I love busy days at work, and there is nothing like being out of town to create a busy day when you return! Scurrying around to get back on top of the heap, I start by responding to e-mails and then by going through the pieces of paper that collect on my desk reminding me to do things: a phone number written on the back of an envelope, a contract that needs to be filed, a proof waiting to be...well, proofed.
All this scurrying is part of the process of producing books that I hope/believe will make a difference for pastors, churches, and people of faith. I don't heal the sick or feed the poor in my day-to-day work, but hopefully my work can play a small part in empowering Christian communities to be a real force for positive change in a hurting world.
My confidence in that goal got a boost during my trip last week up to Ginghamsburg Church, near Dayton, Ohio. We were there for Change the World, Ginghamsburg's fourth annual conference on the missional church. This is always my favorite trip of the year, getting back to the core of what Jesus called the church to be. Past speakers have included Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, and Adam Hamilton. This year featured Ron Sider, Ruby Payne, and Trevor Hudson, in addition to Ginghamsburg's Pastor Mike Slaughter, who always speaks at the event.
I really loved hearing from Ruby Payne, renowned expert on poverty. She looks at the cultural values and "hidden rules" inherent to the poverty, middle-class, and wealthy classes. It's quite fascinating, and a bunch of teachers and social workers from around Ohio paid to come just to her sessions of the conference. It made me think about how the church can minister not only to the poor outside its walls, but also within--integrating and serving the families living in poverty who may come to worship but are often kept on the outskirts of our middle-class-oriented congregations.
Mike was inspiring, as always, reminding us of the church's imperative to be missional rather than attractional, to make disciples rather than tally decisions, and to value people over buildings. His keynote was a great teaser for his upcoming book Change the World: Recovering the Message and Mission of Jesus, Mike's ninth or tenth book, and his third that I have edited. Aimed at pastors, leadership teams, and others active in church missions, the book explains changes in strategy, budget, programming, and organization that churches can make in order to make mission to the "least, last, and lost" the church's top priority.
Change the World is essentially "Mike on paper," articulating the true heart of his ministry. Mike actually said he could go on his next trip to Sudan in a few weeks with no regret or fear because he had written the book he was born to write. That was understandably disconcerting to his wife, but if that isn't reason to read this book, I don't know what is!