Transform '09 Conference

Mixed feelings filled the old white bus as it carried the fifteen Fellows away from Charlottesville at the beginning of yet another precious weekend. Just weeks earlier Dennis pitched the idea of attending this conference, which was not on our schedule, and would bump our total number of ‘scheduled away’ weekends from five, to six in three months. But Dennis had us sold on the line-up of speakers at this conference, as he personally vouched for their life-changing potential. Thus, we found ourselves on our way; slightly bummed we were missing the Halloween festivities at home, yet eagerly anticipating how accurate Dennis’ ‘life-changing’ claim really was.The conference, hosted by McLean Presbyterian Church, located just outside D.C., was called “Transform ‘09”. Paige Benton Brown, Katherine Leary, and Os Guinness were lined up to speak on the transformational perspective of the kingdom. We Fellows were all excited about Os Guinness, having just read his book “The Call” as part of our summer reading. Katherine Leary we knew not only to be on staff at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC, but also as the aunt of our very own Rachel Leary! Finally, Paige Benton Brown we knew the least of, other than that she is a former RUF intern at UVA and had significant “life-changing” potential (quote: Dennis Doran). We arrived on Friday night at McLean Presbyterian after having settled our things at our hosts’ house and making a delicious stop for some Italian subs. Quickly settling in our seats, we did our best to prepare ourselves as Paige Benton Brown began her talk. Paige began by defining “kingdom”: the term of the conference. The kingdom of God she said, is the presence of the future, a reality for the whole world, the hub of the entire New Testament. The gospel of the kingdom is not just forgiveness of sins, but also renewal and TRANSFORMATION of sin. This has serious implications for the way we are called to live out our lives, both as the church and kingdom citizens. It means we must not limit our work to the church but also maintain the church/world distinction. It means seeking renewal “as far as the curse is found”. Paige encouraged the audience not to so comfortably identify with the “conservative Christian” title, for the Christian role on earth at this moment in history is not to conserve, but to transform. Paige referred to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 to describe exactly HOW God’s children are to participate in this transformation. She explained that what is expected of us is proportional to what ‘talents’ have been given us, and that it is not okay to just play it safe and bury our talents. We must be bold and risk-taking in employing our talents, trusting that God has given us our gifts for a reason and that even in employing our gifts, He is there guiding us. God is always doing the work and He is using us broken sinners simply because He loves us. Therefore, we need not pray for God to use us; He will use us. We need to pray that we may be useful in Him using us. The following morning Katherine Leary of Redeemer Presbyterian church in New York City, spoke to us about kingdom transformational work, through her personal story. She spoke of her various experiences in the corporate world as well as her current role as Director of the Center for Faith and Work. Katherine encouraged us by way of her story to carry over the transformational kingdom perspective to the workplace, so that hearts may be transformed. Transformed hearts will transform communities; transformed communities will ultimately transform the world. Finally Dr. Os Guinness closed out the evening by sharing a message with us from Acts 13:36. The verse reads “After David served the purpose of God in his own generation, he fell asleep”. From this verse, Dr. Guinness took the meaning of calling for David and allowed us to apply it to our lives. He emphasized the importance of service in calling; how we need to ensure we are serving the purpose of God like David did, and that he did so “in his own generation”, meaning his calling was for him and him alone. Similarly, God’s call for each one of us is specific to each one of us. Finally, Dr. Guinness encouraged us that if we trust God in this, we will ‘fall asleep’ in peace and trust that we have completed God’s work. Being left slightly stunned, tired, ‘transformed’ and with MUCH to digest, the Fellows once again loaded the ‘ol white bus and began the trek home that Reformation (aka Halloween) night. On the way home several Fellows personally attested to the life-changing capacities of the conference, which Dennis had so fervently claimed just a few weeks earlier. A confident buzz filled the bus that night, confirming that it was all worth another precious weekend away.