I have been to the Willow, and it was good

Last week I had the opportunity to go to a worship conference at Willow Creek Church by Chicago, with some people from our church's worship team. It was really incredible. First of all, to be on the campus of a mega-church like that was impressive -- it's a gorgeous building. The worship was of course pretty impressive as well. I mean, when the David Crowder Band shows up to lead worship, it's got to be good, right? And being with like-minded people in the numbers of over 5,000 in worship is even more amazing. Not only were these my brothers & sisters in Christ, they were fellow "artists." Although, I confess, I have never considered myself an artist.

But what blew me out of the water and shook up the faith I've known my whole life, were two speakers: Dan Kimball and Donald Miller. Dan Kimball is the author of "They Love Jesus but Hate the Church." What an eye-opening experience it was to hear him talk, and see videos of college students being asked what they thought of Jesus. Every one had this serene & loving impression of him. Then they were asked about Christians. Judgmental, aggressive, hypocrites -- all negative.

Then there was Donald Miller. Honestly, I'd never heard of him before. He was hilarious and so real. But his knowledge of the Bible and the history of Christianity leads him to really astounding observations. He's written several books, and I ran out and bought "Blue Like Jazz" immediately. I mean immediately, it was available in the hallway. When I got a chance to have lunch with Andria (hadn't seen her in months, SO good to catch up), her only comment on that book was "That rocked my world." Um, ok, I thought. On the drive home, I soaked in as much as the daylight would allow, and then I finished it the next day. I'm half-way through the next book now. What makes him intriguing to me is that I don't know where he's going with it. So many times when you hear someone speak, you've got a clear view of where it's headed. And much of the time for me, I feel like if I can see where it's going, then I don't need you to tell me. I had no clue where he was going, but I really wanted to know. In reading "Blue Like Jazz", I laughed out loud (much to my embarrassment), but so many times I also wanted to say out loud, "Exactly!" And, yes, it rocked my world.

It really made me think about how I live my faith and show it to the world. Because when I ask myself why I became a Christian, what really drew me in, it certainly wasn't someone telling me that I was wrong. Or that I needed to repent. Or that they were right. I had met people who had the peace of Christ, and I wanted it for myself. When I made that decision, I wanted to make changes in my life. What makes so much sense to me, is the way they talked about it as a relational faith. It's all about the personal relationship with Christ, not rules & regulations. The closer I get in my relationship with Him, the more I want to follow Him and do what God would have me do. But it can't be broken down into bullet points & lists.

This has also led me to feel differently about the Bible. It's always been hard for me to read because I've always thought of it as something I'm supposed to be doing. It's the book with the rules. But it's not. It's a story. It's a letter from God, to me. There are lessons I will learn to be sure, but it's really a story. Each one of us will learn something different, because each of us needs to learn different things. And how incredibly amazing is it that the story has been crafted so that it can personally speak to each of us and meet us where we are?

I have been refreshed, recharged, renewed and challenged. I highly recommend "Blue Like Jazz" and the books that follow. And if you want to try him out for free, subscribe to his podcasts. Just search for Donald Miller. Or try Imago Dei, which is the church he goes to. There's a podcast from 12/31/06 that's him talking about our stories, which is much like one of the talks he did at Willow.