1. Justin Welby
The spiritual leader of 80 million Anglicans was introduced after a moving gospel singing rendition of amazing grace followed by a rip roaring ear drum shattering rock out from Ben Cantelon and Tim Hughes. With all the lights and smoke machines you would expect from at a rock concert at the Albert Hall. Then there was a very professional blip vert introducing us to the global press coverage of the Archbishop’s installation on the high definition LCD screens. Then on comes the mild mannered and incredibly humble figure of Justin Welby. He spoke very movingly about coping with the loss of his baby daughter Joanna: “hardly a day goes by that we don’t think about her” at a time when the HTB was engaging with the healing ministry of John Wimber. He spoke of feeling incredibly nervous but relying on the God’s grace to cope with the task infront of him. He spoke about evangelism and the need for the church to take risks in its mission:
There is no safety in Christ, but absolute security – we need to be risk taking church in the service of Christ” @ABCJustin #LC13
Loved this little one liner from the ABC…
“At Chichester Cathedral I was wandering around trying to look like an archbishop… wearing a long black dressing gown”
It was a very gracious and engaging introduction and he seemed very comfortable in a charismatic evangelical context.
2. Leadership church, culture and business
I really like the emphasis borrowed from Rick Warren and Bill Hybels in seeking to encourage Christians to lead not just in the church but in the culture and business. So it was good that speakers included leaders from these worlds: Patrick Lencioni a well known management consultant and author of New York times best selling books such as “5 dysfunctions of a team” and “death by meeting” and Chris Hyman the CEO of Serco group a multibillion dollar multinational company with over 120 000 employees.
It is true that Nicky Gumbell took on an interview style closer to Parkinson than Paxman and as a result there was a warmth and humanity to the interviews which meant people felt happy to open up about their personal stories. Hyman spoke movingly about his escape from the world trade centre on 9/11 and his admiration for the fire rescue workers. He spoke about his passion for his family and the challenges of balancing time with kids and work and only sleeping for 4 hours a night.
But Paxman would have asked questions about how a Christian works through the ethics of making lots of money by being the CEO of a company that runs the UK’s nuclear arsenal.
I am a speaker at the conference. I will have a few minutes to share about the Home for Good campaign on day 2 in what looks like an excellently put together seminar focussing on the radical hospitality of God. Despite my modest input into the programme HTB have been very generous in allowing our little stream a special box to sit in with a great view at the Albert Hall, some very friendly hosts and tea and coffee on tap. The whole event has an incredibly well produced feel to it and all the staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful.
4. Bill Hybels
Bill Hybels spoke movingly about his desire to make sure the church is able to engage with the broken hearted. His communication style is relaxed and yet informative. Rather than use powerpoint there’s an honesty and directness about a man and a flipchart armed with a thick marker pen. Hybels manages the difficult task of speaking humbly and yet authoritatively. He offered some very helpful insights about finishing well.
5. Digital media
The whole event has been live streamed on the internet and apparently the sound mix has been exceptionally good so that people can rock out to the worship times. Lots of people have been commenting on how nice it was to be able to join in during free lessons at school or while looking after children at home. Indeed streaming the event live at great cost is a real act of generosity. Also the leadership conference app is useful (and available for IOS and Android).
6. Meeting people
I love the fact that there are people here from so many different places and tribes. I enjoyed bumping into old friends and making new ones. So I had a number of really helpful meetings with people I have been hoping to see for a while.
Room for improvement?
No conference is perfect – indeed Bill Hybels encouraged us to develop a culture of incessant tinkerers – constantly improving things that are already great… so I humbly offer some suggestions. Would be great to see more women speaking on the main stage. Last year Christine Cain delivered a powerful challenge to us to look out for the outsiders. It would have been great to hear from Lynn Hybels.More bible – during the time I was in sessions and seminars there was very little serious engagement with scripture. Scripture was assumed rather than explicitly engaged with. But this is only day 1 so perhaps the balance will be struck tomorrow.
Really looking forward to another day of inspiration and challenge tomorrow.
[You can read my reflections on day 2 here]