8 things I jotted in my journal at The (first-ever) Gathering

blog Mar 09, 2022

President’s Day Weekend, we gathered the ministry leaders from Courage to Lead (the organization uniquely coaches both marketplace and ministry leaders), at Go Church in South Atlanta. 

“The Gathering,” we called it…

… because it wasn’t a conference (where everyone sits in rows and listens to someone talk the majority of the time), and it wasn’t a workshop (where you focus on a single task). Rather, it was just what it sounds like… a group of like-minded people, from different backgrounds and places in the country, converging together to create a movement.

Here are 8 observations I made while there.

And, yes, I wrote them in my day-timer / journal. Even though I work with a computer and write on a computer and do most everything on a computer… I still use a paper (hardback, with pen-loop and everything) planner.


#1 = The big topic = Identity 

If I heard it once, I heard it numerous times: “You’ve got to know who you are, or you’ll look outside of yourself for affirmation and validation.”

During his Tuesday afternoon keynote, Clayton King said it clearly, “You’ll look for affirmation in activity if you don’t nail it down.”

And, “Your identity is what the most important voice in your life says it is.”


#2 = You need a counselor and a coach

Soul health moved to the forefront over the past few years— especially during the pandemic. Leader after leader affirmed, “Yes, I need a coach… they help me with the work of my HANDS…”

“… but…” (and this is vital) “… I also speak with a counselor. I need to make sure my HEART stays whole.”

A recent study suggested many pastors exhibited signs of PTSD— which can be acquired from experiencing a tragedy OR hearing about a tragedy.

The work of shepherding is tough. 

Be sure to work on you, because a healthier you overflows to create— and sustain— an healthier organizational culture. 


#3 = Every part matters

The Bible says it like this: “You are the Body of Christ, individually members of one another” (Romans Romans 12:4-5). 

Paul, the author of that passage, says that no one part can say it has no need of any other part— and all the parts are different. 

We often look at our individual churches that way— we have people who are hands and others who are feet and others who are the heart and soul of the place.

But the New Testament authors didn’t view the church the way we do— as unique “churches” down the street from one another. They viewed the entire “church” in the region as “the church.”

It was all one.

They were all one.

At The Gathering, we hosted small churches and big churches and contemporary churches and traditional churches and churches with LED screens and churches with hymn books.

It’s all one church.

Each part matters.


#4 = Teams, the people you’re with matter

In Genesis 11, God asserted that the people building the Tower of Babel could do ANYTHING— because they were unified. 

“Nothing will be withheld from them,” He said.

Then He confounded their language and scattered them.

If this is true— that unity and one-ness work such that any task (a human one, building your tower to the heavens in this story) is possible, how much moreso is a task that moves Heaven to Earth possible? 

Yet the biggest issues we see…

… have to do with teams.

That will always be the case, because people are imperfect. 

Yet, people are the best, greatest resource we have to change the world and accomplish the mission we’ve each been given.

At the conference, Shawn unveiled his new Building a Killer Team book. Claim yours free at the link here: www.KillerTeamBook.net 

By the way, we see this “teams” emphasis throughout the Bible.

  •  Jesus sent the disciples out— 2x2
  •  Paul traveled with Barnabas
  •  Later, Barnabas took another leader— John Mark— and Paul traveled with Silas


#5 = Most people who are up have been down, and most who are down have been up

Such is life. 

Every season— no matter how great or how bad— is temporary. 

At The Gathering we spoke with people who: 

  • Were emotionally depleted but had bounced back (or, made the bounce while they were there)
  • Saw their teams churn during the pandemic, many of their precious people “tapping out” because of the weight they were carrying 
  • Had endured slander, accusation, social media campaigns against them, and more 

And, of course, we saw every space in between…

There is a time for everything, Solomon said— a time to be UP and a time when you will be DOWN (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). 

The resurrection is always preceded by death… 

Dino Rizzo, in his Monday afternoon talk, said this: “Every goal you have is on the other side of resilient.”

The takeaway?

Lock arms with others who are stronger than you— and let them carry you when you need it. 

Then, in season, return the favor and carry them.

We’re in it together— for the long haul.


#6 = God won’t (likely) call you to something comfortable…

If He does, you’ll try to achieve it in your own strength. 

The Bible refers to this as “the flesh.” Moreover, the flesh is neither good nor evil. Like money (and sex and fire) it can be used in glorious ways— or in disastrous ways. 

The flesh means we do it in our ability, though.

Exercising and lifting weights and cooking and filing and washing the car… those things are fine to do in the flesh.

But the task of loving and leading people…

… that must be done in the Spirit.

Furthermore, God gifts us His Spirit precisely so we can out-perform our natural— in the flesh— capacity. 

When He sets an impossible task before you, it’s a setup. If you’ll lean into Him, He’ll do it through you.


#7 = You’re not the only one

Elijah defeated 400 prophets of Baal and then ran for his life when one woman, Jezebel, threatened him.

He got depressed (as many leaders understandably did during the pandemic), assuming he was the only one doing the Lord’s work. He felt alone.

God corrected him, “You’re not alone. In fact, I have 7,000 more leaders you haven’t even heard of” (1 Kings 19:18).

Think about it.

We know the stories of Elijah— but there were 7,000 more working at the same time that we read nothing about…

Sometimes, it’s easy to feel alone. But, you attend a “gathering” and then see it. You’re not. You’re one of many.

(Interestingly enough, one of the cures for Elijah’s depression was a nap and a snack— read the story. It was very practical, the things God told him to do. But, that’s the subject of another post for the future.)


#8 = Return to shepherding

Statistically, the larger your church “room” was before the pandemic, the lower the percentage of people who have returned.

We’ve learned…

Maybe we were counting the wrong things.

Perhaps the “vanity metrics” are off.

Peter told the leaders of his day, “Shepherd the flock” (1 Peter 5:2).

That is, walk with them. Know their names. Understand their stories.

Grace them…

... just as the wall at Go Church, our host site, says...