Friday, April 25, 2008

My Exponential 2008 experience: the people

I met a lot of great church planters at exponential 2008. It was reassuring for me to connect with some of these guys and to hear their stories in the church planting realm. I have found that I am not alone. There are other strange creatures called "church planters" who have gone through similar experiences as I have in their efforts to make some sort of sense out of the vision God has given them. Here are just a few.

Nick Poole serves in the Allison Park Church, Pittsburgh, Pa as pastor of church planting. I connected with Nick initially on facebook and hooked up with him at Exponential 2008. Nick actually let me hang out with him a bit as he and I were both attending solo.

Bumped into Jay Hardwick as well. I initially met Jay, again, through facebook and have been following his blog ever since. I wish I could say I spent time getting to know Jay,but with 2300 plus in attendance it was hard to keep tabs on anyone. I saw Jay coming out of one of the sessions, we met, shook hands, chatted for about five minutes, and then he had to go and meet some other folks. That's okay, Jay, I'm going to Whiteboard Sessions in D.C. next month, so maybe we'll connect again there.

Meeting Dave Ferguson was a blessing and a privilege. Dave, along with his brother Jon Ferguson, is co-founder of Community Christian Church of Naperville, Ill, as well as Newthing Church Planting Nerwork, and is considered by Leadership Network to be one of the most influential and innovative church planting churches in America. I sat in on their pre-conference Multi-site session and got to hang out with Dave and some of his staff a bit. I was impressed with Dave's humble, approachable character. I have been tracking the success of CCC and Newthing for the past year, along with their Community 4:12 outreach ministry to the poor and under resourced East Aurora community which is led by Kirsten Strand, who I was hoping to meet at Exponential but did not get a chance to. I had connected with Kirsten via e-mail a few times as we are engaged in similar, inner-city ministries. I have found encouragement in what she and CCC are doing through Community 4:12. I will continue to follow Dave's blog, as well as Kirsten's. I may even bug them with a question or comment every now and then.

I was also thankful to meet and chat with Brian Zehr, Newthing's church planter coaching coordinator. Brian let me hang out with him for a bit and share the CORE vision and bounce some ideas off of him. Brian met me with encouragement to press on and continue in the work we are doing in New York's capital region.

Then there was Mike Dodson. I met Mike at our Mid America Baptist Seminary Northeast Campus alumni banquet and founder's days last fall and then happened to bump into him in the multi-site, preconference session on Monday. Mike planted a church in Pennsylvania and co-authored the book, "Comeback Churches" along with Ed Stetzer. Mike was gracious in allowing me to hang out and chat with him over the four day stretch. It was great to hear about what's going on in his harvest field and to share our CORE vision and story.

I have to mention bumping into Rick Miller, the president of my own church planting and missions family, Missions Door. Rick spotted me as I was coming out of the men's room, on the very last day of the conference as everyone was getting ready to leave. Rick invited me to join him and a team of Missions Door church planters for lunch at Sizzler. It was great to meet Bob Lehman, Paul Biggers, Steve Farnworth and a few others who are connected to Missions Door.

These are just a few of the church planters and pastors I met over the course of four days at Exponential 2008. I am planning on attending the Whiteboard Sessions in D.C. in May and hope to see some of these guys there. Lord willing, I may even catch up with some of them at next year's Exponential 2009.