Jun 13, 2008


Sorry that I was not able to keep up with the Wesleyan blogging like I hoped. There was no WIFI at the exhibit hall, so any updates had to be done on my phone, hitting those little tiny keys with my thumbnails. And the battery was not designed for stuff like that. Plus there wasn't all THAT much going on to justify constant updates. And I was tired. And my back hurt. Mah mah, wah wah.

So I decided to just put my thoughts down about the event. Lots of the exhibitors felt let down at the way the hall was set up. There was not a constant flow of traffic, and the people coming through were not people who would be hiring architects or starting capital stewardship campaigns. Personally, I wasn't to upset. It gave me a chance to actually chat with each person. That helped me to explain things better without feeling rushed.

I also got to spend a lot of time talking to my fellow vendors. This included the trio from churchwebworks.com - who have some great web hosting and creation deals. And I got to chat with Mark Kelly from Heritage Foundation. He was really cool. I also got to wander around and meet the representatives from several Wesleyan colleges - who were excited about possibly having Defender come to their campuses.

The best part, though, was getting to talk with the various people who knew Heather's family. Heather's grandparents - John and Eva Blann - served for many many years within the Pilgrim Holiness, and subsequent Wesleyan church. They were missionaries to Africa. They served in churches with John as a pastor. And he also served at the Frankfort Wesleyan Bible College as President. Their daughter, Lois, is my mother-in-law. On Heather's dad's side, her uncle Dr. Dave Babb is on staff with the Wesleyans in the Penn-Jersey District. And that family has been very active in the church.

So, I would talk to various people, and most of them knew at least one of those people. Some knew all of them. One couple had served in Africa with the Blanns. Another remembered babysitting Lois, and were good friends with Uncle Dave. The thing that I noticed is that everyone who knew the Blanns, Babbs, or Crissingers thought so highly of them. They raved about how wonderful they were and the impact they had. It was such an honor to be a part of that family - and representing them in some way. I have never ever been treated as an outsider by my in-laws. From the very outset, I became part of the family and was treated just like a blood relative. They love me, defend me, support me. Uncle Dave was beating the Defender drum to anyone he could. The Blanns - even in their late 80s - cried when I first told them we were starting the ministry because they knew how many people needed to be rescued from the sins we address. And to see how much these families have done through the years serving God was awesome.

The conference as a whole had a wonderful feeling to it. There was love all around. People would reconnect there - look for old pastors or fellow missionaries. They would share stories. There is a genuine love for missions - and missionaries play a vital role in the conference. In fact, most of the older ministers served at some point overseas. Since so many went to the Wesleyan colleges, there is a camaraderie there between alumni. And there is an acceptance of other races - I noticed a large number of African-American pastors and leadership. It was so nice to be there.

It gave me pause when I contrasted it to the Baptist conferences I have been to. I don't want to bash my own denomination. But honestly, I never felt anything like this at anything they have put on. There is a lot of comparisons being tossed around. Who has the biggest budget, best building, biggest attendance, largest membership. It sounds like a high school locker room. There isn't love. There isn't a respect for the elder generation. They are seen as "out of touch" and shoved out as soon as possible. The big shots with the new hot schemes are embraced. But the younger generation - unless they are homegrown superstars with the right name or right assignment - are given the whole "shut up until you pay your dues" treatment. Missions almost exists strictly to satiate some guilt for not wanting to reach out past their own walls. And most of the business done is arguing over petty rules, finding new ways to get the rest of the world rankled, and bloviating over useless points of contention.

I actually was embarrassed and a little upset at the difference. Sure, this post will in and of itself tick off some of my fellow Baptists. They will immediately attack the Wesleyans for their differences in theology (which I am well aware of - having spent eight years living very close to several of their ministers). They will call them liberal and accuse me of selling out. Which kind of goes to prove my point. It was very interesting. I was reading John MacArthur's book The Tale of Two Sons while I was sitting for hours. It was very good. At one point, I was sitting there laughing to myself about the contradictions going on in my booth - a Baptist reading a book written by a Calvinist at a Wesleyan conference. The lessons of the book - about how Jesus was targeting the Pharisees yet again with the story, calling out their hypocrisy and obsessive commitment to useless man-made traditions and rules - really resonated with me this week. I realized how sometimes I am that hypocrite. Sometimes I judge like the older brother. And sometimes I join my denomination in finger pointing and accusing, refusing to go into the party like the older sibling to prove a point. I also thought about how blessed I was to be a part of something so sweet as the Wesleyan celebration. Whatever worries I had slipped away as minister after minster shook my hand and thanked me for doing what I was doing. Person after person said they would pray for us, or wanted to use us -- in numbers unlike anything in my own group of churches. And while I am not going to disavow my church membership or switch places of worship, for those five days I was more than happy, and quite honored, to be invited to their fellowship. In fact, even with the 13 hour days, I was a bit sad to have to leave. I look forward to working with them again.

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