Across North America this morning Pastors are dragging around their offices, taking extreme amounts of coffee, and reflecting on the week that was, "The Gathering". Well, at least that's what I'm doing. Let's see, it's 10:40 and I've refilled my mug three times!
Here is my two cents, unbiased and objective, even though I work at the mother ship:
1. Getting Wesleyan clergy together for a concentrated time of worship, teaching, training, cheer-leading, and fellowship is a home-run idea. That is obvious by the tremendous response. If you stayed home because you thought it was a silly idea or just not worth the cash, I believe you missed a very synergistic event.
2. The Gathering was very well executed by those in charge. If you don't think so, you try planning an event, having your registrations go through the roof, and then try finding places to put everyone. Yes, the halls were crammed, some seminars had people sitting on the floor and cramming around an open door, and we had to use a video room for overflow. However, the production and overall flow of the conference went very well. I'm sure that the rally offficials learned a few things, but hey, this was a first-crack at something that had never been done. I give them credit for making it as smooth and seemless as it was.
3. We don't need mega-speakers/pastors/preachers. I thought that our preachers (Anthony and Kevin) were as good as anything you will hear anywhere. I'm not convinced that many people went to Florida to hear Hybels preach a message that he's already preached many times. I have the 'four last gasps' talk memorized. It would have been nice to hear Hybels challenge this small holiness denomination to something specific rather than the same old stuff he teaches everywhere to everyone. I would have loved to hear Earle Wilson give us a stirring 'rise-up-church' message!
4. I'm sure there will be another 'Gathering'. It will be on one site (not at hotels with long walks in the rain) and it will be ready for the large crowds. When you see it advertised, register. The networking and fellowship alone are valuable. Also, there is something about getting us in the same room that reminds us of our diversity and our mission. It is inspiring. Yeah, you won't like all of it. So what. When was the last time you went to a conference and loved everything from start to finish? If we believe in our denomination, if we want to see it as a missional movement reaching forward in relevant ways, we can show our support by being there and cheering it on.
5. Keep it in a warm locale and keep it in early Jan. We are all burned out on Christmas and turkey...we may as well travel and get renewed for the year ahead.
6. Give more time to worship and soul-care. Robin Mark was phenomenal in the little time slots they left for him to lead worship. My guess is that pastors and their spouses (who don't get many opportunities to worship side by side) need this retreat as a time to stand, kneel or bow in God's presence through un-rushed worship. If there was a prayer room, I wasn't aware of it. If there were people available to talk to or pray with, I wasn't aware of it. We speak publicly about the stress of ministry and what some people are going through , but we don't offer avenues for people to download some garbage and genuinely get refreshed in their spirits.
Well, it's time for another coffee! What did you think of the Gathering?