Tracks, tracks and more tracks! That's what happened today. And for the second day in a row, sessions went once again from 9am to 9pm. (By the way, don't forget to add 90 minutes on the front and the back for bus time!) Still, there was seemingly a high degree of participation in the program. Still, I suspect that after another 9am - 9pm schedule (tomorrow), none of the 4000 delegates or volunteers would protest a day of rest!
Yesterday we mentioned the tracks by name... and there's no way one could possibly attend all or even =most= of them! Each track was self-contained, often with worship and prayer times built in. It appeared that track coordinators had focused heavily on designing a program that would alternate between lecture presentations (the macro) and small group discussions (the micro). For example, in the Unreached Peoples Track, a presenter would share some basic information, interview a majority world person employing that particular approach or espousing that particular position, then move the audience into a "brainstorming mode" prior wrapping up the component with a debriefing from the small groups. Honest.... this approach tends to keep audience involvement and help everyone feel included. But frankly, if we evaluate pure work output, as one delegate put it, we're not totally convinced that it results in the most raw "horsepower." I don't think many of us came here to be inspired. We already believe in this cause. We need resources. We want tools. And if we're going to pull off this whole "church for every people" thing in 5 years, we need them =now=. We can't wait for follow-up consultations or 1996. This is the place. Now is the time. (By the way, pray for me as I try to discern how I should or could be involved in advocating for a couple of "minimum toolbox outcomes.")
The Denominational Leaders Track serves as another example of the above format. A speaker like Bob Bakke would share his opinion about the importance of prayer for world evangelism. Then we would break up into table groups to brainstorm about how we could implement those ideas in our own contexts. On the surface, it sounds good. But in reality, if you happen to be sitting at a table with people who either a) already believe in prayer and are practicing it with a passion, or b) have no idea what to suggest to implement it on macro levels,... then it seems things just don't move as quickly as you'd like.
We heard great things from the Mobilizing New Missionaries Track. George Verwer evidently gave =quite= a presentation. I think we all find ourselves wondering if maybe we were in the right place today. One man said that he had split the time between two meetings in adjacent rooms, just because he didn't want to miss anything from either track. I think when it's over, there will be many who wish they could purchase a synopsis from all Tracks or even just a few. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone has planned a mechanism for that possibility. If they have, no one is mentioning it... and I sure don't see anyone taking feverish notes or recording sessions.
One thing is for sure -- the challenge of the logistics of managing this many people continue to be painfully obvious. For example, =many= Tracks apparently contained upwards of 200 - 300 peoples attending. And since there was no hall in the city with enough rooms to handle that many "sub-meetings", it meant splitting the Tracks up in different parts of the city. Tomorrow, with more divisions, it gets even worse. Instead of a dozen or so medium-sized sub-conferences, we could easily have over a hundred even smaller group meetings, needing even smaller meeting places. As a result, the venues are up to an hour or more apart, making it very difficult to plan for transport. The truth is, it appears no one is really sure how they'll get to their venues tomorrow... and to be honest, it's not =real= clear where we're supposed to go! The meeting places unfortunately weren't included in the main consultation "handbook" and to my knowledge, no one announced them today (since we were split up without any "plenary" [main] session). I can't help but feel sorry for some of the delegates from the majority world, where the pace might not normally be so fast and the normal daily routine might not normally require so much investigative determination! Actually, it's midnight and there's not a "sign of a sign" anywhere in =this= hotel (if it's a representative sampling -- at least I know that pretty much all the American delegation is here) telling us where we meet and what time the bus would come (if one is coming) to take us there.... So maybe this is a good experience... a chance to practice tolerance of ambiguity. I can sure deal with it... but I hope everyone else feels the same way, especially in light of the daily conference expenses which average out to about $200 per day or more.
So with all the complexity, we've all sure come to appreciate the 1000 Korean volunteers in those yellow hunting vests! (They really do look like yellow hunting vests, though they're covered with AD2000 logos and watchwords.) Like other Eastern people that you might have known, these folks appear to be some of the most hospitable people in the world. Their warm smiles and kind graciousness seem to be able to wash away =any= amount of desperation... so far. So to all the Koreans who are helping to plan and implement, =THANKS=!
I mentioned yesterday that some of the most helpful times are the moments between sessions when you meet someone inspirational. Take a pastor freidn from Thailand for example. Bumped into him yesterday waiting for the elevator. Turns out he's been a pastor in Bangkok for most of his life, though he has never been willing to accept pay. He just concentrates on meeting needs... and keeps his part-time job at the university. So what's he been doing in his spare time? Well, his church, the City of Hope, decided they'd try to practice Christianity just the same way as the churches in the New Testament. They came up with several criteria that they would press for in the lives of their members.. and if no one met the criteria, they simply kept working with them prior to asking them to become a formal part of the movement through baptism. He preaches mostly expository sermons... exhorting his people to get right back to the "Book". They determined to intentionally avoid formal ties with any particular denomination, since it didn't appear that that was a New Testament concept. At the same time, they gave lots of flexibility where there was no biblically-stated policy for approaches.. Is it working? You decide. They've grown from one church to 250 congregations.... from an average attendance of a few hundred to a grand total of 3500 at any given service... and there are 5 services each Sunday . ... and that's just the mother church alone!!! The guy preaches to some 13,000 people per week... in Bangkok!!! =Plus= they've started 30 congregations outside of the country with missionaries working cross-culturally. Remember, all this time, he has been totally self-supporting. These days, he oversees a staff of 200 full-time (paid) workers and keeps on going for study-time, family =and= his teaching job. He said, "We believe in starting a church without all the trappings. We get no support from the outside. We're on our own... on a shoe string budget... doing the work of the Lord. When we train a new church planter, we make it clear that we'll give him no financial assistance for the building or for any fancy approaches. It's all very personal and low-key." Wow. Now there's the kind of guy you wish you could just spend a day with in Bangkok planning and dreaming for the future!
Yikes. What time do I set the alarm clock for? [grin] Better go try to find out. Have a great day!
at GCOWE '95 in Seoul