If you’ve followed the blog lately, you know that with the exception of the past couple weeks, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. I felt the pressure getting to me, and when it got to be too much, I bailed. Some of this is wisdom, but I think more of it was fear. And exhaustion. Definitely exhaustion. Then something happened to push me back toward writing again, to be able to process and figure out things, if nothing else. Walking through broken places does that, it seems. As God’s providence would have it, I rejoined the blogosphere and Twitter just in time to find out about the Echo conference that took place in Dallas last week.
Thursday night, I had the privilege of linking up with some really brilliant bloggers at the Bloggers Meetup that was unofficially attached to the conference. Lore Ferguson, Matt Appling, Brad Russell and Blake Atwood from Faith Village, and several others. I’m sitting there talking about blogging and writing and culture with people who are much more prominent in the blogging world than I am. I felt absolutely welcomed and part of good conversation, but there was still this thing going off in my subconscious saying “Dude, you’ve got maybe 50 readers. These guys have what, over 500 (probably much more)?” I kept telling myself that it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the content and exalting Christ through this space. Whether 5 or 5,000 read it.
I went home as things started to wind down, and after preaching the gospel to my subconscious repeatedly on the way home, I jumped on Twitter to add the writers I’d just met. Of course, I also took a quick second to complain about not being able to hear Matt Chandler speak during the final session of the Echo conference Friday morning. Well, it was half complaining and half sarcasm. Then, much to my surprise, Watermark tweeted back and said I could crash the conference for that message.
Even though I go to The Village and hear him speak almost every weekend, I was so excited it took me over an hour to fall asleep even though I was completely exhausted. I got permission to massage my work schedule around to attend this piece of the session, and it was absolutely God’s grace that I was there. The thing I love about conferences is that I never really know what to expect from the message. Especially this one, because the Echo conference is geared toward people who are in creative roles. Artists, writers, photographers, audio engineers, and the list goes on. I went in wondering how Chandler was going to point this crowd to the gospel so they make sure the gospel and the glory of Christ fuels their work. I mean, it’s easy to do that for pastors and those who write Theology, or at least it’s easy for me to guess what he would say. But with this crew? I was more than curious, and was not disappointed.
I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but all he did was preach the gospel. He went straight Galatians 3, challenging us to not stray from finding our identity in Christ. Just like the Galatians were foolish enough to stray from finding their identity in Christ and were persuaded to cave in to the physical requirements of the law, namely circumcision, we do the same thing by finding our identity in our work. Whether it be our talent, accomplishments, number of Twitter followers, or number of people who read our blogs, we all begin to find our value and worth in something other than Christ if we aren’t constantly reminded and pointed back to the cross. Chandler said it best, “If the people of God are varsity at anything, it’s drifting away from God.”
The thing is, as Chandler mentioned, he can preach his best sermon, the music can be perfect, the sound can miraculously be the perfect level for everyone, and none of it matters if the Spirit doesn’t show up. I can write all I want, but if the Spirit doesn’t show up then nothing happens. The goal isn’t, and can’t be, about gathering a crowd. It has to be about transforming lives through the work of the Spirit, or we’re all wasting our time.
So, the two things that I took away from Chandler’s message are:
1) Constantly preach my identity in Christ to myself. If I find it in anything else, then everything else I do is tainted by misplaced worship, by idolatry.
2) Whatever words I pour out in this space and whatever other writing projects God may bless me with, it has to be an overflow of worship, prayer, and study.
Without both of those things happening, I’m either writing with the wrong motives or in the wrong power. In either case, God can use what I write to bring glory to His name in the lives of my readers, but I’ll have missed the mark in bringing glory to His name through this space and through my words.
God help me.