I’ve been in Burnsville, a suburb of Minneapolis, since late Tuesday night in order to participate in the Midwest North Region’s Summer Family Fest. It’s basically a way for the Vineyard family to gather together to worship, learn, experience, and serve. I’ve written about a few of our gatherings in the past (here, here, here, here, and here), so here are my reflections on this year’s.
Before I reflect on the music and sessions, I’d like to start by saying that my family loved this year’s gathering. Just a few minutes ago we went around the car and shared what we all enjoyed and it was so encouraging to hear my children tell me what they loved. I’m very thankful right now.
Brenda Gatlin, our Regional Leader, did an incredible job. The theme, “Healthy Kingdom Relationships; Relating God’s Way,” was very timely. So kudos to all of the leaders who were involved in discerning what to talk about. We are very blessed to have Brenda in our region because she’s an incredible model in areas of ministry and leadership. And the way the conference started was genius: we had a family fun outdoor water games night! My kids loved it and haven’t stopped talking about the bubble machine since. It was a great start.
This year’s main speakers were Michael Gatlin (Duluth Vineyard) and Brian and Thora Anderson (North Phoenix Vineyard). Michael opened the Thursday morning session up by talking about “Love God. Love People. Period.” His talk included some really practical ways to think about loving God and loving people and, to my delight, included a serious amount of time focused on the issue of confronting idolatry (he even quoted Calvin!).
During the afternoon, Michael did a breakout session on church planting and it became crystal clear to me that he is an expert on the subject of church planting. I’m thankful to be able to learn from him.
Brian’s Thursday evening session, “A Leader’s Most Important Battle,” was really a call for leaders to return to what my buddy Mike Turrigiano talks about, the main and the plain. Saturate yourself with Scripture… pray… don’t be dumb… and trust God! Brian is, as others stated numerous times, quintessential Vineyard.
In the afternoon, my friend Doug Erickson and I did a breakout on the Father’s heart for the LGBTQ community and I think it went pretty good for the simple fact that no one screamed at Doug or I. Others who attended can comment on whether it was helpful or not. I was just honored to have a chance to share some thoughts on the subject with Doug.
Friday morning’s talk was by Thora, Brian’s wife. She absolutely killed it (and that’s a good thing). Her talk, “The Already and Not Yet of Relationships,” was full of great insights, practical applications, and was hilarious. I loved it.
The evening talk on Friday was delivered by Brian and was on “Leadership Purity.” This message needs to be sent to every pastor in the Vineyard. Wisdom, wisdom, and wisdom. If you aren’t careful and if you don’t set up some healthy boundaries and create practical ways to protect yourself, you could experience a moral failure easier than you may realize.
All of the teaching sessions were proceeded by fantastic music and I sensed the Spirit’s presence many times throughout the conference. Earlier today there was also a huge outreach where we served the community around us and I know people became followers of Jesus!
In addition to our time together as a family, it was great seeing old and new friends. We got to see and hang with Ben and Jen LaFrinier, which was great. Plus, our kids got to get to know each other and formulate some sort of Pastor’s kids recovery group. John and Sharon Novitski, our friends from Tomahawk, joined us for a cookout and John and I planned this fall’s steelhead trip to the Brule River. By the way, their pastor, Ross Nelson, has the sweetest, kindest, most awesome wife in the world. Ross is a great guy too, of course… when he isn’t in the hospital! Jeremy Henderson and I chopped it up a bit about hip hop in the Vineyard. I continue to find it fascinating that there are others who love hip hop and are in the Vineyard. When are we going to record an album and feature emcee’s during Vineyard worship events?!?!?! By the way, I got to have Pastor Miguel Aviles tell me that I’m his favorite white friend (I did, in fact, tell him he’s my favorite Mexican friend… ha ha). I finally got to meet Bree Thompson in person… Bree is responsible for fixing all of my blog posts over at Multiply Vineyard, even though she denies it. It was incredibly valuable to spend some time with Doug and Sandi Erickson and their family for several meals. Oh, and the fact that our great friends from home, John and Katy, were able to come was also awesome. Thanks to my parents for spending time with us and allowing us to all crash at their house! I could go on and on about people that I got to talk to and hang with but I’ll stop now because this is starting to feel like an acceptance speech at some sort of awards ceremony. Okay, I got a couple more… it was great hanging with Greg Perkinson, Geno Olison, Jason Patrick, Brian Brinkert… and… I… must… stop.
South Metro Vineyard Church did a great job of hosting the event and the Area Pastors all were super helpful.
My heart is glad. Thanks, Midwest North Region, for being such a blessing to me and my family. Can’t wait for the next gathering!