Q 2009: Day 1

img_0228I am mentally exhausted. This is my second year attending the Q conference, so it is not unexpected, but there is no way to prepare for the mental onslaught that is Q. What is Q?

“Q is a gathering where church leaders and cultural influencers from the fields of business, politics, media, education, entertainment and the arts are exposed to the future of culture and the church’s responsibility to advance the common good in society.”

Each presenter is given 18 minute to present a thought or concept. What that means for attendees is that Q is a steady stream of presenters and ideas, and an explosion of resultant thoughts, ideas, and emotions. I will try to capture and distill the essence of what I heard today along with a few ideas and questions the presentations evoked in me.

David Taylor & Lisa Hickey

  • David is a writer and former arts pastor at a church here in Austin, and Lisa Hickey is the event producer for the Austin City Limits music festival.
  • They each shared their love for the city of Austin and what makes the city unique. The saying “Keep Austin Weird” is an expression of the value the city of Austin has for being different – e.g. valuing diversity, valuing the arts, valuing green space in their city, and valuing local businesses.
  • My Thoughts/Questions:
    • What are the things I love about Denver?
    • What can I do to value the arts in Denver?

Alan Hirsch

  • Alan began by presenting Ralph Winter’s model for articulating cultural distance. Basically this is just a way of identifying the significant cultural barriers between a person and their ability to receive the Gospel – m0, m1, m2, m3, and m4. For each step there are more cultural barriers.
  • Alan argued that the primary way the western church attempts to reach people outside is generally only effective for those within one cultural step. That is, the typical church will only reach people of similar language, cultural, and socio-economic background – people like them.
  • His belief is that currently 35-40% of the American population is within one cultural step of the church. So the maximum effectiveness of the church is to reach 40% of the population. He says that the church growth movement is the only churches being effective doing that.
  • Alan coined the phrase “attractional” to describe these churches but now believes that “extractional” may be a better term. He observes that the church extracts people from their cultural context and actually enculturates them to the church. This violates the missional nature of the church to go to the lost and “become all things to all people.”
  • The problem is that he believes America is headed toward the secular future that is Europe’s present reality. He sees the decline of church participation in the U.S. as a sign that the church is moving from the center to the margins and that the number of people within one cultural step of the church is rapidly declining.
  • Alan challenged the audience to consider that while the attractional/extractional church is still reaching people, there need to be pioneers who imagine a new way to engage those far from God. The decisions we make now will affect the future of the 21st century church.
  • My Thoughts/Questions:
    • Is it possible to take the best of what we are doing with attractional church and begin experimenting with new ways to engage culture? What would that look like?

Mel McGowan, Joel Kotkin, & Dave Goetz

  • This was a fascinating discussion about the history and future of the suburbs.
  • In short, Kotkin (an expert on city planning and not a Christian) represented a future which will continue to see growth in the suburbs. Yet, the suburbs need to reinvent themselves to find their own cultural identity. Churches must play a major role by creating sacred space to go with increasing social, residential, recreational, and commercial space.
  • We must look at sustainability differently – social, economic, and environmental.
  • Dave Goetz shared his view as a believer that there are some destructive addictions present in the suburbs:
  • Dave asserted that we live a “bloated” life that is our false selves.
  • Spiritual growth is a journey from “beginning Christianity” to “progressive growth.” Churches have created lots of beginner Christians, because they have focused on programming. You can’t program the transition from “beginning” to “progressive” – it only happens through suffering. To transition there must be a death of self.
  • Dave asserted three primary suburban addictions:
    • An addiction to the success of our children
    • An addiction to comparing my life to my neighbors’, focusing only on the positive desirable aspects of my neighbors’ lives.
    • An addiction to my busy life.
  • My Thoughts/Questions:
    • As a church planter, what would it look like to think about issues of sustainability and community integration as we pursue a home for New Denver Church?
    • I’m not sure the suburban addictions are necessarily suburban. Perhaps they seem more intensified by the suburbs, but they can exist in an urban context as well.

Andy Crouch

  • What if we succeed at culture making? The result is creative power.
  • Creative Power – The ability to propose a new cultural good.
  • Rent (in economic terms) – The excess income you can command for doing what you would do for less. E.g. A 15-year old David Beckham would probably agree to play soccer for $100K per game for the rest of his life. Last year Beckham signed a contract that pays him more than $1.4M per game. Therefore in economic terms Beckham is receiving (theoretically) $1.3M in rent.
  • Privilege – The continuing benefits of past successful exercises of power.
  • How much privilege do we enjoy every day without even knowing it?
  • We can observe Jesus’ relationship to power and privilege in the gospels. Anytime Jesus exerts power that begins to bring privilege, Jesus flees. His exercise of power is not to bring him privilege. He refuses to live in the benefits of past creative power.
  • An example of privilege – The green room at an event like Q. Is it power or privilege? It depends on how it is used. If it is used by a speaker before he speaks to prepare it is an exercise of creative power. If it is used after he speaks to receive the benefits of speaking already completed, it is privilege. All of America is a green room. Do we use it for our privilege or more power?
  • It all comes to risk. We have to put the benefit on the line for the benefit of others. We must be willing to risk the benefit of success.
  • My Thoughts/Questions:
    • In what ways do I enjoy privilege? How can I turn that privilege into creative power?

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

  • The security of the post-9/11 world has changed from a posture of detrrence. It needs to become morally reprehensible to possess nuclear weapons.
  • The Christian community has an opportunity to inform people of the need for nuclear disarmament.

“It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. Perhaps another dreadful conflict is to be sustained. If, to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.” -George Washington to the Constitutional Convention, 1787

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  1. […] Swern.com – Stephen Redden is a church planter in Denver, CO.  He does an excellent job of blogging his notes. […]

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