This is an account of a 2012 event but it identifies values I believe are kingdom-values. My ongoing experience encourages me to cultivating them in those places where God seems to provides favor. These values comprise the spiritual vision I live within and they seem to promote community.

John 13:31-35

I am preparing to share “my story” this morning at the 2012 Eufaula Kingdom Summit (EKS 2012). Perhaps what is coming to your mind is an auditorium, numbers of people, a PA system and a keynote speaker. The truth is that EKS 2012 is just a “big” name for a “little” gathering. We are just 8 guys (nine yesterday) who have intentionally pulled off the busy freeway of life and church business. We have downshifted into “retreat gear” and are moving at a speed that allows us to better appreciate each other as well as the beautiful scenery outside our windows. Even though the venue is small, it seems like big (maybe even “kingdom” -sized) things are happening.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

In light of this verse, It is quite a wonder that the division marks on the current yard stick that we use to measure “ministry” success are in increments of numbers on one side and dollars on the the other. I know good organizations also have a “souls saved” yardstick but if you are in leadership, eventually the following questions will arise; “How many people have you got coming out?” “What does you budget look like (especially missions)?” These are not the questions we are asking at this gathering.

The simple premise of this retreat was to create a safe space for men to be themselves and hopefully feel comfortable enough to tell their stories. We didn’t come to fix each other up. We really just came to identify and affirm the handiwork of the master builder in each other’s lives. Amazingly, without a single prepared message from the Bible, without a worship center or a bulletin, without any titled religious professional presiding, the Spirit has been moving – drawing us toward each other and toward the Father.

What I see as people gather in this way, free of the obligations and pressures to grow financially and numerically, is that they seem to behave and relate to each other differently. In this unlikely form of gathering I have watched something going on in our midst that resembles the gatherings I read about in the new testament where each person had something to contribute, where words of encouragement are given to build each other up, where the obligation of leading and teaching is shared.

The EKS 2012 made a contribution I think to the structure God is building out of us as living stones. While, we are all different sizes and shapes and vary in degrees of hardness, the give and take of our time together has brought more clarity as to what manner of stones we are individually and how we may fit together in the larger structure that God is building.

It strikes me that in the kingdom that God is building, He is the Master-Builder and He has positioned us strategically in our relationship to those around us. I believe it will be His love that will ultimately find expression through us that will be the mortar holding us together. We will not always just be independent piles of dissimilar rocks. A Master plan will one day be completed and we will find ourselves fitted together (to those so odd and even offensive to us) into a gloriously beautiful structure – the habitation of God.

The men at this retreat came from different generations, backgrounds, experience and theology. (We first appeared to be very different types of stone.) However, as we intentionally drew near to each other apart from our busy and familiar contexts, we gave love a chance to grow as we listened to each other and discovered the unique way He has transformed us from inert stones into “living” stones. Creating safe spaces in our relationships, listening to the stories of how He breathed His initial life into us and has since been endeavoring to sustain and grow that Life is proving itself a way of being together worth replicating.

Holy Spirit we give You Your rightful place in the center of our beings and our gatherings. We give You continual permission to fulfill Your mission through us of drawing men toward You and toward each other so that all men may one day see and believe. Help us to make time and space for the relationships you have given us to cultivate so that Your love will bear fruit for Your kingdom. Amen.

The EKS 2012 motive;
– I love you.
I want to do you good
I have no agenda –

The EKS mandate;
Be yourself. Tell your story. Those who mind don’t matter; those who matter don’t mind.

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