Thursday, January 04, 2007

Reflections: Congress on Evangelism - Part 1

This week, as I alluded to yesterday, I am at the Congress on Evangelism in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My motivation for coming, I will admit, was solely to meet up with other methobloggers. Otherwise, I can’t say this is an event that would typically appeal to me. But I am enjoying myself and enjoying the event. More on that in a bit.

First, Myrtle Beach. I’ve never been to Myrtle Beach before. I drove down from Central New York because, if I haven’t mentioned it before, I have a huge fear of flying. I will fly if I have to, but I find that in the continental US you very rarely have to fly. Myrtle Beach is a 14 hour drive from my home, and I left at a god-awfully early hour on Tuesday to get here. Book on CD make this kind of drive feasible for me, but by the last two hours, I was well past ready to be at my destination.

I remember in elementary school that a few of my classmates always vacationed in Myrtle Beach. My family would take vacation in more manageable (read: inexpensive) places like Canada, or in a good year, Washington, DC. If we wanted to go to the beach, we’d go to the local State Park. Hey – they had a beach and a place to swim just like Myrtle Beach, right? Actually, looking back on things, I’m glad of how we vacationed. I can’t imagine how crazy Myrtle Beach must be in the summer. It is beautiful, for sure. I’m staying at the Dayton House, where my “efficiency King” room, which is the smallest I could book, has a stove and refrigerator and sink and sofa and living room area and king sized bed and a view of the ocean which is literally about 50 yards out the back doors of the hotel. This is a vacation city. In January, the Beach is stunningly quiet and empty. If you are smart, and you don’t consider vacationing at the ocean when it is only in the mid-sixties or seventies out a hardship, you should bring your family here on vacation in January at an easy $50-$60 a night for resort-like hotels.

Anyway, beautiful setting aside, this is an interesting event to be at. The keynote speakers include J. Ellsworth Kalas (whose book I reviewed earlier this week) as Bible Study leader, Bishop Scott Jones, and Adam Hamilton, among others. This is not an event I would likely have come to, as I mentioned, were it not for the methoblogging component. It’s not that I don’t want to learn about evangelism. Contrary perhaps to stereotypes of ‘liberals’ like me, I think most ‘liberals’ are very interested in learning how to better communicate the good news of Jesus. But I think ‘liberals’ like me often have stereotypes about what others, other more conservative folks mean by evangelism. So I was a bit nervous – or curious I guess – about what this event would be like. The atmosphere is certainly different than most gatherings I’ve been to – the speakers so far are surprisingly centrist in their presentations – not saying things the way I’d say them, but not generally saying things I totally disagree with. The worship and music is more traditional than I would have expected – a little disappointing, actually, but the content is solid. I will probably spend the next few posts focusing in on each speaker more specifically.

I’ve gone to four workshops – three sponsored by our methoblogging sub-conference, and one with blogger/DS Susan Cox-Johnson focusing on Wesley and the emerging church. I’ll also write about these in more detail, but my gut reaction is that I wish there were different ‘levels’ of workshops for people coming in with different ‘levels’ of knowledge. Re: web ministry, some people are here with a lot of experience already, but others don’t know anything about using the internet yet, and it is hard for workshop presenters to meet all of these various needs.

Of course, the most fun part of being here is hanging out with the other methobloggers. It is so much fun to meet people you’ve only known in part online. It is fun to see how my mental images match up with the real people and personalities. I won’t confess to them which is which, but let’s say some of these methobloggers are exactly like I expected, and others are nothing like what I expected! I’m reminded of taking my doctrine and polity courses online at Drew, and then running into the professor on campus, and being totally thrown off – he wasn’t what I had been imagining at all!

To be continued…
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