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With all the flack and disagreement, at least in the circles of evangelicalism that I follow, over the Elephant Room, I wonder why I’m just now hearing about this one: Pastors, artists and other Christian leaders will join this weekend at the University of Miami for the One Conference, three days of rallies, music and motivation to affect South Florida for the faith. With megachurch pastors such as Brian Houston and Greg Laurie, the conference is set for Feb. 10-12 at UM’s Bank United Center in Coral Gables. They’ll tackle dire issues like human trafficking, fresh water for Haiti, Bibles for “unreached” people groups and how to respond to crises. But first importance will go to simple unity. “We’re all different, but we’re of the same substance,” says Pastor Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, who will be one of the 15 scheduled conference speakers. “Anytime pastors get together, that’s good. Translating it into partnerships is difficult. But it’s healthy to get to know each other.” Franklin Graham, another of the planned speakers, agrees. “The churches are fragmented; everybody gets into their own niches,” says Graham, who runs the Samaritan’s Purse charity and the evangelistic organization of his father, Billy Graham. “We need to get them inspired, excited about the Word of God. The gospel changes lives instantly.” Besides Coy and Graham, the planned speakers include: The Rev. Pedro Garcia, the host pastor and spiritual leader of Calvary Chapel Kendall. Garcia, who became a Christian believer in 1996 at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, is the founder of LIFE Radio (90.9-FM), which broadcasts to Miami-Dade and the Florida Keys. Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., and founder of Harvest Crusades. Laurie led a crusade in Fort Lauderdale in 1995 and spoke at a Promise Keepers rally in Miami two years later. Scott Harrison, founder of the nonprofit organization charity:water. His group has funded more than 3,800 water projects, providing more than 1.7 million people with clean drinking water. Brian Houston, founder and pastor of Hillsong Church, which includes congregations in Sydney, London, Capetown, Paris, Stockholm and elsewhere. Rich Wilkerson Jr., who runs a gathering in Miami called Vous. His ministry aims to infuse the gospel in music, teaching and the arts. // The conference is named ONE.  Features noteable evangelical leaders.  And is all about unity. Big names, big topics, yet no one is decrying this one. Wonder why. SOURCE

Mark Driscoll has written a post over at telling of his personal experience at the Elephant Room this year.  Here are the 10 things he learned.  (You’ll need to go here to read more details): 1. I appreciate godly friends who don’t want to defeat me publicly but rather help me privately. 2. I don’t want to just make a point—I want to make a difference by God’s grace. 3. My theology is a home and not a prison. 4. I have a lot to learn. 5. I want to be helpful. 6. Fear of man is deadly. 7. Winning people is better than winning arguments. 8. I love people I don’t agree with. 9. The Holy Spirit is not done with me. 10. I love my family and church family. Sounds like this was a good experience for him. What did YOU take away from the Elephant Room this year?  (Only respond if you actually WATCHED it, not if you’ve just read about it).  🙂

I had a great time at the Elephant Room yesterday.  I was able to take my new pastor with me and we had an excellent day learning from ALL of the speakers. I realize that there were many critics of the Elephant Room, especially this year, especially with the invitation extended to Bishop T. D. Jakes. After attending the live venue (in Aurora, IL), I can say that I really believe in what James MacDonald is trying to do with The Elephant Room.  The premise is simply this:  When you have an open discussion, particularly with people you don’t know and people you don’t agree with, you will have a better understanding of them; and have greater insight and learnings from someone who is not necessarily in your ‘tribe’. My ideas, thoughts, and feelings definitely changed about a couple of the Elephant Room participants.  And for the better.  Not because I now agree with them theologically, but because I better understand them, understand them to be my brothers in Christ, and have had the opportunity to see their more human side up close and person… rather than what some write about them on blogs; or what their ‘tv persona’ is. It was very valuable for me. It cost James MacDonald a lot, including his resignation this week from the Gospel Coalition.  That’s too bad.  But I do believe that James is doing what God is calling him to do… model civility and the old thought of thinking the best of someone you don’t know. Not surprisingly, that is not something that James has always embraced from his fundamentalist background. And many of James current friends on the conservative side think he’s crazy… in fact… I think James is really going through a period of finding out who his friends are. Many times, boldness and being obedient to Christ has consequences.  I think this has been the case for James MacDonald.  The loss of dear friends on one side; and the addition of new friends from the other. I commend all the courage of each speaker for the Elephant Room.  To go LIVE in front of thousands of your peers, not knowing exactly where the conversation will go, is nothing short of gutsy. But I, for one, am happy for gutsy church leaders… even (and especially) the ones who aren’t necessarily in my tribe. Oh, and btw… for all who were wondering… turns out Bishop T. D. Jakes IS actually a Christian.  🙂  I know that may infuriate some of you.  You’ll have to find some other person to pick on now. DID YOU ATTEND THE ELEPHANT ROOM?  What is your feedback? For a full synopsis of what happened yesterday… please go here and download Tim Schreader’s full notes from the day in PDF form!

In this clip, Matt Chandler reminds there is error in both the orthodoxy and evangelistic camps. Perry Noble agrees that doctrinal error needs to be called out but with some good suggestions for who and how. David Platt concludes with a great challenge about the importance of the purity of the gospel. The Elephant Room is coming up next Wednesday, January 25… You can register for one of the 65+ locations across the country here. Todd

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?