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Posts tagged "A Conference Breakout Preview"

The Most Foolish Job in the World: Planting a Grace-Centered Church

This conference breakout preview comes to us from our friend Curt Benham, who will be speaking this Friday afternoon at Mockingbird NYC


Church planting is so hot right now.

These are heady times in the Church Planting Industrial Complex. There’s lots of money flowing around, and lots of conferences with lots of hype and lots of really, really, ridiculously good looking people slinging lots of “actionable steps” to help you plant the church of your dreams and make a Giant Impact ™ for Christ on your city.

Church planters have become the tech entrepreneurs of Western Christendom. We’re the ones who must innovate, innovate, and innovate some more in order to get all those wayward millennials’ butts back in the pews and make our cities a utopian paradise.

But here’s what they won’t tell you: church planting will kill you (ministers and laypersons alike). You will die. The law (of church planting), which promises life, will in fact kill you.

In other words, planting a church looks a lot like a life. You have big dreams for your church (or for your career, or for your children), and you feel empowered to take control of those dreams, become the master of your domain, execute your strategy, and ride off in the glow of your success. But you soon realize that you do not have control, and that the millennials aren’t showing up, and that your city is not becoming a utopian paradise, and that people are sick of hearing about grace and want “better, deeper” sermons with more “life application,” and that you’re a crappy “leader.” Ultimately, even though you talk about him all the time, you realize that you are not God. And that kills you. That’s the death-blow.

Resurrection is pretty sweet too, though. What comes out of the ashes of a dead church planter and his/her dead church can be a beautiful thing. Resurrection life usually looks nothing like what you expected or what you would have chosen. But it’s beautiful.

In this break-out session we’ll get honest about the joys and the sorrows of planting a grace-focused church.

Pre-register here!

A Just Relief: A Conference Breakout Preview

This conference breakout preview comes to us from Raleigh Sadler.


“Do you not care about the orphans?” she asked. “Because if you actually do, then you will support my ministry.” I was at a loss. I simply stared back at her as she continued to take me on her “guilt trip.” Though she was asking me to do something “good,” I couldn’t help but feel bad.

Oftentimes, conversations about “relief” can make us feel anything but relief. If you are honest with yourself, you will have to admit that at some point, you’ve felt this way.

For this reason, many of us resist following the latest social justice trends. Though we are not against “digging wells” or “fighting human trafficking,” we struggle with exhaustion at the very thought of it.

This year at the 9th annual mockingbird conference, I will be leading a discussion entitled “A Just Relief: How the Gospel produces Justice.” Using the parable of the Good Samaritan as our paradigm, we will discover how we can use law and Gospel to radically change how we approach social justice.

In this breakout, we will discuss shifting our motivation from law to grace, how “rest” in the gospel leads us to good “works,” and how to free your church to enjoy doing mercy and Justice in your community. See you next week!

Pre-register here – Walk-ins are always welcome but Tuesday 4/12 is last day to guarantee food.

Costly Grace? A Conference Breakout Preview

This breakout session session preview comes to us from our friend Javier Garcia. Hope to see you next week in NYC for Mockingbird 2016. You can register here!

bonhoeffer-1In Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton presents us with an unsettling truth: “The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard.” No matter how much or how deeply we consider the short words of our faith, such as “cross,” “law,” “gospel,” and, above all, “grace,” it is all too easy for us to slip, to miss the point, to twist the meaning and misunderstand the very heart of what we believe. Here at Mockingbird, we revel in what Paul Zahl calls “one-way love” – the steadfast, never-ending, ever-surprising and seemingly impossible truth (thank God it is not impossible!) that God accepts us and loves us completely in Jesus Christ, without question and without conditions.

Yet, in our wrestling with this reality – both to understand it and accept it – we often come up against competing definitions or interpretations of grace, which threaten to dim the light and muffle the promise. A contentious example here is the whole idea of “Cheap Grace” and “Costly Grace” that appears in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s spiritual classic Discipleship (more popularly known as The Cost of Discipleship). The misinterpretations of this trope are legion. Bonhoeffer’s economic language doesn’t help – grace doesn’t have to be earned, as if somehow it were expensive. Grace is free! A gift isn’t bought, nor is this one merited by us (in unison, let us join the Pauline chorus: by no means!). Other aspects of Discipleship make us wonder…We hear “only the believers obey and only the obedient believe” or “faith is only faith in deeds of obedience” and it sounds as daunting as the heavy-metal guitar riffs (yes, that guitar with fire bursting out of its fret board) of Mad Max: Fury Road, heralding the bitter end to this hopeless world. Is this grace?

The question remains, then, is Bonhoeffer a Mockingbird or its bogeyman? Is his understanding of grace compatible with one-way love, or is it something else entirely? We would like to think that Luther-an (i.e. all lovers of Luther) birds of a feather flock together, but does Bonhoeffer’s doctrine of grace fly, at least with us? In this breakout session we will be taking a fresh look at Bonhoeffer’s theology of grace, making a detour from his more famous works to find the short words we love in his sermons and reflections on pastoral care. We will find that Bonhoeffer is a crucial resource for us to understand the different forms of relief we can find in grace, especially in our world of expectation.

To anticipate some of our discussion and to see its relevance for the season of Easter, I leave you with Thomas Cranmer’s collect for this past Sunday:

“Almighty God, which hast given thy holy son to be unto us, both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of Godly life; Give us the grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life.” Amen!

Pre-register here!


Impossible is Nothing… And Everything: A Conference Breakout Preview


I think it was three or four slogans ago that had the Army asking us to be all we can be. I wonder, actually, if that was happening during the same time the first Mission: Impossible movie was coming out. Seems like forever ago. In light of Ethan Hunt hanging on to the outside of an airplane as it’s taking off, “be all you can be” seems refreshingly possible. You know you’re in kind of a sticky spot when you find yourself wistfully remembering a time when things seemed possible, right?

So much seems impossible now.

It’s impossible to graduate from college and get a job in your chosen field, much less one that will begin to make a dent in your student loans. It’s impossible to date in the world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, not to mention that world of Tinder and Grindr. It’s impossible to be the kind of provider for your family that will allow you an undisturbed sleep at night. Impossible is everywhere. Impossible is everything.

And Jesus doesn’t seem to be helping.

With his commands to turn the other cheek, to love and pray for your enemies, to give even more ground to those who persecute you, and to give everything you have away, Jesus only ratchets up the bar of impossibility. Impossible doesn’t just live in the world. If it did, we could boo and hiss at it and think ourselves safe and immune, ensconced in our pews. But impossible lives at church, too. “Therefore you must be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Thanks a lot, Jesus.

During the morning break-out sessions on Friday (10:30am, April 15) of the up-coming Mockingbird Conference, I’ll be hosting a discussion of the impossible. It’s called “Impossible is Nothing…and Everything.” We’ll talk about some of the impossible things God asks of us in the pages of Scripture, and some of the impossible things life asks of us every day. As we see, more and more, that impossible is everything (or, more accurately, that everything is impossible), we’ll get a clearer and clearer picture of the Good News: that because of God’s accomplishments in Jesus Christ, impossible is nothing. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope to see you there.

Pre-register here!


Good News at World’s End: Grace in Eschatology

Welcome to another preview of a conference breakout session. Join us at Mockingbird NYC: Relief, now just three weeks away! April 14-16. We’ve noted before the phenomenon of the surging popularity of apocalyptic film and television (and video-games!), whether it’s zombies, nuclear war, epidemics, or whatever else that causes a breakdown in the fabric of […]

The Relief of Grief: A Conference Breakout Preview

Here’s our latest preview of a conference breakout session! For more relief, honesty and good news, join us during our upcoming conference in NYC, April 14-16.


If I’m completely honest with you, which I typically am, I’d have to confess that death scares me. Whether it’s walking through the grief of losing loved ones or facing the Grim Reaper’s bony finger pointed in my own direction, death makes me quake in the deepest and most intimate fibers of my being. On my worst days, I’m quite certain that if Lestat de Lioncourt himself knocked on my front door, I’d not only willingly open said door, but cast my very person upon him begging for both bite and bodice.

I know I’m not alone with these feelings about death–both the fear of and the grief from. While you may not have contemplated embracing vampiric life, there are things you do to run from, ignore, suppress, etc., those feelings of fear and grief brought on by the reality of death. Whether it’s by the pursuit of healthy life and healthy body or by taking on helicopter relationality with all those whom we love and can’t bare to lose, we try, by our own strength, to keep death at bay….at far, far, far bay.

The good news lies apart from The Vampire Chronicles and outside of ourselves and our meager and feable attemps to protect ourselves and others (and that in and of iself is good news, too). The good news lies in Jesus Christ and that he says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt. 5:4). And I’d like to be bold and add to that, “Blessed are those who are afraid, for they shall be comforted, too.”

So, this is what my break out session, “The Relief of Grief,” is all about: the Word of Jesus Christ (who is the Word), the Gospel of the jusification of sinners, that comes to us from with-out us in to the midst of our grief and fear brought on by death to bring us true and real comfort and relief.

So come and join me; Vampires welcome.

Pre-register here!

The Future’s Past: Time Travel and Justification in Fiction, the Bible and You – A Conference Breakout Preview

Here’s another preview of a breakout session for the upcoming Mockingbird Conference in NYC on April 14-16!

If one accepts the premise that pop culture expresses, sometimes despite itself, every essential truth of modern life*, then the screenwriters’ super-cliche, “I should have killed you when I had the chance,” is a mirror to our souls. We are awash in regret. Opportunity, whatever it was, has been missed and so failures past have compromised the future. Time is not on our side, but an enemy we must control.

*This is Mockingbird. Of course you accept it.

Where science has failed to provide a solution, fiction has succeeded: time travel. Starships and superheroes, Time Lords and terminators, and yes, Bill and Ted have all excellently ventured through the ages to set things right. Time travel is more than a plot device–in practically every case, it is a symbol for the ability of human beings to correct ourselves and our world. Which is to say, time travel is always about justification.

That is ample reason to explore time travel from a Christian perspective. But there is much more to consider. The Bible makes startling assertions about time and where we stand in it. A dying Moses addresses a generation who never saw the Exodus, yet speaks as if they had, a generation of time travelers. Hebrews tells of Christ who appeared once, at the end of the ages, to remove our sin–but the ages roll on and the death of Christ is long past.

You can’t get very far in any biblical discussion of Jesus and his love for sinners without running hard into questions about time–what time is it? Is now the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel? The question of who we are is inextricably linked to the question of when we are.  And so, we might also say that justification is always about time travel.

In this breakout, we’ll discuss time travel and justification along these two avenues, fiction and the Bible, enlisting the aid of as many famous travelers as we can manage, and then take a hard look at where the two trajectories slam into one another. Along the way we might discover what real time travel looks like, how it’s done, and why it’s the boldest good news you’ll ever hear.


Pre-register here!

Grace Stinks: A Conference Breakout Preview

Check out this preview of a conference breakout session, entitled, “Grace Stinks: When the Healer Carries a Sword,” and join us next month at the Mockingbird NYC Conference April 14-16!

vivien-leigh-as-scarlett-ohara-1348207344_b-2Anyone else think it’s a bit rude that God doesn’t carry around a suggestion box?

From an early age, I aimed to be a helpful assistant to God without realizing that I was actually enlisting him to be my assistant. I had a plan for my life, carefully outlined and bullet-pointed, and for quite a while this plan seemed to unfold according to schedule. Until it didn’t. And the life I had planned became pock-marked with all manner of interruptions and disasters, leaving me wondering why, if God was so good, he couldn’t just DO WHAT I WANTED ALREADY.

It’s possible that I have some control issues.

Next month, I’ll be relating my personal tales of finding grace in the wreckage of former plans, and in all sorts of places devoid of divine suggestion boxes–like doctors’ offices, hospital rooms, bathroom floors, carpool lines, creek beds, and barn benches. Topics of interest will range from horse excrement to my theory about who’s really behind the Trump campaign. Luminaries from JRR Tolkien to Scarlett O’Hara will be quoted (but sadly have not yet RSVPed). I’ll try not to embarrass my family or offend any listeners, but anyone involved with the Left Behind series may want to sit this one out. If you’ve ever found yourself asking questions like “Why, God? Why?”, “How Do I Get the Hell Out of Here?”, or “Hey Jesus! HOW DARE YOU?”, then I can’t guarantee answers, but I can promise uncomfortable laughter at my own expense. Which is, I’m coming to find, what grace often sounds like. The smell of it? You’ll just have to show up to find that out.

Pre-register today!

Recovering the Cross in Healing Prayer Ministry: A Conference Breakout Preview

Here is another preview of a breakout session from our upcoming conference in NYC during which Laurel Marr and Ben DeHart will be discussing the cross and healing prayer. Join us April 14-16!

Healing prayer ministries in the church today are centered on theologies of glory – beliefs that faith, positive thinking, and works are needed for personal empowerment or to alleviate sickness or poverty. Where do we turn when this isn’t working?

8242bd9abefcc938d12a39d6f9f2cd1f“Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.” (Mark 9:32)

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:22-24)

Have we missed the real power of prayer because of insufficient faith? The promise of God’s healing power to be released if we just rally our faith never works. The good news is that we don’t have to count on our own offerings of faith to receive God’s blessings–even healing. God does not grant any favors for prosperity ministries that proclaim law-based methods will secure more blessings for those who can live within their rigidity.

What is faith anyways? How do we find healing? We don’t find it; it finds us.

The Gospel pronounces that we are already forgiven and our justification ends conditional thinking and the language of the law. God commands us to believe and He creates faith in our hearts as he covers us with the His own righteousness. It is a condition, not a choice; a gift, not an offer. This saving faith is a result of His choice and His commitment to us, not ours to Him.

“For by grace you have been saved by faith. And it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, no a result of works so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Perhaps offerings of faith for healing miracles should be considered works, and we don’t have anything God needs or wants. Faith flows from His will and work, not ours. It is time to bring healing prayer ministries to be centered on the Theology of the Cross – where the cross of Christ is the heartbeat of our faith.

Pre-register today!


Performancism 101: A Conference Breakout Preview

Here is the first of this year’s conference breakout previews–sneak peeks into what we’ll be talking about during the breakout sessions at Mockingbird’s NYC Conference April 14-16.


Sometimes it seems like our culture sees its students as mythical creatures, glowing embodiments of youth and drive; they represent who we as a society will be “tomorrow.” Often the social structures of our student bodies reflect the structures in society more generally, and no where is this more true than in the stress-inducing standards of performance-based living. For students, achievement is identity. Sound familiar?

Students currently live in a no-fail world where any misstep feels like a plunge off the cliff of college admissions and the good life after that. A 4.0 GPA is no longer enough. To get where they (feel they) need to go, they need extracurriculars, Advanced Placement classes, awards, and honors. Consider The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success, which encourages college-aspiring students to begin recording their achievements in an online portfolio–in ninth grade, four years in advance. One high school guidance counselor calls it an “arms race,” while over at The New Yorker, Matt Feeney declares this lifestyle as “poisonous,” saying that it not only affects students, but also parents: “I’m starting to resent the prospect of having my family life colonized and deformed by a system that, though it works through educational channels, doesn’t serve educational ends, or exacts extreme costs in exchange for a meagre educational payoff.” Ella Gonzalez, at The Huffington Post, writes: “If you happen to be entering your senior year of high school, first I’d like to say, congratulations and I am sorry,” followed by, “You are not in control of anything.” Various admissions blogs discuss suicide and the threat of it, post-rejection.

920x920Some say, fear not: admissions reforms are in the works. But as discussions about limiting extracurriculars and AP classes occupy the news, Feeney asks: “What new and more exacting model of self, in other words, will colleges be urging their teen-age aspirants to approximate?” Reform of the law cannot fulfill it, and any attempts to do so will inevitably result in the high-pressure lifestyle of what we’ve come to call “performancism.”

At this conference breakout session (2:15, Friday April 15), we are going to look at how fear and the need for control contribute to performancism, particularly among students. We’ll talk about stress and how we cope with it. We’ll point some fingers. And maybe, too, after all that, we’ll find a cure.

Pre-register here!