Started seven years ago by Gabe Lyons, the Q Conference is an interesting beast. The easiest way to describe it is as a Christian version of TED but that doesn’t do it justice. It’s a learning community of leaders from across the Christian spectrum who gather together to be challenged about what they believe and how they lead, rather than patting themselves on the back and being satisfied with how things are. They feature a wide range of speakers, Q&A, sessions, talkback groups and seminars as well as a combination of music, film, speakers and even puppetry. This year’s theme was ‘The Common Good’.
So … here are a few things I learned …
1. David Crowder’s beard is awesome.
David Crowder’s Beard is possibly better than the David Crowder Band.
2. I am not hip.
You know I’m not hip because I used the word ‘hip’ but seriously … you should see the people who go to this conference. My buddy Gabe described the look as the lead singer of Kings of Leon meets Pharrell Williams. It’s a little bit intimidating for someone like me. I look like a roadie for the Counting Crows back when they were ‘Recovering The Satellites.’
3. I still get star-struck.
I met Rachel Held Evans and it made my freaking month. I want to be more like her. She’s also ridiculously lovely.
4. Q is expensive & people are generous.
Though I have always wanted to go to Q, I had not looked into it this year and had no idea it was happening in Nashville. As it turned out, I was visiting friends in Nashville on my way from Dallas to Montreal and my flight back was on the day the conference started … So I had a choice to make. I decided to change my flights and try my luck.
At $775, it’s an expensive conference and there is NO way I could have afforded a ticket. As ‘luck’ would have it, however, a friend of mine here had a pass for the three days but couldn’t be there for the second two. He very generously gave me his lanyard and let me impersonate him. I owe him a MASSIVE debt of gratitude.
[I’m also in debt to Kate, Kelli, Anne and Chris who allowed me to borrow their couches and Gabe and Adam who drove me to the conference every day!]
5. The language of the church is changing.
One of the best things about Q is the way that it is changing Christian language from modernist/dualist knowledge to a more postmodern pursuit of wisdom and tension. Joy Eggerichs talked about celebrating marriage AND singleness while making an idol of neither. Christine Caine went through 35 false dualisms (in about 40 seconds!) that we need to put to death. Q is driving us past the Sunday School (and Bible College) answers that many grew up with to a world that is more beautiful because it is more complex.
6. Women are playing a greater role in shaping the future of the church.
While I am a huge fan of diversity, diversity for diversity’s sake is a pet peeve of mine. People will sometimes say, ‘There are too many ______ speakers and we need more _______’, and it ends up feeling like we are paying lip service to diversity rather than simply pursuing the best person for the role.
What struck me about Q is that most of the presenters I saw were women (which is unusual at an evangelical-leaning conference) and that they were, without question, the best people for the job. It's a tragedy that this is a rarity but I'm stoked to see it changing. At Q, nobody was 'making up the numbers' because they were too busy rocking our worlds. Rachel Held Evans, Rebekah Lyons, Joy Eggerichs, Shauna Niequist, Melissa Greene and Christine Caine are badasses.
(If you’re not aware of my position on women in ministry, you can read it here.)
7. Some conversations are changing.
Though I didn’t get a chance to see them at Q, I had the privilege of meeting Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin from The Parent’s Circle on Tuesday at Journey Church in Franklin. The Parent’s Circle is the last group in the world you want to be part of because membership is restricted to those who have lost a direct family member to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Tears filled my eyes within 30 seconds of their presentation beginning and the lump in my throat didn’t pass until long after. While their stories were harrowing, what was truly moving was the way in which they spoke about each other and to each other. Such love, deference and tenderness for someone who ‘should’ be your enemy is exactly what the Kingdom is about. Having them at Q changes our conversation about the conflict and leads us to be pro-peace rather than pro-Israel or pro-Palestine.
8. Some conversations are not.
While Stephen Mansfield had a lot of really good things to say about the over-medicating of children (particularly young boys), we deserve more than to hear that one of the four pillars of masculinity is that ‘Manly men do manly things.’ The church needs a new conversation about what it means to be a man.
9. Mega-Churches are still dominating the conversation.
Though there was a huge amount to be gleaned from Gabe’s panel interview with four local pastors, it seems that the size of your church is what gets you invited to the stage. It was fascinating to hear the values and heart of these leaders but the voice of the smaller church was conspicuous in its absence. I am reminded of the words (paraphrased) of Mark MacDonald (Anglican Bishop to First Nations People in Canada):
‘White missionaries constantly get frustrated when they plant churches among our tribes but cannot get churches to grow past 80-100. What they don’t realise is that our culture innately knows that you cannot truly know or be known by a community larger than this. This lack of growth is a value, not a failure.’
As more and more churches realise that community and discipleship are far harder in large churches, we have a huge amount to learn from people doing church in more intimate gatherings.
10. The future is bright.
The truth is that I missed out on the first day of Q and unfortunate timing meant I missed a few speakers on the days I was there. I didn’t get to hear Andy Crouch, J. Kameron Carter, Brian Fikkert, Donna Freitas, Gary Haugen, Christena Cleveland, Dr. Anthony Bradley, Nicole Baker Fulgham or Paul Lim. I missed conversations about race, gender, development, church growth, community action, activism and so much more.
But what I got was almost too much. There is so much being talked about because there is SO much happening in the church and that is a wonderful, beautiful thing.
I will be there in Boston next year and I will bleed it dry. You should be there too.