Zak and I have been here in Austin Texas since Tuesday, visiting a bunch of people in Gateway Church (lead by our good friend John Burke), as well as having some brilliant father son time. Tomorrow we fly up to Chicago for the leadership summit, so I thought before we go I'd write some thoughts on our visit.
First off I love Austin as a city. The people are incredibly friendly, the city moto which is "Keep Austin Weird" resonates with me in terms of us being in the culture but still being who God made us to be, and the weather (it's been at least 100F every day we've been here) suits me down to the ground :)
Secondly Gateway is a great church, and one we can learn lots from. Their ethos and culture are so similar to ours, and they are wrestling with many of the issues we are. We've learnt lots from people here about how they do multisite, how they are restructuring small groups, how they are using the Internet, how they are developing kids works and how at the end of the day it's about seeing the Spirit of God move rather than just getting the structure right. Very encouraging. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone in the church who has made the time to see us - we really appreciate it.
Thirdly I'm reminded that we are all part of the family of Christ, regardless of where we live in the world. Whether it's in rural Serenje or downtown Austin I realise the Christ followers I meet are my brothers and sisters, my spiritual family. We've encountered incredible generosity from everyone we've met, whether it's Karin Harper who lent us her beautiful apartment overlooking the downtown lake, Todd and Lisa O'Brien who lent us their green VW beetle to drive around in, John Burke and his son who took us out sailing or just the people in church on Sunday who were so welcoming to us, it is such a privilege to be part of this family of believers. It was also great meeting up with Andy and Ilona Varey who used to be in the youth group when Catrina and I were involved in leading it, but now live out in Austin with their three girls.
Fourthly I want to emcourage parents make time to be with your children. I've loved hanging out with Zak. We've been kayaking together, swimming in lakes, getting lost around Austin, discussing life, meeting leaders and generally building relationship. Maybe for you it won't be going on a ministry trip with your children - well find what you can do then make the time to build that relationship now - you'll never regret it :)
Finally I'm encouraged to keep praying audacious prayers. Several years ago I met with the elders on a Thursday morning, and for some reason one of them asked "which church leaders would you like to meet up with?". Top of my list was John Burke, so we prayed that somehow God would open a door for me to get to know him. The following Sunday Todd and Lisa O'Brien walked through the doors of the Kerith Centre for the first time - talking to them I was amazed to find they helped John to plant Gateway, and it was as a result of them coming of us that John came to Kerith and know we're here.
Keep praying your prayers and dreaming your dreams.