Willow Arts Conference Pt. 4

It’s hard to believe it’s over already. The 2 1/2 days went by pretty quickly. On Thursday night a film festival of sorts was held. Churches who were attending the conference had sent in videos they produced. We must have screened 3 dozen of them, in all kinds of categories. Some were riotously funny (Reconcilosec, a pill that helps you survive family gatherings at holidays), others were more serious and moving. All in all, there was a lot of talent represented and it was great to steal some ideas I mean be inspired.

Friday morning was quite powerful. Two worship leaders shared their story of ministering in the contradiction—that is, how do you lead people into praise and worship while your own life is falling apart. They told their story of their twin daughters, both born very premature, and one with serious complications. It was (and still is in some ways) a very trying time in their lives, and both really struggled with issues of faith and trusting God. Ultimately, they have found some measure of peace and proceeded to lead us into a very powerful time of worship (I admit to having a hard time singing because I was so broken up after their story).

Next up was Donald Miller. If you’ve read his work, you know how much a treat that was. He talked about how the Enlightenment separated truth from meaning, and we now divide everything into left- and right-brained tasks. The problem is life doesn’t work that way, especially relationships. One of the reasons we are not really effective at leading others to the Cross is because we don’t put the Gospel in the context of a relationship. If the Gospel is turned into a bunch of legislation, beliefs and ideas, we take Jesus out of the picture and it’s no longer a story of a God who loved people.

I’m highly simplifying what he talked about here, but it was a profound concept. He went on to show how Shakespeare, an artist, used Romeo and Juliet to illustrate the Gospel. If I’m not mistaken, he goes through that in Blue Like Jazz (or Searching for God Knows What, don’t recall). You really should read it. The bottom line is this: The arts have incredible potential for communicating the Gospel of Christ to an increasingly skeptical world. It’s at once exciting and a challenge.

The week wrapped up with Erwin McManus and his team from Mosaic Church, Scribble. Talk about using the arts to declare truth! Scribble is a dance and drama troupe that put on a fantastic series of vignettes that Erwin wove his story between. Here are a few notes that I took:

There are no ordinary children, but there are ordinary adults. Sometime between when we’re born and when we die, we loose that sense of extraordinary. Is it possible that God sees more in us than we do.

In the end, the conference exceeded my expectations in so many ways. Having been to so many conferences that were often disappointing, I was a bit skeptical. I was wrong. And it wasn’t just the level of technical execution that was impressive, though it was. What really moved me was once again being reminded of the power of the arts to change people’s lives.

I was also impressed by the heart of everyone who spoke. They were not there to put on a show, or dazzle us with their witty banter, or wow us with their talent. From what I could tell, everyone had a genuine heart that truly believed the arts can make a difference, that people are important, and that this really does matter to God.

At the beginning of the week, Dewitt Jones talked about the need for us to fill our cup. Yesterday, my cup was so full it was overflowing and I could barely sing the last few songs because of the emotions I felt. The week was so worthwhile (though I could have done without the 2 hours sitting in Chicago traffic trying leave—what’s up with that?).

Thanks for reading these unconventional posts. Next week we’ll be back to what we normally do, sharpen our skills and learning how to better serve our King. God Bless…

By the way, if you're interested in the live, on-line experience Willow put together for the conference, check out this site. You'll find blog posts, many written live, and some video of the events.