion. Then they brought out a young man that is studying at Moody who is a product of compassion. It was sweet. He talked about his life and how God radically changed his life because someone supported him. And then he talked about his life in terms of the person that supported him both financially and with letters. Then they brought out his sponsor and asked if he would like to meet his sponsor. It was a sweet moment of emotions. I was so excited for the sponsor and for the man that had been sponsored. I haven’t cried for awhile, but I did here. It was impacting to me.
Again, overall, the conference was good and I’m blessed to have gone. Good stuff.