i was a late registrant to the national new church conference, called exponential. i'll admit that i'm somewhat leery of these national christian conferences with well-known speakers; they are often characterized by a kind of hero worship that is off-putting to me and seems out of place among members of the family of God. but in this case, i was invited by pastor friends from lighthouse (our mother church), and the chance to process the content with them, as well as to enjoy their friendship, ultimately won me over.
an early highlight was the pre-conference workshop with jim putnam of real life ministries. a former national champion wrestler and coach turned church planting pastor, his small group based church grew rapidly from a mere four families to some 8000 weekend participants, many of them previously unchurched. but what really impressed me is their deep commitment to producing committed followers of Jesus, not just counting numbers. they have produced a small army of committed leaders and have begun planting new churches, some of which are also growing rapidly and by conversion. inspiring and challenging.
other especially meaningful experiences included a one-on-one appointment with tom clegg of coachnet.org, whom i found insightful and remarkably helpful in a one hour session, and francis chan's powerful message about depending on the power of the Holy Spirit at the closing session of the conference (listen here). all in all, a moving, thought-provoking time -- good enough that i'd be interested in going back next year.