Continuing the Conversation from Q (Part 2)
As always it was like trying to drink from a fire hose while at Q. But perhaps even harder than drinking in information is trying to catch it in meaningful pieces so I take it home with me and do something about it. From the stage this year, Q definitely made an effort to talk about fatherlessness as an issue. But for me, the themes that seemed to resonate the most were those that had a formal component (presented from stage) coupled with an informal component (those discussed in private conversations or resonated with other thoughts I was already having).
Here are a few of the themes that emerged for me:
1) Listening - Too often as Christians we’re all about having the answers. There is a need for us to stop and listen to both our brothers and sisters in Christ (both contemporary as well as ancient) and also those whom we are trying to serve. This was demonstrated most profoundly when someone pointed out the conference was called Q and what a different conference it would be if it were called A. Dave Blanchard drove home the importance of listening in business. IDEO’s willingness to get involved in listening to people’s stories helped them to create a billion dollar program for Bank of America that not only served the bank, but also their customers.
Takeaway: Listening is time-consuming and messy but can pay big results.
2) Pursuing the Prodigals - This theme was hit on by Jo Saxton who asked if her life was worth enough for us in the church to go outside of our doors and find her. So often we’re content to sit back and wait for the prodigals to return, but what if we went out and go them? I helped collaborate on a book about prodigals and many of their stories involved someone from the outside joining their story. Mike Foster also drove home this point with his stories about People of the Second Chance. In addition Sean Womack told the personal story behind his very public affair and the grace demonstrated by his wife Shelley. In a private conversation, I learned about a young man with a very troubled life who grew up to be a successful attorney because of a youth minister willing to come after him in the middle of the night. In another conversation, a young business man told me about how his family has opened up their home to a young man who just gotten out of prison. The boy had asked if he could sleep in their garage, the businessman said no, but he could be a part of the family.
Takeaway: How far am I willing to go to give someone a second chance? Am I willing to go after them? And if I find them, what kind of scandalous grave am I willing to offer them?
3) It’s Messy - Getting involved in other peoples’ lives is messy. It takes time and when you join their story, you’re going to get all of their junk all over you. In addition, it’s hard to measure the ROI on relationships.
4) Longevity - We’re all about the ROI, the quick results, the progress, and the success. But often results take years. In a private networking meeting, Charles Lee encouraged us to pursue relationships that seemed purposeless, awkward, or unnecessary and do so for the long term allowing God to use them over time. I agree. Other speakers talked about the number of years it took them to see results but how important it was that they stayed the course.
Takeaway: I need to be less dismissive and more patient when things don’t seem to serve my immediate purposes or return expected results.
5) Arrogance and Superiority - Along with the longevity theme was the theme of getting out of the mindset that we’re the ones doing it right. Whether gospel interpretation, church models, or spiritual practices, we have much to learn from those who came before and alongside us. Our job is to understand what the past can teach us and apply the lessons to the future we’re trying to create.
Takeaway: I don’t have all the answers.
6) Start with One - These things are messy. They take a long time to show results. The problems are bigger than we can fix in our lifetime. But still, we need to start with one.
Takeaway: Do one thing. Fix one problem. Care for one person. It makes a difference to the one.
Takeaway: Do it, don’t waste time figuring out how to display it.
8) Cities as the Center - Two years ago, Tim Keller spoke two years ago about the importance of being in the city. It’s where the best and the brightest hang out, it’s also where ideas start and spread. It was a compelling talk and at the time gave me a sense of discontent for my safe and isolated home in the suburbs. The cities theme continued this year (perhaps because we were in Chicago?). Only this time, I saw something new–the importance of the concept of city in the Bible. Jerusalem is a city and both physically and metaphorically is at the center of so many biblical ideas. Perhaps Tim is right? More than just a cultural phenomena perhaps there should be more study of the spiritual significance of cities.
Takeaway: My discontent in the ‘burbs grows…but now with a biblical basis for that discontent.
9) Gospel – What is the gospel? And how has the meaning of that word changed over time? We’ve added so many things to it that many of us don’t know what it is. Several people touched on this idea and the importance of stripping away added meaning to words that are important to our faith.
Takeaway: I’ve always tried to strip away the Christianese when writing for mainstream audiences. But now I recognize that even among Christians we don’t always agree with what we’re talking about.
10) “If you encounter the grace of God, you will take care of the poor.” – God’s been working this theme in and through me since last fall.
11) “What’s your story?” “Can I join your story?” “Can we retell your story?” – Sajan George used this as a way to frame his ideas of educational reform. I found that these questions also worked with Mike Foster’s People of the Second Chance and Jo Saxton’s “Would you come find me?” as well as personal conversations I had with individuals whose stories are being rewritten. In networking meetings where collaboration means joining and rewriting stories this was a particularly apt way to explain it because we can’t join stories or co-labor until we know each others stories.
Takeaway: This is a beautiful model for co/laboration.
12) Co/laboration - This theme was preached from the first pre-Q meet-up to the final presentation. To quote another attendee, “this message sends lighting through my veins.” I love to collaborate and I’m always looking for ways to do more of it and do it better. Considering number nine above, one of the things I’ve always liked about collaboration is that working together helps me to get to know someone at a deeper level than almost anything else.
Takeaway: Collaboration can be messy but the outcome is always better than doing it alone.
Did you respond to any of these takeaways? Or, if you were at Q, what takeaways did you come home with?
Let’s keep the conversation going,
One Response to “Continuing the Conversation from Q (Part 2)”
Love how you culled this down Jennifer…thank you!