NOTE: I’m reporting on a half-day conference I attended today. See Part One over here.

  1. The Decline of the Belief in Exclusivity. According to our presenter, this is the greatest danger of the postmodern mindset and movement. His statistics show that 1 of 5 Southern Baptists believe one “might get saved” without a commitment to Christ. He also told us that this number is growing annually.
  2. The Move to “Simple Church.” A sort of “back to basics” movement in which churches focus on doing a few things with excellence. He said this is the great attraction and beauty of Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven stuff. It helps churches focus on what’s important and how to do the important stuff well. This movement to “simple church” (look for his book by this title in 2006!) involves four components: clarity, movement (how do you get from point a to point c?), elimination (what are you going to get rid of?), and alignment (how do you make sure your actions are matching your values?). Interestingly to me, he didn’t make the correlation between the emerging church phenomenon and this desire to move to “simple church.” I see the emergence of the emerging church as a prime example of this move to “basic Christianity” without all the extra fluff and trappings that get in the way for this generation of postmodern believers and seekers.
  3. The Move to High Expectation Churches. In 1997, 1 in 30 churches had some sort of membership class. By 2004, that number was 1 in 3. Our presenter said the importance of a membership class and other high-expectation components is information (what the church is all about, etc.) and expectation (what the church expects from members).
  4. The Move to Greater Evangelistic Intentionality Among Young People. Our presenter said that 75% of people who accept Christ do so before age 15. It was during this part (I think! Gary, help me out here…) that he talked about the importance of being accepting of those who are “different” than we are – particularly “those young people with purple hair and multiple piercings.” His quote: “Accept them like they are now, because they are going to change their lifestyle later.” He related the story of one young woman who visited 11 churches before she found one that would accept her just as she was. She expressed the thoughts of many in the “younger” generation when she said most churches might as well put on their signs “Young people, go to hell!” (I was getting a little sleepy about this time, but I do remember thinking how true that is. I also remember thinking how most of those in attendance today probably were thinking, “if we can just make ’em all look, walk, smell, talk, etc. ‘like us,’ then we’ve got ’em.”).
  5. The Decline of the Southern Baptist Convention. Now I know that’s a huge influence on most of you. NOT! Our presenter’s point was that we (Southern Baptists) are baptizing the same number of people now as we did 50 years ago, even though we have 10 million more members than we did then. Interestingly, he didn’t mention (although it was in a “now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t” bullet point) that the “conservative resurgence” in the SBC has not improved our evangelistic success. (I was going to ask him about that, but I was too tired to rock the boat at that time.) I have read elsewhere our presenter’s thoughts on the matter: “Imagine where we’d be if we hadn’t had that course correction!” Funny, I thought the “return to our roots” was the cure for everything that ails Southern Baptists. Seems to me, from this vantage point, we were just looking for something to fight about and control. Now that we’ve “rescued” the Bible, who’s the boogeyman keeping us from doing what God called us to do?
  6. The Great Facility Showdown. Our presenter’s own bias had been that we spend way too much money on facilities and that we should spend that money on real ministry, real evangelism, etc. But after conducting extensive research (commissioned by large church-construction companies), he had changed his tune to see that the facilities do indeed have an impact on the effectiveness of churches. The most valuable piece of information he learned through this research? Women care about how clean the restrooms are and whether or not their preschoolers will be safe and secure. Go figure…
  7. Lost Church Members. Our presenter estimated that 45% of church members in the U.S. are “unregenerate.”
  8. When Good Does Not Survive: The Story of Breakout Churches. More of a plug for a recent book than an actual trend with great impact.

I could say a lot more about the conference itself. However, I really don’t want to be considered a cynical jerk. (“Too late,” some of you are saying!).

I really do appreciate the guy’s experience and insight. I really do appreciate our local folks putting on this kind of thing. I really do appreciate the people who attended, took copious notes, nodded, and “Amen-ed” at the appropriate times. But I left with a let down feeling that I hadn’t really taken much away that would help me and my church.

But, wait! I said earlier that I did, in fact, get something important and valuable out of the conference. I’ll tell you about that later. Don’t let me forget…