Day Four, the last day of the conference. Jess and the boys spent the night at a friends house so I’m solo this last morning. I tried to sleep as much as possible before loading the car and heading over. I really wanted some coffee but was late for breakfast. I get to the conference center and its some kind of quiche thing. Pass. Hello Starbucks Venti iced mocha and some Classic Coffee Cake!
The first session of the day is the one that has inspired all of the drama around the CC-related blogosphere (all three sites). Warren Smith. Why all the drama? Lots of reasons so I’m told. It kinda boils down to one’s opinions on his opinions, how he gets to them, and how he presents them. If you want the skinny, head over to Richard Abanes website and spend an hour or two reading. (At the time of this writing his site was not reachable so I could not provide a direct link. Follow the links regarding Rick Warren and Warren Smith.)
Many were excited about the session, many were dreading it. On paper his topic had to do with the Emerging Church and the New Age. At previous CC engagements he has blown both barrels at Rick Warren and the EC. As I already said, this excited some, it caused dread in others. So no one really knew what to expect. There were talks of walk-outs. Many opted not to show up for this session. Many were gone from the conference already so it was a smaller crowd than any other session.
My plan was to write a fresh perspective after having some time to process it. I had written a snippet about this session and posted it over on SMP. Having had the time to process it, I find that my perspective hasn’t changed much. So I will just post here what I posted there with a few tweaks.
Honestly I tried to give myself a clean slate going in. I’d only ever heard him once, and then there is all of the stuff Richard Abanes has to say about him, and I tried to flush it all just to take what he had to say at face value. And about 3/4 of the way into it I was asking myself, “What is he saying? What is he talking about?” From a communications perspective there was no flow of thought. When you are doing what is essentially a topical lecture, flow of thought ought to be the most natural, the most basic element. And he just didn’t have it for me. So I kind of had to find a thread and follow it. (Warren, if you ever read this, I’m not trying to bad mouth you, this is just what I experienced during your session. Take it as constructive criticism.)
To me, the emergent church and Purpose Driven topics were kind of incidental to his talk. There was the occasional out of step reference that had little to do with what he was talking about at the time. They could be construed as digs, but just barely. And as far as word co-option, that has some validity but not nearly as much as he puts into it. Some words CAN crossover and it totally depends on the people using it. It isn’t an automatic thing. For example, Christian meditation and NA meditation are opposite things. Christian meditation is literally “chewing the cud” on God’s word. Thinking about it, ruminating on it, mulling it over and over. NA meditation is to empty your mind totally and make room for the boogey man to come in. But I’m not going to stop using the word meditation.
So in general, at the end of the talk I had to think back again and ask myself, “What did he talk about? What was his point?” And what I got out of what he said was to watch, beware, keep a lookout for this new spirituality, look out for those using the right lingo but with different meanings (kind of like Mormons do).
I was sitting next to someone (who will remain nameless) and I asked him, “What did you hear him say? What was his point?” And he basically got the same thing. He has been the victim of guilt by association himself so he understands that that goes both ways, tried to give Warren Smith the benefit of the doubt and take what he said at face value. This pastor is someone that WS would criticize for certain affiliations so that was pretty cool I thought.
It wasn’t nearly as divisive as it could have been, probably due to the fact that he didn’t seem to have his talk together as much as he could have. Taking what he said at face value, I had little problem with what he said.
So that’s about it for that. There were some things people could quibble about but for me it isn’t worth it. So I ain’t gonna.
After Warren, Pastor Chuck got up, taught the rest of 1 Thessalonians and served communion. The thing is, I just had to leave at 11am right in the middle of his session. With a drive to Santa Monica and from there to Sacramento looming over me, I wanted to leave as soon as I got up. So sorry Chuck. But it was worth it. Out front was a table of ladies including Kay Smith. She was talking to Shannon Woodward (whom I know) and some other ladies so I went over and said. I also did the dorky thing and asked for a picture with Kay. She is so sweet!
The I hopped in the car, got some gas for $4.17 (ick!) and some Chic-fil-et, and hit the road. Thus ended my CCSPC 2008 experience. In another posting I’ll put some more stuff as to my overall impressions of this years conference. I will say this; it’s good to be home.