This year, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center in Music City, USA (Nashville, TN) was home to the Acts 29 Global Gathering. The Acts 29 network, which our church (Karis) is a part of, is made up of over 650 in 38 countries with the good news of Jesus' love being proclaimed in 25 languages! Nearly 1,000 pastors, church planters and their spouses attended. I also had the opportunity to attend with our head pastor, Kevin Larson and his wife Amy, our Executive Pastor, Rob Gaskin and an intern at our church, Timothy Hixon.
Our Executive Pastor and I headed out to Nashville the day before the conference began. The reason being, we had 8th row seats to watch Hans Zimmer perform live in Nashville! Hans Zimmer is a musician and composer who's works you would recognize from movies such as Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight series, Gladiator, The Lion King and many many more. I can honestly say this was the greatest concert I've ever been to, the music and energy and skill on display was fantastic!
When we arrived at the hotel, I almost immediately ran into our friends Drew and Megumi Glosson and their son Nobuki. They have been living in Tokyo serving alongside Yoshi and his young church plant since last June. I finally got to meet their little one who is nearly a year old. Yoshi and his wife Ami were also with Drew waiting to check in so it was great to start the conference by reuniting with our dear friends whom we hope to join in 2018 to labor and live alongside for the sake of the Gospel.
The conference itself consisted of a few plenary sessions with Russel D. Moore, president of Ethics & Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptists Convention, Steve Timmis, author of several books including Total Church & Everyday Church and CEO of the A29 Network, and Matt Chandler, lead pastor of teaching at the Village Church and President of the Acts 29 Network. They each took time to break down a different part of Matthew 6:5-13, the Lord's prayer. Their teaching was very good and challenging as I reflect on the Lord as my Father in heaven whose name is holy. Even in that opening line of the Lord's prayer we see that God is both near (he identifies as our father) and far (He is in heaven, his name is holy, set apart). It is good for me to be reminded of God's holiness in that I can easily forget that and make my prayers more akin to, "I want this thing to go my way" and "give me this object or promotion" and "make all my stress go away." Jesus shows us well in the garden of Gethsemane that praying for God's kingdom and God's will to be done means it will not always go your way, how you want. But if that leads you to be afraid or think that God is just dealing you a bad hand of cards, doesn't really care about your dreams and aspirations, consider what happened after Gethsemane. Christ beaten and mocked, crucified and killed, laid in a tomb and on the 3rd day, rising from the grave. No greater love of God has been made manifest than His will being done in the death and resurrection of Jesus so that we could be reconciled to Him not by our good works and good deeds and good vibes but on the finished work of His obedient Son!
The Lord's Prayer
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray,
go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Honestly the time of teaching was very good and challenging for me. It is too easy to be complacent in a good job, a good city, plenty of good things and people to keep me content. But God our father calls us to more than contentment. He calls us to trust that He will provide for us so we don't have to store up treasures for ourselves or protect ourselves. Jesus, who was and is in perfect unity with the Father shows us through this prayer that we can instead of depending on ourselves, trust in God.
Throughout the rest of the conference I had good conversations with the people I was with, specifically our executive pastor, about Japan, our vision and heart for it. To be completely open, I felt a bit out of place at the conference. All of these men and women were pastors, staff or church planters. It was a conference designed to encourage them as they continue on mission (and I definitely felt encouraged) but my vision is not to be a "pastor" per se in Japan.
What exactly is my vision for Japan? Well, not to leave you hanging but for the next blog post (or potentially few posts depending on how long it gets) I will expound on the need for the Gospel in Japan and how Leanna and I pray that we could be a part of bringing God's love through authentic community. Keep an eye out for the next post!