This year’s Movement Day on October 23 proved that creating a global network of evangelicals doesn’t mean having a global hive mind.
Rev. Timothy Keller, famed pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, said that the purpose of the annual gathering of 1500 ministry and business leaders wasn’t global power networks but local communities of Christians doing good for their cities. “Each city needs to have its own network. We’re not trying to keep a national network of leaders,” Keller said in response to a question on Movement Day’s global aims.
Hand-selected speakers, evocative performances, and guided conversations tightly packed the 10-hours for the participants. Greetings and conversations bubbled off the main arena in the Times Square Marriot Marquis as pastors, missionaries, community activists and business people networked with each other.
Mac Pier started the conference in 2009 to be a petri dish showing the networks available for evangelicals around the globe. Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the American Bible Society, one of the largest providers of books in the world, also helped to establish the conference. In five years of conferences the sponsors have discovered that the networking best operates on the micro-networking level. Before there can be a united network, there must first be a division of minds and places.
Though there is interest in learning and encouraging across organizational lines, when it comes to year-round, daily work, a ministry has to put the most energy into connecting with those on the ground next to them. From different angles, disparate ministries find shared vision. These micro-networks are then embedded like a fractal into a transcendent world vision.
In a session between Bob Doll, who is the chief equity strategist of Nuveen Assessment Management, Mac Pier and Tim Keller, Doll quipped on the importance of vocational diversity, calling a successful merging of marketplace trader, a pastor, and a parachurch community leader a “three-legged stool” that needs all three factors to stand. He later expanded on what he meant: “Most people don’t go to church so we need to reach people in ways outside of the church.” One way to expand evangelical goals of increasing their influence is to encourage marketplace professionals to “be really good at what they do.”
Other panels demonstrated how disparate approaches can also lead to cooperation. In a track on the topic of reconciliation in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, three speakers discussed how they each have been working on the continued relief efforts from their particular corner of the world.
Haitian-born Mullery Jean-Pierre, pastor of the Beraca Baptist Church in Brooklyn, emphasized the importance of working with individual communities instead of trying to fix the whole country. Pastor Jean-Pierre has been to Haiti 45 times since the earthquake. Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries brought the issues in Haiti to focus on his own district, which is one of the most diverse in the United States. Jeffries explained that his commitment to Haiti was not just an outsider’s interest. “It is the tradition of New York City, to be interested in those we serve and the countries they come from,” he said. His interest probably helps him with his Haitian voters too.
Romanita Hairston of the U.S. division of World Vision, which sponsored the panel on Haiti, compared mission work to a land battle, where the view may be myopic and focused, rather than to the all-seeing perspective of a battlefield map. Consequently, she encouraged the participants in the Haiti session that they might not know the big picture but in fact how they live their individual lives is having an impact on changing the larger picture of Haiti’s problems and recovery.
Never far from the theatrical arts, evangelical Christians infused their worship with mighty music. The Bethel Gospel Assembly opened the day with shouts and shook the ground of the ballroom. Broadway Actor Bruce Kuhn delivered a one-man performance that took up the entire stage. As he told the story of the Prodigal Son, excerpted from his full-length retelling of the Gospel of Luke, Kuhn shimmied in the role of the rebellious younger son, crouched as he impersonated the grieving father, and strode pompously across the stage as he played the self-righteous older son. The final performance of the evening was by GRAMMY award winning singer and pastor Charles Jenkins, who led the assembly in a call-and-echo worship song that he wrote. His energetic song focused on empowering each individual to believe that they can make difference whatever their circumstances and wherever they live.
Attendees left this year’s Movement Day less like bungee jumpers attached to a platform, wrapping the globe in connections to make the largest ball of string; rather, they dispersed like dandelion seeds, blowing out separately to send out roots where they land.