Through the years I've attended many conferences and events. I've been to the Willow Creek Leadership Summit and Arts Conference. I've read many books about North Point and listened to enough of their talks and read through enough of their curriculum's to know how they operate. But the Summer Institute Conference at Xenos in Columbus may be the most intriguing of all conferences I've attended. This is probably why they have a document on their website titled "Why Xenos is not a good model for your church." They simply do things...well...differently.
My primary purpose of attending the conference this year is to attend a 3-hour credit Master's Degree class by J. P. Moreland. I've mentioned him before, but Dr. Moreland is a philosophy professor and apologeticist. Anyway, it has been fascinating to sit under the first 2 hours teaching and listen to a good bit of evidence (philosophical, scientific, etc.) for the existence of a G/god. Some of it is kind of difficult to comprehend, but much of it simply makes sense....and I look forward to the remainder of the course.
Concerning the conference, I've had the opportunity to listen to a number of great speakers, but the main highlight so far was a 3-part break-out session series I decided to take part in yesterday. I'm the kind of guy who likes to be challenged, and the presenter held no punches. The session started out with out 50 people in the room, and he gave us a scenario. In short, the scenario was about being invited to a homosexual wedding by a friend who's son/daughter was being married. He asked everybody to choose a side of the room -- will attend on one side; will not attend on the other; or a small section of "I want more information before making a decision." (For the record, I landed on the "I will attend" side of the room.) The rest of the sessions were challenging as well and the conversations that took place throughout those sessions were well worth the price of admission for the conference.
Other than the presenters/sessions, the culture at Xenos is unlike the culture at any church you've probably ever attended. While waking to the main building on opening night I overheard 2 students:
Student A: "A friend a mine, a girl, got saved last weekend."
Student B: "F _ _ _ 'n - A!!! What was her name?!
This kind of conversation, while maybe not "normal" at Xenos, is mostly accepted. Last year at the conference I saw T-shirts with the phrase "Cussing is not a sin." Whether or not one agrees with this or not is irrelevant. But from my perspective, the gospel is being preached, and people/students are very, very excited about it.
Another interesting aspect of Xenos is that there is no "worship" music like most contemporary churches see it today. There is tons, tons, tons, of teaching/education/community, but no "worship", at least in the realm of music. So the bookstore within the church has maybe 7 CD's available. 1 by Rich Mullins, 1 by Fernando Ortega, and TWO by Bob Dylan. Yup, this is how they roll. And the pre-message/teaching music isn't necessarily "worship" music either. The first night was a local rock band singing "When Love Came to Town" by U2/B.B. King, and last night the crowd heard 3 Irish Jig's before the main presenters of the evening.
All in all, for those who attend conferences and wand the best-bang-for-the-buck, or who want to experience a church culture different than most, feel free to consider the Xenos Summer Institute in the future. It's definitely a unique, but very worthwhile conference/church to attend.
What churches or conferences have you attended that have been unique experiences?
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