Main Session 1


Not counting our Jerusalem, 1800 deaf individuals. If we were ever going to replicate this we need people that know what they're doing because we've got to plant and plant and plant and train how they plant.

I didn't expect it to be well-owned like we were [inaudible 00:00:51]. I mean just honest. We're an oddball. We're a red marble in a bag full of blue marbles. We're a deaf church plant that's cross-cultural, multilingual with a group of individuals that most people consider [inaudible 00:01:04] the world with Sojourn Network, you plant seeds, [inaudible 00:01:10] theologically sound churches ever would consider helping a little, small [inaudible 00:01:14] deaf church plant like this when we walked in day one and it was open arms. Wow, we love what you're doing. This is a mission of God and then just got right on this.

Dave Harvey: I think there're two thoughts that come crushing into my mind as I watch the end of that. Thought number one is, who knew that the deaf community was the fourth largest unreached people group. That was thought number one then immediately following that was, Lord, who are we that we have the privilege of partnering with Danny and Josh and Gospel Community Church to do this important work to serve that community?

I mean, before we take another step this evening, let's just pause and let's pray, part of what tonight and this conference is about is partnership so let's pause and pray for that particular partnership. Lord, we want to come before you and we want to ask your blessing upon the work of that local church. We want to ask you to pour out your spirit and we want to ask you to do a great and powerful gospel work through Gospel Community Church into the deaf community and that you would raise up from that deaf community, Lord, missionaries to go out into other places within this country and other countries of the world, that the deaf would be reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.

I just want to add my welcome to Kevin's welcome in welcoming you to the 2017 Sojourn Network Leadership Summit. If we haven't had a chance to meet, my name is Dave Harvey and I hope we resolve the issue of not having met by the end of the day, Wednesday, and we have plenty of opportunities to hang out, plenty of opportunities to be together. I was thrilled to discover that there are people here from over 25 different states, so beginning with New York all the way in to east, all the way through Hawaii, which is beyond the west. It's … Well, you know where it is.

No need to tell you that but 25 different states and over 80 different local churches. My prayer, our prayer as we have approached this event is that God would refresh you, that God would inspire you and that God would send you back with a fresh vision to serve the people that you are called to serve, called to love and called to lead. Towards that end, we have gifts as a way to say thank you for attending, as a way to invest in your growth. We want to give you gifts throughout the entirety of your time here so gift number one is this book just released by Mike Cosper called Recapturing the Wonder.

Mike serves on the Board of Directors of Sojourn Network. He's also a strategist for Sojourn Network. Most importantly, though, he has written this book to serve our souls on the transcendent faith toward God in a disenchanted world. I think you're really going to enjoy it and I pray that it serves your soul and that you get it to other people as well, Recapturing the Wonder.

The theme of our conference is partnerships and collaboration and it falls to me at the beginning to help define what we mean in Sojourn Network when we use those terms. I want to invite you to open up to Philippians chapter 2. I'm going to read beginning in verse 19 through verse 30. Title of this evening's message is the Core of Collaboration. Core of Collaboration, chapter 2 verse 19, "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon so that I too may be cheered by news of you for I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. They all seek for their own interest, not those of Jesus Christ, but you know Timothy has proven worth how as a son with the father he has served with me in the gospel.

"I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me and I trust in the Lord that shortly I, myself, will come also. I have thought it necessary to send you Epaphroditus, my brother, and fellow worker and fellow soldier and your messenger and minister to my need for he has been longing for you and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed, he was ill, near to death but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him therefore that you may rejoice at seeing him again and that I may be less anxious. Receive him in the Lord with all joy and honor such man for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me."

Let's just stop there and go together to God and ask for his help. Lord, we have come here with many burdens. We have come here with hopes and expectations. Lord, various needs that are represented throughout this room, deep desires to meet you or to meet you in worship, to encounter you through the preaching of your word, to encounter you in times of fellowship and in times of relationship, one with another, and yet we recognize that we are desperately dependent upon you for anything important to take place. We ask you now to meet us. We ask you now to grant us what we need and we pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

It's always fascinated me that one of the first observations that God makes about our species is that it's not good for man to be alone, that God embeds in humanity, not the need for autonomy but for community, not the need for independence but for interdependence. That that theme sharpens as we move deeper into the New Testament we discover that it's not good for Christians to be alone so God provided the local church because God implants this desire in the Christian experience, this need not for radical individualism but for collaboration.

In this epistle that we just read from, we discover still another implication and that is that it's not good for churches to be alone. God provides ministries like Paul, like his helpers to serve, to connect churches, to do what he describes in Philippians chapter 1 as this partnership in the gospel. Now, upon these things I think we are largely agreed is why we find ourselves together at a conference on the theme of partnership and collaboration. I need to say upfront that Sojourn Network has not stumbled upon some kind of secrets of collaboration where we're finally going to unlock this thing or that we have in any way finally nailed this thing.

We are average men with modest gifts and doing network reminds us of how average we really are. The only thing that I've done more difficult than network is parenting. I discovered that I need a lot of help with both of them. Tonight, we begin right out of the gate aware that this idea of churches partnering together is something we probably, it's a conviction we probably share but it's also not a product of our own innovation. It's as old as the New Testament itself and no one did it better than I think this church in Philippi.

What I want to do together tonight is to look at what I'm calling the core of our collaboration and I want to do that by looking at profiles of Timothy and Epaphroditus, two leaders that are prominently featured in this passage and I want to do that by looking at the broader, I'm calling it, an ecosystem that existed within the Philippian church.

Now, in the event that you're sitting there wondering, is this message going to be really abstract? I think it is going to be a little abstract. I think it's also going to drill down into some really important issues for us, important questions like how will we grow sharper on mission as we move forward together? How are we really going to think hard and apply this desire to care for pastors and their wives and to relate together in a meaningful way and a brotherhood? How are we going to build a network that passes the test of time? Actually, I can't think of a topic more vital or more timely than that for us right now.

Now a moment ago, I mentioned this idea of an ecosystem and I think that's a helpful metaphor for dissecting this collaboration because I think flourishing requires tensions and balances that one must walk in, that a church must walk in within the context of what I think about as an ecosystem. I want to explore together what I'm calling the ecosystem of healthy collaboration. I want to do that in four different parts. The first is risk taking, the second is power sharing, the third is reciprocity, and the fourth is multicultural.

Let's talk about the first one, risk taking and I want to look at how this idea of risk taking is embodied in the person of Timothy who Paul says in verse 20, "For I have no one like him who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare." Now, that is a remarkable statement when one considers the profile of this man Timothy. Timothy was a child of a mixed marriage, father was Greek, mother Jewish, basically, mixed race kid. We can infer that there may likely have been some identity struggles. Eunice and Lois are certainly more prominent as Paul references them in scripture and yet, Timothy remained uncircumcised long into his adulthood which meant he remained under the influence of his father as well.

This is a kid that may likely have known what it meant to feel on the outside looking in. He may have been the object of the ignorance of other people. He may have been the object of taunting, of misunderstanding. Add to that, he seemed to have been prone to illness. 1 Timothy 5 mentions his frequent ailments. It's also reputed that he had these issues, these struggles with fear. Paul tells the Corinthians, when Timothy comes, see that you put him at ease among you. You could almost feel Paul's fatherly desire for this young man. This desire on Paul's part that can we settle Timothy's nerves, let's do whatever we can to make sure that he is not unsettled because he may perhaps be easily unsettled.

John's thought expands this whole profile when he says, "Among all of Paul's associates, Timothy was unique." Humanly speaking, Timothy was hopelessly unfit to assume the weighty responsibilities of leadership in the church. For one thing, Timothy was still comparatively young. Paul warned him to shun youthful passions. Timothy was prone to illness. In Paul's first letter to him, the apostle refers to his frequent ailments. Thirdly, Timothy was timid by temperament. He seemed to have been naturally shy. If he had lived in our generation, I think we would have described him as an introvert. He evidently shrunk from difficult tasks. This then was Timothy, young in years, frail in physique, retiring in disposition, who nevertheless was called to exacting responsibilities in the church of God.

Listen, if you're this evening and you can relate to that description, young in years, frail in physique, retiring in disposition and introvert. Let's just all of us refresh ourselves on the remarkable power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A power that is so comprehensive, it can transform even this sheepish messy leader to the point where Paul describes him in verse 22 as saying, "You know of Timothy's proven work, how as a son with the father he has served me with the gospel. You know this guy. You know the kind of leader he is."

We're talking about risk taking and I think the point that I'm trying to make is that our collaboration should involve risks on messy people. Our collaboration should involve risks on messy people. Now, this is not to elevate gifts and this is not to ignore the importance of character. The more responsibility there is to a role, the more important this character becomes and the less risk should be involved. It's just our belief and our experience that the gospel is so powerful that it actually draws beauty from guys like this and from women like this. It draws beauty from brokenness. Beauty from dysfunction that Christ life and death and resurrection inaugurated the kingdom that reaches all the way down to the unlovely.

All the way down to those of us that might be viewed as less impressive and redeems us and gives us a purpose and a meaning and some significant role to play within the church of God. I'm sharing this in part because when I think of us and I'm saying us in Sojourn Network and if you're a friend of Sojourn Network here tonight, you could certainly include yourself in this group. I'm saying this because I think this is part of our story. We were messy. We are messy.

Sojourn Network is always identified more with Timothy and with Paul. We have always identified more … When Paul tells the Corinthians, "Consider your calling because not many of you are wise, not many of you are powerful, not many of you are from noble birth, we read that and we think, yeah, that's us and that's all of our friends as well. That's all of us.

I think of the faithful leaders in this room who saw beyond my mess and took a risk. There's something about that. It incites something in me where I want to do the same for other people. I guess the question I want to start with this evening is when Timothy arrives at your church, when he arrives at your door, what do you see because his mess may be the place that the gospel transformation begins to take place? It's certainly going to be a place where we must take a risk so our collaboration should involve risks on messy people.

One of the points I want to make under this heading of risk taking and that is that our collaboration should result also in ongoing mission risks. Now, this point I think is punctuated through the introduction and description a bit of the story of a Epaphroditus. His ministry, I think, represented a risk for everybody that was involved. This is a guy who was deeply loved by the Philippians. He was one of the best of the Philippians. They sent him to Paul to care for Paul's needs and yet Epaphroditus also loved the Philippians. Epaphroditus, when he gets ill, Paul says, "He has been longing for you all." In fact, he has been distressed because he knew that you knew that he was ill. Epaphroditus so cares about his local church that he's concerned about what they're thinking when he's ill.

Epaphroditus nearly gave the last full measure, that's what Paul says, for he nearly died for the work of Christ. Listen. Risking his life so you've got the sacrifice of the Philippians, you've got Philippians taking a risk, Epaphroditus taking a risk and then Paul, the guy who's imprisoned, the guy who perhaps is the most needy because he's running his ministry from a prison cell, from behind bars, but rather than asserting his need and perhaps even asserting his claim, he graciously surrenders Epaphroditus back to the Philippians.

See, I love this picture because it illustrates the collaborative nature of this partnership where everyone involved took risks. Everyone involved had to step forward in that way and I think what I'm saying is that if we're building the right ecosystem, our collaboration is going to push us in that direction. In fact, our collaboration is going to protect us from becoming too comfortable as our churches continue to grow and they become healthy and we just settle into life as pastors or leaders or elders in a more established environment.

What this commitment to risk does as a function of our collaboration, as a part of the ecosystem of our collaboration? What it does is it helps us to avoid what I like to think of us the illusion of risk where risk becomes part of our vocabulary but requires no vulnerability from us. We traffic in the language of it but we really don't become vulnerable enough to actually take them so our confessions with one another are scrubbed clean. There's no pain, there's no risk, there's no unzipping when we're actually sitting across from another and sharing what's going on.

It's all carefully calculated. It's all brokered in order to manage a certain image but there's not the vulnerability that requires risk or we reach out but it's only to people that basically look like us because that doesn't take as much risk. In other words, we arrive at this point where our risk require little from us and so they transform us very little, which I think is part of the intent, God's intent in installing risk in our life to begin with.

I can't wait till tomorrow morning. In fact, Joel Brooks is going to be teaching on church planting. He informed me tonight that he plans to complete the message sometime before he delivers it in the morning, which is a great relief to me as the guy who's leading the conference. Yeah, you heard right but the importance of that message is that one of the best metrics for our collaboration is whether we continue in each and every season to accept the risks of church planting and that the results of our collaboration is a growing commitment to the risks of church planting. We're going to hear about that more tomorrow morning.

Okay, so that's risk taking. That's the first point in the ecosystem. Point number two is power sharing. Now, when we study Paul, we must always remember that Paul plays in a league of his own, okay. When you've seen the risen Christ, when you write scripture, when you've to the third heaven, you plan a league of your own. There was only one Paul and he was unique in redemptive history. He was distinct, unrepeatable. If you're here tonight and you believe you operate in the authority of Paul, could we chat after the message? Could we just sit down and grab a corner and talk a little bit?

The significance of this point is that for Paul's extra local ministry, power could be centralized. When you're an apostle with a capital A, you're an apostle with a capital A, you keep power but man, when you're a network, you have to spread that around. You got to spread it out. Now, I know I've introduced the word that can be kind of confusing. I'm talking about the word power and when I say power, I'm not talking of how power defined as a form of domination or coercion or exploitation. I'm speaking of the redeemed vision of power, the authority to act by God, the capacity to create, the impulse to share, to reproduce.

I love Andy Crouch's definition of power. Andy Crouch's power is, "Our ability to make something of the world." The living God opens history with acts of power. Let there be light, let there be water, let there be land, let there be plant. You got it. Many of you men have thought on this, you understand this. The climax is with the transfer of that responsibility to the image bearers, male and female together, be fruitful, multiply, have dominion, subdue, et cetera, a text that we're all probably familiar with. In other words, go and exercise your gifts, your abilities, your leadership, your innovation, your power to stoke the flourishing of creation.

Here's what happens is whether one is Steve Jobs or Martha Stewart or Tom Brady or Drake, whoever, I mean, the more effective we are at making something of the world, the power we gather. The more effective we are at making something of the world, the more power we gather. We can humbly deny that reality but it will not diminish the reality whatsoever. It may simply reveal that we're not understanding something. It may reveal that we're even being naïve.

I'm in a cohort right now, we recently had an opportunity to sit with Andy Crouch and he told the story of meeting with a group of journalists who were interviewing this mega church pastor. If I say the name of the mega church pastor, you would immediately know who it is and one of the journalists said to him, "How do you deal with all of the power that you have?" The pastor immediately said to him, "Oh, I don't have power. We're all servant leaders here."

Now, there's a part of that response which we can all relate to, we can all appreciate. There's a humble instinct to want to immediately pull into the conversation, the idea of servant leadership. As Andy Crouch was relating the story, he was saying that that was a stunning statement from his standpoint, particularly when he considered what happened when this man preached the influence that he exercised, the number of jobs that were created by the church that he led. The gravitas that was evident when the man walked into the room.

The point was that God had entrusted the man with power. The only question was whether he was going to deny it or use it for the glory of God. Listen, if you're here and every Sunday, you open up a bible in front of people, you have power and what we don't want to do is act like that isn't there and that isn't a reality that we have to acknowledge and deal with and think about how it can glorify God. As it relates to the network, the point I want to make is, as Sojourn Network plants more churches or churches join Sojourn Network or we produce more content, it would be naïve of us to ignore the reality that this enhances the power of the network.

Now the temptation for a lot of organizations and sadly even ministries is that they are that they'll seek to centralize power, to build empire with power, to promote a brand with power. How we want to handle what God is entrusting to us is first, we want to push the power back down to other leaders or back out, I should say, to other leaders. I love the fact that Paul's in prison and he's got every justification imaginable to keep Timothy but he's saying, "No, I want to send Timothy out. I want to send him to you, Philippians. There's no way do you expect verses 21 and 22 to end up in verse 23. You know Timothy's proven work, how a son is a father, he served me with the gospel. I hope therefore to send him back to you.

You just don't expect it to go there, but Paul pushes Timothy out towards the Philippians because it serves them. Because Paul is now trying to consolidated things into this power team and our heart is to be like Paul as much as we can. It's not to build a ministry empire, it is to steer power out toward mission, to steer power towards the vulnerable to build an ecosystem that believes very deeply that when power is shared, power is not lost, power is multiplied. It's not lost. It's multiplied when it's shared.

This means that we give away not only responsibility but we want to be held accountable to give away authority, we want to divest ourselves where we can, recognize that we can't divest ourselves of everything. That there are certain things that need to remain centralized but that we want to divest ourselves. We want to send resources, we want to where possible honor other people. I love Paul's example of he's suffering in prison but he's regaling the Philippians about if Epaphroditus and Timothy and going on and on.

He says honor such men. The dude is in prison and he's not only honoring them but he's asking the Philippians to make sure that they're going to honor them as well. I mean this is a great question that we can all be thinking about for ourselves. Am I known by my spouse? Am I known by my local church as one who aggressively honors? As one who collects praise or distributes praise because I think that's a great window in how we view powers. We want to push power out, towards other leaders and then we want to recognize the fruit of power sharing which is that power sharing creates owners, power sharing sparks innovation.

Let me tell you this by relating to you a story that took place, it was about a year and a half ago at. I was invited by the band of bloggers to share about Sojourn Network at T4G and been trying to think about a way to communicate what it was that we were aiming for. I should to the group. I just said, listen, just imagine the reformed world as a Fortune 500 company. I said if that were the case, nine marks would probably be quality assurance. They're bright, they're making sure the church is everything the church should be, so they're QA, they're quality assurance. I said, "Nam, Nam would probably be shipping." I mean they have been getting the message out effectively all over the world for all this time. They're amazing in that way.

I said, "PCA, they'd be operations for sure." The really bright guys, they know doctrine, they know systems, they know the [courts 00:35:00], they've got all that down. I said, Acts 29, maybe communications, maybe IT. Again, they're folks that they're tech savvy, they've cracked the cultural code. They know how to do it that way. I said Sovereign Grace. I know Sovereign Grace, welcome Sovereign Grace, human resources, they love people. They love to be on a mission and then I said, you may be thinking that I'm setting up this whole scenario in order to introduce Sojourn Network as like the silent board of directors that are always at work behind the scenes, pulling the strings and having their influence but nobody knows about us. I said, "No." I said, "It's not that way at all."

I said, "We're like the small R&D department. We're research and development. We're over here on the side. We're just trying to be faithful to experiment. We're trying to be faithful to innovate, to share what God has given to us with other people which is why we have this strategy." Why we have the cohorts and we're trying to develop content and you're going to get Brad and Craig's book tomorrow and the eBook series that we're releasing and we got a number of other things that want to talk about but the point is, it's because we believe in this power sharing loop which means that the more we share power, the more we're going to flourish in the gospel and before God.

Power sharing, I'm going to move much quicker now. Reciprocity. Reciprocity. Now this point is probably self-evident but what I'm getting at is where we have healthy collaboration, it is reflected in scripture in Philippians in reciprocity. When I use that word, just think about the idea of like a two-say street. Both parties involved, a partnership because that's what it is. It means that we have a network following Paul's example of sending Timothy of chapter 2 verses 22-23 that we've just read. In other words, a network that's looking for ways to take the best of what they have and to get it back to the church, to get it out. Not to collect it, not to keep it but to get it out.

There's also this reciprocity where the Philippians are generously supporting the partnership. The Philippians are sending Epaphroditus to Paul. There's a whole … We didn't even read chapter 4, chapter 4 where Paul's saying, "You Philippians, you yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel and I left Macedonia, no church ended into partnership with me and giving and receiving, except you only." He goes on to talk about the unique role that the Philippians play.

This word reciprocity is chosen because it signifies the beautiful ecosystem of mutuality that we inhabit together when we come in to this partnership one with another. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Dave Owens say Sojourn Network exists to serve pastors. Sojourn Network exists to serve pastors. If you're part of Sojourn Network, I hope you feel that. We want to be measured by that. We want that to be the end for which we exist and in my opinion, that's Dave Owens, Mark Owens, KC, Whitney, those folks, they're the best there are. God has been so good to give us that staff to serve us.

If that convection isn't reciprocated by pastors that are feeling similarly and churches that are feeling similarly then we don't really have a partnership, do we? We have something that's paternal in some ways.

It's like parenting. Parenting is the only earthly relationship, the only earthly arrangement where you have this one-sided thing. You have the parents saying, wait for the children, we want to serve you and you have the kids saying, excellent because I want to be served. In fact, I've got some suggestions for how you can do it even better. Collaboration is where the network value "we exist to serve pastors" is met by the church's value which is that we partner together to plant churches and to help each other. It means that the network is taking the responsibility to mine the models, the churches that are out there and to circulate the best of what's taking place.

You get those best practices in circulation taking the resources that are faithfully given and by the way, thank you for your faithful giving to Sojourn Network if you're a Sojourn Network church. Taking those resources or sending it out, cultivating expertise, making sure it gets out, pushing resources to help pastors plant, grow and multiply healthy churches. It also means that there are churches that are giving generously of their time and talents and money to serve other pastors and other churches and to serve and implanting churches. You get that because it's this ecosystem or generous reciprocity that has been our experience since the beginning.

At this point, it's an opportunity for me to say, again, thank you for your commitment to reciprocity which is point three and leads us finally to point four which is multicultural.

What I love about this picture in Philippians chapter two is you got Paul, this Jewish Pharisee turned Christian who once studied under Gamaliel traveling with a team that included a Philippian ex-pagan, Epaphroditus, and this third generation Christian from Lystra named Timothy. That for Paul there's nothing unusual about it. This is how Paul rolled this idea of multicultural, in other words, the gospel tearing down the dividing walls and uniting across race and culture and people. This multicultural impulse was not for Paul just a ministry strategy but it was embedded in his spiritual DNA.

For us, that's a really helpful example because while we know we're not unicultural, in other words, we've got, in Sojourn Network we've got John Stark up in New York in an urban environment. We've got James Edwards in rural Kentucky. We've got Josh Jean in Beaumont. We've got Danny reaching the deaf. While we know we're not unicultural we still look around this room and we see certain absences. We see an absence of the kind of composition, African Americans, Latino, Asian Americans or Asians. Doesn't need to be Americans, but the kind of multicultural impulse that reflects the fact that we believe that the gospel is holistic, it's the whole gospel full of whole church in the whole world and that the gospel transforms every human relationship and every human endeavor.

We believe that and we love that but the racial blessing of that still eludes us. It's like we're clear on the direction but we just don't know the path to get there. If that's frustrating to you, I want to say I understand because I feel the sting of that in a unique way and I'd like to take a minute and explain to you what I mean, which would bring out a part of my story which I don't often share.

I was born in Pittsburgh. I went to high school in the '70s, immediately following desegregation. My high school experience in the '70s was dreadful memories of race riots in the hallways, in the cafeteria, at football games. Racial tensions that were so thick in our high school you could cut it with a knife. In some ways, early on, mystified by the violence that would take place in unexpected ways. I remember standing at the foot of my brother's bed after he had been attacked. My parents in the other room whispering to each other about whether they were going to be able to move him to actually get him to the hospital. Having a body of experiences like that so that I arrived at the day of my conversion honestly with a fear and a suspicion and a hostility towards African Americans.

I did not understand nor did I care at that time about any of the historical injustices or any of the social factors or heart factors that we're in play. All I knew is that I had this visceral disdain that I carried into conversion. I remember being converted. Then a couple of years after that, I remember arriving at the Center for Urban Theological Study in inner city Philadelphia with all of my ignorance and all of my hostility and all of my sin. I can take you at this moment in my mind to the classrooms in that inner city environment where the teaching of Carl Ellis and Harvey Kahn and Manny Ortiz, I mean giants and pioneers in this area of what was called at that time racial reconciliation and how God slowly began to excavate my heart and hack away at the roots of racism that had been embedded and was a deep and profound sin in my life.

Eventually, becoming so convicted of my sin and then so convinced of the scriptural claim and call for this idea of racial reconciliation that I actually wrote my master's thesis in 1989 on racial reconciliation in a suburban church. I read it recently. It was embarrassing in many ways. It was an embarrassing piece of work for how naïve it was but I do know that there was something in my heart I wanted to build in the suburbs a model of racial reconciliation and I began to lead our suburban church becoming a large suburban church in that direction. I look back and I could tell you we had a few successes and many more failures.

In 1992, God led Kim and I to adopt an African-American boy or son. Our son [Asa 00:48:17] is now 25 years old. Asa was not a ministry project. He was our son. We knew at that time that our future was somehow inextricably bound to the welfare, to this issue and to this future. That, in other words, multicultural couldn't be simply a profession that we made but somehow we had to be investing our life and that God had something for us out there.

I think what I'm trying to say as I'm trying to say something, I think what I'm trying to say is that I have a history and I have a burden but oh boy, I am not sure where we're supposed to go and how we're supposed to get there. At this point, all I have is what I feel like is this invitation from God to do deep heart work, the kind of heart work that is going to prepare me to listen, to prepare me to serve, that is going to prepare my heart. Let me speak on behalf of all of us to prepare our heart to lay aside our preferences, to ask and listen, to ask uncomfortable questions, to listen to the answers, to have conversations, to ask questions like, what does it look like for Sojourn Network to move towards these convictions right now?

How do we become a family where ethnicities feel welcomed, a family of churches where ethnicities feel more welcomed? Where we can see color without confusion, where we can see color without contempt. I got to be honest with you, I do not have the answers to those questions but I am hoping that through collaboration, we will find them together. I have this dream of a day, and I don't think it's that far off, where when we have this opening night of the leadership summit that we have, that we're going to find even more wonderful color in this room, not because it's trending, not because it's politically correct but because our understanding of the gospel is changing our definition of what it means to be a healthy network.

Brothers and sisters, it is not good for churches to be alone and so God created partnerships and he has entrusted this beautiful thing to us and he has invited us to multiply it through our collaboration through risk taking, through power sharing, through reciprocity, through this multicultural commitment. Let me just close with thus thought. I was thinking earlier about the woman who stopped Ben Franklin who she met in the street after the constitutional convention. She said to him, "Well, Dr. Franklin, what kind of government did you give us?" Benjamin Franklin responded by saying, "A republic, ma'am, if you can keep it."

I guess in conclusion I just want to say that we are simple men and women who have been given a network. It is a thing of beauty. It is messy and we are not yet what we will be and not yet what God wants us to be. By my prayer is that as we take these clumsy steps that God will help us to keep it. Let's pray.

Lord, our heart is to become before you and to now pray into these things as we have sought to bring some definition to what we mean by collaboration and partnership and we pray now even as Orlando comes and we poise to go to you that you would need us in prayer by your Holy Spirit, in Jesus' name, amen.