The theme of this past NEXT Church was “Wells and Walls.” Throughout the week the conference focused on the story of Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4, which was most convenient for everyone who would have be preaching on that lectionary text that coming Sunday! Over the 48-hour event we heard five different wonderful sermons on different parts of the text, dealing with how Jesus sought to break down the barriers between Jews and Samaritans, men and women, righteous and sinners, and offer a spring welling up to new life for all. Worship ranged from traditional to meditative to social media based.
Outside of dynamic worship NEXT Church offers keynote addresses from Linda Mercadante on understanding the SBNR’s, or the Spiritual But Not Religious; Soong-Chan Rah of Fuller Seminary on evangelism in the 21st century, and Rodger Nishioka on deep ways of knowing based on neurological studies.
The keynotes were follow up by short “Ignite” presentations on effective new ministries happening throughout the country. Topics ranged from a ministry in an RV community to reaching out to refugees.
And then there were workshops. . . workshops on nearly every relevant issue in the church today.
Besides all this great information and learnings, there were lots of times to catch up with old friends and network to your heart’s content.
“NEXT” began as a conference of group of pastors in their 30’s to a 500-attendee event open to all who seek to lead the church into a vibrant future. If there is any critique at all, it is that the leadership is now in their forties and a new generation of young leaders need to begin its own gathering. Until that time, NEXT Church is worth your time and continuing education funds. It is a rare conference that can provide so much in so little time.