Last week I had a great time at New Room, a conference sponsored by Seedbed and the Wesleyan Covenant Network. I was privileged to work with the team that became Seedbed in seminary, so my opinion and experience is a little biased. The several hundred people in attendance learned from great speakers and spent plenty of time hanging out, eating great meals and learning from each other.
Here are my takeaways from New Room.
They are organized in three categories; Teaching, Social and Movement
Alan and Deb Hirsch: This wonderful couple challenged us all officially and unofficially. They were around hanging out and spending time with folks throughout the week. I had several chances to spend time with them and I think they are the most genuine high profile people in the world of Christianity I keep up with.
Alan and Deb are amazing at communicating high level information and practicality simultaneously. As a theory nerd, I totally jive with them.
Alan told us this statement in his closing session and it energized me more than anything else.
Ed Stetzer: Ed is a Southern Baptist pastor and researcher. He is known for his work with Lifeway and a few great books. We joked a little about Ed being our token Calvinist at the conference (even though he isn’t).
Ed challenged Wesleyans and especially those in the UMC to get it together. He shared what our missional DNA is and how it is poised to greatly affect the west. One of the things he said which resonated was his emphasis on church planting. Any movement needs 3% replication each year to stay afloat. This means the Louisiana Annual Conference of the UMC needs to start around 15 churches a year.
Joe Dongell: Dr. Dongell was my IBS (not the disease, inductive Bible study) professor in seminary. I was geared up for his presentation and was disappointed at the lack of a whiteboard and his notorious green briefcase. (JK). Dr. Dongell really spread his wings out and offered us something he had been working through with great passion and surprise.
In the way only Dr. Dongell could have, he went through the entirety of Wesley’s works twice and extracted the core importance of Love to Wesleyans. He then reevaluated what Love actually is and challenged us to live in this way.
I also really enjoyed the two group conversations about church planting and the time with Maxie Dunham, Tim Tennent and Billy Abraham.
If you noticed many of my takeways came from day 1, it’s because I had an absolute ball reconnecting with people and meeting new friends. This is the genius of New Room. It is set up for connection and shared learning.
My hosts in The Threshing Floor also had a great time with listeners and recording a live episode with friends. I have never been to an event this large that was also as relational.
Having each attendee’s twitter handle on their nametag was a great idea. I met so many people I have been having conversations with for years. It was a special delight to finally meet a few friends I have become really close with online.
If one word kept coming up, it was movement. But movements are a tricky thing. They have to be organic and owned. Here are a few things I think greatly contributed to the vibe.
Justin Wise, Phil Tallon, Jeremy Steele and Jessica Lagrone all had great presentations with amazing information. But the thing that stuck out to me across all four of their teachings was an excellence in modern communication. They understood how to actually use screens, integrated humor and personality and never distracted.
Mark Swayze, Mark Benjamin and Drew Causey covered the place with great music. We sung. A lot. And it was good. We learned new songs, sang old songs from our tradition and seriously felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think I have ever said that about a conference before.
The Environment. JD, Andrew, Andy and their team created a great environment. It was casual, interactive and encouraged conversation. I seriously can’t think of a thing that felt out of place. It was as much an influence as anything taught or sung.
I had a great time at New Room. I hope this is an annual event and I can’t imagine how it could get any better.