A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take in the Influence Conference, hosted by the Assemblies of God. The one day event featured the likes of Anne Jackson, Tony Morgan and Jon Acuff. What follows is a summary of the day's speakers.
The conference was designed to help attendees discover different ways of influence. Each speaker had a little Q&A after their speech. The guy who got the best response was Robert Patterson, who co-wrote Leading From the Second Chair. He talked about trying to lead when your boss is a spear-thrower (see: David and King Saul).
His encouragement for people who are having spears thrown at them was to not quit, but to try and find some areas of contentment, and to do their best, commit the issue to God, and try to stick it out. But, ultimately, it may come to you needing to depart the organization.
Acuff is a funny guy. The crowd loved him. And, reminescent of the Catylist fiasco a couple of years ago where Acuff rented a conference room for all of his blog followers to gather but no one showed up, the Influence Conference people assigned him an assistant to help with crowd control during his book signing time. Another lady and I were the only ones there.
Acuff's main theme was getting participants to use humor when they teach, because people typically will gauge a message on the first couple of minutes. If they decide they've heard it before, or know what the speaker will say, they go ahead and mentally "shelve" it. But, humor has a way of keeping people on their toes, and helps prevent tune out.
Tony Morgan talked a lot about being intentional in how we construct our churches. Our vision and mission needs to be clearly defined and easily understandible. We also need to avoid doing a bunch of stuff that takes us away from our mission. He pointed out that a lot of churches like to fill up their time and resources on a bunch of ministries. Those ministries are all valid on their own, but they also drain resources from the vision/mission. His suggestion was to evaluate ministries, and keep those doing well, eliminate those that stink, and look for ways to reorganize those that are marginal. On the marginal ones, he said that sometimes we have to rethink how we do those ministries, because there might be a better way to do them.
He also pointed out that churches who have a lot to offer will tend to not have many takers, but those who limit their offerings will have more "buyers."
Anne Jackson spoke a lot about how we can influence people by being open and honest. Too often we, in church, gloss over our junk, label it as FINE, and try to make it go away. We put on the phony happy face, and pretend all is good. But, when we do that, we eliminate opportunities to "be real" and interactive with non-christians. She said that the broken world needs to hear about our brokenness. Otherwise, they can't relate to what we've found in Jesus. Another memorable quote from her, "We think about the consequences of our actions, but rarely the consequences of concealment."
Scott Wilson from the Oaks church in Texas talked about "what is normal" in the context of the church. Too often, we have equated normalcy in the church to be a lifeless, almost Christless Christianity. He used scripture to illustrate that "normal" for the church is quite abnormal compared to the world.
He said that "normal" is always being amazed, but never surprised (at God's work). We should have higher expectations than just coming together in the church. He defined normal for the church as compassion, evangelism, struggles & miracles. And, he added that our people (in the church) won't know what is normal unless (leaders) tell them & demonstrate it.
At that point, he addressed the struggles we face, and said that God uses those to shape our character. (By the way, Patterson also went down this trail and pointed out that David had to have King Saul go after him in order for David's on version of the tyrant to be destroyed within himself.) Wilson said that the struggles are normal, especially for believers that desire to be filled with the Spirit and power (reference Luke 4-Jesus temptation).
He wrapped it up by talking about church service, and how most times churches will hold community events or service projects where we work in the community, but we ignore the stuff that the community is doing on its own. Their town mayor confronted him on that, and afterward the church developed a plan where they partner with the community. An easy example that he cited might be a fall festival. He said the church fall festival would attract a few thousand people, but the community's festival on the same day would only get a couple hundred people. Now, the church has ditched it's festival, and has provided the city's event with volunteers and resources.
His side-organization, actnormal.org, has developed a program and applications for churches to be able to track their congregational involvement in the community. So, you could go volunteer down at the local homeless shelter on your own, then log your time in the system, and the church gets data on how their people are working with the community.