There is far more to the Liberate conference than a rundown of the sessions can give you. There is a sense of excitement, of being together with a lot of people who have discovered their treasure (Matthew 13:44). I had opportunity to sit around at some length and talk to Paul Zahl and his wife Mary, and David Zahl, and even at a dinner party with Tullian and RJ Heijman and many others. When everyone lets their hair down and ministry isn’t going on, people still love to talk about grace! There is always an electricity and a joy and a sense of purpose and camaraderie, centered around the Message. Yes, people were talking football, and all kinds of crazy stories about this and that, which was fantastic, but inevitably it always came back around to talking about Jesus, because there is a real sense that our true excitement is about the gospel. It’s electric.
I loved spending a little time with the guys from the Village Church at Vinings in Atlanta. Jon Adams and Curt Benham are very fun guys, full of authentic enthusiasm, and in the middle of planting a fantastic grace centered church. If I were in Atlanta I’m sure I’d go. John Dink is a very soft-spoken and humble guy, who truly gets the gospel and is a very well-driven nail for the cause of grace. I really enjoyed talking with him and I hope to see more. One of the things they impressed on me was the importance of being more active on twitter. I’m going to try, although I hate communicating in 144 character snippets. It’s probably good for my ‘character’ ha ha ha.
What can I say about the time I got to spend with Paul and Mary Zahl? I get the sense that similar to our marriage, she is very much her own woman with her own mind about things, and that Paul’s ideas have been understood and probably challenged on a regular basis. He couldn’t possibly have been more encouraging about my book and the direction of my ministry, and it was a great pleasure and joy to talk with him behind the scenes. Again I think it is telling that here is another grace person, who is very seasoned in pursuing this, that in informal situations he is still the same man talking about the same stuff and excited about God and grace, because in the gospel you can walk in the light and have an honest affection for God because of His honest affection for us.
I also had the privilege of sitting with Mandy and Bryan (I can’t remember their last name) at lunch one day, who it ends up were featured on a video snippet talking about how they came into a belief in the gospel and radical grace. (Yes- grace is radical by definition and it is redundant to say “radical” grace – thank you Tullian!). Yet again, there was a solidness and authenticity to their hunger and excitement about the gospel and the sudden freedom they had found. Mandy was just a delight to talk to, she was frank about how hungry she was to understand how to live in the light of grace. I guess talking to them was another instance where I was surprised by the genuine and solid enthusiasm that everyone I met had for the gospel! Like me, no one can get enough of it, and it wasn’t just the leaders or the speakers. Everyone was amazing to me. Too bad it is all once a year!
Now it is back home to all my amazing family and friends. I hope my sense of excitement about the message of grace continues to have a similar effect as grace has had on all of the Liberate people. I can’t wait for the Mockingbird conference in NYC in April. These are exciting times!