By Todd Hiestand
If have been around the Ecclesia Network for a while, you’ll know that our National Gathering is one of the highlights of the year for many of us. It might sound cliché, but it’s true – The Ecclesia National Gathering is more than just a conference. As a fairly seasoned pastor I enjoy conferences, but only to a point. Far too often these conferences are full of people that you have little relational connection to, they are far too large and at their worst they become “how big is your church” contests. (Though, in many of our circles it might really be “how missional is your church?) But, (again with the clichés) Ecclesia is different – at least for me. Here are a few reasons why:
- The people of Ecclesia represent some of my closest friends in the world. Some of these friends I’ve known since the beginning of the network, some I made at last year’s National Gathering. While the sessions are wonderful and stimulating, nothing really compares to the conversations that happen around dinner, after sessions and in local coffee shops.
- The conference isn’t about personalities and big shots and celebrities. The organizers of the event do a great job of not making a big deal about those who are the main speakers – and we’ve had some amazing ones. When Dallas Willard spoke a few years ago I was astounded by how normal he fit into the rest of the group. He was just part of the gathering and happened to be speaking a bunch of times. The same is true when speakers like Darrell Guder, Mike Breen came and Alan Hirsch came.
- There is a lot of diversity in ecclesial expression. There isn’t a sense that if you aren’t doing church a specific way you aren’t really “missional”. When you interact with people from the Ecclesia Network you are interacting with leaders of house churches, mega churches, small groups based churches, missional community focused churches and anything in between. There is so much generous sharpening that comes from this kind of dialogue and interaction.
- No posturing. Really, we don’t have many rules in Ecclesia. But one of the unwritten ones is, “don’t posture”. I feel very little need to prove to the people I am talking to that I’m somehow important or impressive as a leader. I feel like I just belong.
I could go on and on really. Hope to see you at this year’s Ecclesia Gathering!