Last week, 7 influential pastors met in Chicago at Harvest Bible Chapel to discuss issues facing the Church. This is the 2nd time that James MacDonald has hosted the event, which grew out of his desire to talk face-to-face about difficult issues instead of “hurling grenades” via blogs, twitter, and other media. One appeal of this event was the notoriety and caliber of pastors gathered together in one location to discuss issues that threaten to divide the Church.
I realize that my opinion matters little to the majority of the world, but as is the nature of this blog, I want to talk about what is informing my thoughts and The Elephant Room happens to be on my mind. There are numerous other thoughts by individuals much more credible and intelligent than myself here, here, and here.
Leading up to the event there was a lot of controversy primarily surrounding one of the participants based off of people’s interpretations of what he said. Ironically, many people criticized MacDonald, The Elephant Room and the other participants for inviting and accepting Bishop T.D. Jakes, and instead hurled insults, figurative grenades and harsh criticism without actually listening to the Bishop’s actual words and beliefs. There are still some that argue that Jakes’ opinions are not yet clear enough to be accepted as truth. I am not here to discuss that, many men and women much wiser than I have differing opinions. (A simple google search should provide you with a wide spectrum of (mostly) intelligent opinions)
Instead of round after round of jabs, knock-outs and sucker-punches as one might expect from the tagline, the participants were humble, insightful and open. They talked about their successes, but more about what they learned through failure. They encouraged each other and challenged one another. They asked hard questions and demanded clear answers. It was a beautiful and inspiring picture of healthy love. They do not agree on every issue, but most importantly they agree that they are all sinners in need of a Savior, desperately seeking to serve Him and share the Gospel with as many people as possible. They do not crumble under the weight of such a great challenge and responsibility, but stand strong, side-by-side.
I admittedly had not heard of at least half of the pastors (I was particularly naïve about the controversy surrounding Bishop Jakes), but I have a new found respect for each of these men (and a growing list of books and podcasts!) as a direct result of The Elephant Room. I am humbled by the men that God has raised up to proclaim His Word and challenged to push deeper into my own relationship with God and convicted of my lack of passion, urgency and desire to reach out and declare my love for the One who saved my life. One thing is clear; these are ordinary men through whom God is doing extraordinary things.
My interest in the Old Testament has grown exponentially over the past few years, especially this past year and one truth that I cannot escape is the message that we are broken, sinful people in need of a Savior, but God continues to redeem, restore and use us for His purposes, although we have nothing to offer. He moves to draw His people to Him because of His love, not our works. I am ever more thankful for this truth and a little ashamed that I need such a frequent reminder. So often I think: “Stupid Israelites, don’t you get it?!?! How do you forget so quickly?!” Then I realize, I am the Israelites, I don’t get it, I forget even more quickly. Wow. Talk about a humbling realization. Again. The Elephant Room served as a catalyst, once again, to expose my fears, doubts, unbelief, and lack of passion.
Thank you to all of the people that made The Elephant Room possible for people like me. I cannot wait to watch it again when it comes out on DVD.