I'm away for 3 days with some incredible, amazing leaders. It is a great honor to be invited to the Spence Network gatherings of innovative pastors who lead incredibly exciting churches. In the room are maybe 20 or so senior pastors. We stay at very nice places...places I could not afford to stay normally. We eat at very upscale restaurants, which are somewhat more gourmet than the fast food I usually have when we 'eat out'. And we interview and dialogue with some of the most exclusive and renowned leaders anywhere. I feel unworthy to be included in this gathering. But it is a rare treat for Susan and me, a genuine blessing to both of us to stay in such luxury, to eat so fine, and to be treated with such honor. All of this is paid for because of the work of the Spence Network leaders, who believe in the great Kingdom value of getting church staff and church leaders together on various levels, mixing them up, adding some outside voices, and turning them loose.
This is my 3rd invitation (once per year) to be a part of this gathering, and there are now some friendships that are forming. It takes a long time for Senior Pastors to make great friends because our schedules are so full all the time. But slowly, the networking is paying off. I had a conversation last night with a friend and we started talking about Zions Crossroads and batted around the idea of us partnering to either planting a church there, or launch a campus there. Another approached me about some work we might could do together at the state level that would make a real difference. One asked me to give him some counsel on how to help him lead his rapidly growing church through a period of very scarce resources. Another talked about their venture into a new building program.
On the flip side, I reached out to several guys who have successful multi-site strategies. I'll meet with them after this retreat is over, and they were gracious enough to give me a piece of their calendars. With some others, we decided to bring all of our campus pastors (we haven't selected ours yet) together for a 2-day intense training that we would jointly arrange. I was able to unload a little about my frustrations with our building...and some of the frustrations with myself.
John Chandler, who leads the Spence Network, probably doesn't really grasp the value of the work he does. But this gathering has become an oasis for me - a much anticipated time of growing, reflecting, and learning. There is nobody here that I have to lead, nobody here who requires anything of me. There is no stress on finances or guilt for spending, because it costs me nothing. And Susan and I get to enjoy some amenities we rarely (never) have.
And, best of all, the Kingdom wins. I'll return invigorated, ready, better equipped, charged, and with more support.
Thanks, John, for what you are doing for the Kingdom and for our church. We are very grateful!