The main conference session kicks off with live dancing and a full worship band with video, audio media connecting the ongoing question of “what the church is”. One of the main worship songs was “outside of these walls”. They use what they call “God stories” where different testimonies are read while instrumental worship is played and pictures of those in the story cross by the screens.

Alvin Bibbs is the Executive Director of Multi-Cultural Church Relations for Willow Creek Association. You may remember Alvin from the movie “Hoop Dreams.” He was also the chaplain for the Chicago Cubs. He’s the first speaker in the main conference, here we go…

Shares his own journey: He came out of Cabrini Green and Marthin Luther King spoke to him as a young boy in a church. King prayed a prayer of blessing over him. He remembers when people rioted after Kings murder, and how the tear gas creeped through the cracks of the doors. He remembers when infants were killed by that tear gas and how he was stranded on the ninth floor of the Cabrini Green apartments.

We see that God himself has a passion for the oppressed in Isaiah. Are we living out God’s dream of ending oppression? Bibbs is hopeful as he shares several stories of God doing something, one story that demonstrates this is that during his time at Willow Creek church the amount of people involved in social compasion increased from 1,000 to 12,000.  But there’s a lot of work left, heres some figures:  39 milliion in the US are poor; 12 million of our children in the nation our poor; 38% of 25yrs in the US will experience poverty; and 17 million in the nation live in extreme forms of poverty.

45% of people in America regularly cross paths with people who are struggling to make ends meet; 50% of Americans personally know someone in their community that is working two or more jobs.

What is ‘normal’ in the church today: un-networked with those who are actually suffering, the church is often unplugged. We need radical compassion today and we need it on a consistent basis (he says do this for at least 2-4 years). “Dial it up right!” In this stage social-cultural-economic barriers are crossed. But this isn’t enough we need Radical Reconciliation & Servant Evangelism (book suggestion “Divided by Faith” by Michael Emerson), this should be the focus for the next two years. After these comes real Social Justice that Bibbs says was year 7 and beyond. Pay attention to how you go through this process, many in the postmodern eccesiology conversation today move from right to left on this grid because of agitation over a church inactive, but pay attention to the process, build in the steps I’m suggesting says Bibb.