Over the past few weeks many people have asked me, “So, how was Missio Alliance and your time with the Ecclesia Network in Alexandria?” Before I can respond, I always catch myself smiling. Immediately I am filled with gratitude for the relationships, the support structure, the stories, the prayers and the laughter with friends new and old.
And then I tell people about it…
I tell people that I love being with others where we’re absolutely sure that we are not competitors but teammates in kingdom mission in various contexts and expressions around the country.
I tell people that it’s one of the only places in my life where I can hang out with pastors for three full days and nobody is trying to impress me and where nobody asks about congregation size even though we have small churches and large churches.
I tell people that I learned, laughed, cried, met God, listened to – and was listened to – by other kingdom leaders – and how affirming that is for me and my soul. I tell them it feels like a family reunion of sorts. (It’s not just talking about being #TrulyHuman – it’s actually experiencing it firsthand).
I tell people that I love bringing leaders from our church with us to experience this tribe together – and for them to say, “Wow, I’m so glad we are a part of this network.”
I tell people that the network is far from perfect and full of imperfections, shortcomings and areas of significant improvement – which makes it all the more relatable to me, my leadership and our church context.
I tell people about the conversations with other pastors marked me in indelible ways – conversations late at night back at the hotel or walking around town or early the next morning over bacon, eggs and toast.
I tell people that Ecclesia started a new award this year, the Perseverance Award, not to reward the largest, the most successful or fastest growing church in our network, but to honor planters and pastors who have been faithful, stuck with it and continued to serve Jesus in their context when things we lonely and scary and uncertain and difficult. Then I tell them about the standing ovation and the hugs that followed each recipient being announced.
I tell people about those leaders who joined us for the first time to learn about and observe who we are – and how many of them told me it felt refreshing and like it felt “like home” to them.
I tell people it’s the high water mark of the year for me relationally and emotionally with kindred spirits.
And I tell people that I always drive home reflecting and thinking, This is just another reminder why I am so thankful that our church is a part of the Ecclesia Network.
– J.R. Briggs, Director of Leadership and Congregational Formation