The Elephant in the Room

So… you’ve heard about the Elephant Room, right?  Last year, James MacDonald gathered a group of his friends together to talk about the big issues facing the church.  Topics included dicey things like cultural engagement; the landmines of compassion ministry; and what was in Perry Noble’s head when his church worship team started a service with the song “Highway to Hell”.

The idea was to get some top leaders together in one room and have conversations about what the scriptures actually teach.  In fact, the purpose statement of The Elephant Room says that “to advance Christ’s call to unity we must do what men have always done, we must push and prod and challenge and sharpen each other’s beliefs and methods.”

So, the elephant room was born.

And the people complained.  How could this person AND that person share the same stage?  Why would these two people be having these discussions in the first place?  And if there was no declared ‘winner’ in a discussion or argument about ministry matters, then truth is somehow compromised.

The rumblings were at first subdued, and primarily came from those from the more conservative theological bent.

But the real controversy came with the announcement of the speakers for this year’s Elephant Room.  When T. D. Jakes was announced as one of the speakers, some people went ballistic.  One other speaker who was invited and had accepted the invitation, decided not to support the event after all because he didn’t want to share the stage with someone as different as Jakes.

To be honest, the criticism of James MacDonald and The Elephant room has been the most brutal from the more conservative folk.  Brutal AND personal.

Let me go on record as saying… I just don’t get it.

First of all, the Elephant Room is not a pulpit.  No one is speaking in somebody else’s church… in front of someone else’s congregation.  There are no endorsements, no kissy-kissy ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’ talk.  In fact, the event is exactly the opposite.  Each person involved, whether it’s James MacDonald, Steven Furtick, T. D. Jakes, Mark Driscoll or any of the other speakers, has signed on to make this a lively, spirited discussion on the implementation of ministry ideas.  No wavering.  No sidestepping.  No excuses.

You’re not going to see Steven Furtick and Mark Driscoll agree on a lot of things.

T. D. Jakes and James MacDonald will disagree pretty strongly at times.

And that drives some people absolutely crazy.

Not me.

Events like this sharpen me.  They give me greater perspective.  And they allow me to search scripture to see areas that I may need to take a second look.

That scares some people.
Why would I want to listen to someone who doesn’t agree with me?

Seriously?  I actually WANT to listen to people who don’t agree with me.  It allows me to sharpen my own beliefs and thought processes.

But it’s much easier for many, rather than joining in and giving a fair shake with those they disagree with, to tear them down before they even have a chance to speak.

But some people say T. D. Jakes is a modalist.  Mark Driscoll has a potty mouth.  And don’t even get them started on Steven Furtick’s hair.

The premise of the Elephant Room is that there is a lot we can learn from the conversation.  But the truth is… some people aren’t interested in having the conversation.  It makes them too uncomfortable.

In my work with Leadership Network, we’ve also faced criticism for some of the speakers we’ve chosen for events. We warn people at the beginning of each online event that we do that they will hear a lot of great speakers, and agree with a lot of things said.  They’ll also hear from some folks that they won’t care for, or will actually disagree with.  That’s fine.  Learn what you can.  Take away what will benefit you in your ministry. Simply disregard the rest.

I grew up in a very conservative church.  And we would have nothing to do with anything like the Elephant Room.  In fact, we wouldn’t have anything to do with most people.  So, believe me when I say that I understand the whole ‘separation’ issue.  But what it did to many around me was make for a group of very distrusting, angry, confrontive people that eventually shut out everyone that wasn’t just like them.  What a shame.

This paragraph of The Elephant Room purpose statement really resonated with me.  I absolutely agree with it:

What if we created a new ‘tribe?’ A tribe based on being humble enough to listen and reconsider what the Scriptures actually say. A tribe that holds the essential tenets of the faith with a ferocious intensity and is open handed with everything else. Maybe, together, we can create a new center?  A place where we are for everything the bible demands and demand nothing that scriptures are silent about.  Look for guests from all places and belief systems.  Don’t be surprised if you hear a conversation with someone that offends you or denies the faith as you see it.  Don’t be shocked if you hear conversations with world religion leaders, or criminals or sinners of every variety, “such were some of us.”  If the conversation can be helpful, clarifying, insistent or illuminating, or if we hope it will be . . . you will find it in the Elephant Room.

Wouldn’t that be great?

I hope you’ll join me for the Elephant Room… it all happens again next Wednesday, January 25 in about 65 locations across the country.  During this week, I’ll be sharing some of the highlights from last year’s event.  I think it’s something that you would really enjoy attending… and there’s bound to be one reasonably close to where you’re at right now!

In fact… check out a little more to see if this gets your interest:

QUESTION:  Do YOU think the concept of the Elephant Room is controversial at all?  If so… why?  Are you planning on attending?  Which location?

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