LIFE AT A GATHERING © I am about a month into what is usually one of my busiest times of the year. Despite have worked assiduously to get off various boards and committees, I feel like I am constantly on the road traveling to another meeting, conference or gathering. Last week I traveled to Oklahoma City, along with members of the Central Texas Conference delegation to General Conference. Together we received a presentation on the three plans (One Church Plan, Traditional Plan, and Connectional Church Plan) being presented at the Called General Conference in St. Louis this coming February 23rd through 26th. The day before traveling to Oklahoma City I was with the West District (meeting at Eastland UMC) engaging in the first two (of 10) District presentations on the plans to be presented at the Called General Conference. Last Saturday, October 6th, I traveled to Central UMC in Waco to share in the Memorial Service in honor and memory of Pastor Willie Stanley. Sunday, I had a wonderful time sharing with Cahill UMC in the celebration of their 125th anniversary. Later Sunday afternoon, we had a meeting of the Conference Episcopacy Committee at the Conference Center. Monday morning, October 8th, I flew out of DFW to St. Louis for a Conference sponsored by the active Bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC and various Conference Foundations in the Jurisdiction, including the Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF) of which we are a part. It was a fascinating time of learning with a group of young clergy from the Central Texas Conference, called the Creative Leadership Imperative (CLI – Launch 1.0). The gathering focused on innovation for the church, as we move into a new and renewed future. Together we dreamed, studied and envisioned issues of ministry engagement which are creatively different. By way of a taste at the design learning we engaged in, here are some snippets of my notes from a talk given by Brett Hagler co-founder and CEO of New Story, a nonprofit pioneering solution to global homelessness. Ø “to dream big, we should start small” Ø “Disrupt the traditional model” Ø “Pioneer solutions” Ø “Make a new line item in your budget for experiments” (i.e. research and development) Ø Define your purpose/mission first, then build your courageous culture with unique identifiers Ø Think of technology as one of your key investments Ø Ask and identify – “What is the one thing you are going to triple down on in order to accomplish your larger goal Perhaps the most invigorating part of the Conference was a gathering at The Gathering United Methodist Church. I had the opportunity for a detailed conversation with Matt Miofsky, the founding pastor of this rapidly growing (missional, spiritually, numerically, in discipleship!) multi-site congregation. Leading a very diverse urban church with multiple congregations focused on reaching young millennials, he told us that they (The Gathering) kept a “relentless focus on Jesus.” It showed. Matt and Jason Byassee have recently written a new book titled 8 Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches. The chapter headings are provocative: Virtue #1: Rapidly Growing Churches Believe in Miracles and Act Accordingly Virtue #2: Rapidly Growing Churches Integrate New People Quickly Virtue #3: Rapidly Growing Churches Love the Local Virtue #4: Rapidly Growing Churches Exist to Reach the Next Person Virtue #5: Rapidly Growing Churches Elevate the Practice of Giving Virtue #6: Rapidly Growing Churches Work in Teams Virtue #7: Rapidly Growing Churches Preach Well to the Skeptic Virtue #8: Rapidly Growing Churches Make Friends with the Denomination Conclusion: How to Pastor Like a Planter This little book has move to the top of my “too read pile” (after I finish N. T. Wright’s Paul: A Biography).