Thursday, February 24, 2011

Smoking in Heaven

You won't find any "No Smoking" signs in heaven. The book of Revelation envisions the prayers of God's people as "golden bowls full of incense." The beloved apostle John writes that "the smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God." 

I love to think that when I pray for God's Kingdom to come there's a little more smoke in heaven.

Today is a day of prayer for Synergy, as we are on the countdown to our 7th annual conference in Orlando.

This year's Synergy conference brings to a head a lot of thinking and wrestling over God's purposes for his daughters and his sons, the state of our world, the good news we possess, and the need not only to be God's representatives in this world as bearers of grace but also to be living examples of that grace by how we love one another and work together as the Body of Christ.

If you are unable to join us in Orlando, I still think you should reconsider. Both women and men are welcome! But at the very least, you can certainly join us this day by praying with and for us and adding to the smoke.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Synergy Men

"Synergy isn't like other women's conferences!"

That's what anyone will tell you who has been to a Synergy conference.

We've been called the "thinking woman's conference" because you can count on our speakers and workshops to stretch your mind and challenge your thinking. We're building bridges and forging deep friendships across all sorts of dividing lines that separate believers. We're all over the map on the women's issue and represent a wide variety of denominations and theological camps.

None of this is getting in the way of the mission God has given us because we know we can do more and do it better if we work together.

But the one distinctive that really sets Synergy apart from other women's conferences is the fact that men have started coming too.

From the start, men like Frank James, David Kirkendall, Steve Douglass, and Charles Gilmer believed in what we were doing, opened doors, and cheered us on. But in 2007, Jack Kuhatchek of Baker Books broke the gender barrier by registering as an attendee.

Men have been coming ever since.

Naturally, this changes the conversation we're having, and that can only be a good thing, for our pursuit of the Blessed Alliance of men and women and of a healthy Body of Christ cannot be attained unless and until our brothers join us in this effort.

So just in case you're thinking you can't invite your male colleagues or spouses along, think again. The welcome mat is out for our brothers, and we hope more of them come!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Breaking with Tradition

Saturday evening at Synergy2011, we are breaking with tradition. If you have read Sheryl WuDunn's book, Half the Sky, you will understand why.

Half the Sky describes a crisis that is destroying the lives of millions of women and girls and labels what is happening as "the paramount moral challenge" of the twenty-first century. In response, the Synergy video shown at Lausanne made this bold assertion:

"The church belongs at the forefront of this humanitarian crisis."

Last weekend, the Super Bowl brought a disturbing reminder that sex trafficking is a local problem—rampant in our own cities and at heightened levels during major sporting events. According to statistics, thousands of foreign women and girls are trafficked into the U.S. every year. That doesn't account for thousands of young American girls who are lured into the clutches of pimps and a life of forced prostitution.

Here's a fact: while Synergy2011 is happening—on the streets of Orlando just blocks away from us—women and girls will be trafficked.

How can we keep Sheryl's message to ourselves?! We have an opportunity to sound the alarm and to raise awareness in the local community. So on Saturday night, we are flinging open the doors and inviting in the community. The DeMoss Group, a public relations firm, is graciously promoting this important event.

Of course we hope people will want to come for the full conference. But please join us in praying that many will come to hear Sheryl's message and that God's people in Orlando will mobilize. Please invite anyone you know in the Central Florida region to come.

For details, go to

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Half and Half


Amazon is selling Sheryl WuDunn & Nicholas Kristof's book, Half the Sky, and Half the Church together!  Every Christian should read Half the Sky! Those who do will not be able to escape connecting what these authors are saying with the impassioned cries of Old Testament prophets.
“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows”                                                 —Isaiah 1:16-17
In Half the Church, I take the discussion of the Bible's message for women into the devastating world described so powerfully in Half the Sky. Our quest to know God's heart for his daughters and our understanding of God's call on our lives is incomplete if we leave any woman or girl out of this discussion. 
“If the questions we ask and the answers we embrace do not give them the same hope and kingdom purpose we seek for ourselves, then our conclusions cannot be trusted.”                                                 —Half the Church
Sheryl WuDunn writes:
“Carolyn Custis James has written an unusual and compelling book, mixing her personal story with the dramatic changes in today's world and her thoughtful interpretations of the scriptures and how women can respond with greater fervor to the Bible's call for change and betterment of the world.”

I hope you'll order and read both books!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No more "Small World" for us!

Photo by Horia Varlan
People say it when they they meet someone new and discover they have mutual friends. They sing it at Disney World and experience it on FaceBook and Twitter. Factor in globalization, the speed of travel, and the wonders of technology and it seems more true today than ever.

"It's a small world!"

But there's another kind of small world that Synergy is working to change, not merely for ourselves, but for our daughters and other women we know. It's the small world women inhabit when we embrace a small vision of ourselves and of God's purposes for us in this world. It leads inevitably to small living that is antithetical to our calling as God's image bearers.

In her provocative post on Her.meneutics, Caryn Rivadeneira is emphatic:
"... if only men are oriented to transform this world, women are in trouble, because a woman who is being “good” and eating healthy, hoping that the world changes for the better as it twirls around her, isn’t living the gospel."
Two of this year's Synergy2011 plenary speaker—Andy Crouch and Nikki Toyama-Szeto—are going to blow out the walls on small world thinking and open our eyes to a much, much(!) bigger world and to a bigger gospel!

I won't be forgetting the first time I heard Andy Crouch speak at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary last year. Author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy is unleashing a stirring manifesto, calling Christians to bring all of ourselves and all of our gifts to the enterprise of culture making. Once you hear him, you won't think of yourself (or others) in the same way. And the possibilities for kingdom living will truly explode!

Former Synergy speaker, Lauren Winner calls Andy's message "bracing" and "super-smart", adding:  "I am hard-pressed to think of something that twenty-first-century American Christians need to hear more."

If you've been to InterVarsity's Urbana Conference, you will need no introduction to Nikki Toyama-Szeto, Urbana Program Director and co-editor of More Than Serving Tea. Nor will you need anyone to explain why hearing her is hugely important.

I met Nikki last year in Dallas at the gathering of U.S. Delegates to Lausanne. She completely blew me away with her powerful presentations designed to expand our vision of the rest of the world and how our lives and ministries will be enriched if we avail ourselves (and impoverished if we don't) of the resources, wisdom, and insights that are flourishing beyond our borders.

Having long been painfully aware of the disadvantage to American Christians when we isolate ourselves, our study of God's word, and our thinking from the rest of the world, for me Nikki's presentations broke open a whole new vista of ideas. I knew Synergy needed to hear her message!

I'm thrilled to death that Sheryl WuDunn is speaking at Synergy2011 in Orlando. And I intend to keep talking about her and urging everyone to come hear what she has to say. But let there be no mistake about it—both Andy and Nikki are well-worth the price of admission. Their messages will stretch our thinking and usher us into a bigger world that where we're living now.

I for one can't wait to hear from them!

The thought that both of them are speaking at the same conference—individually and then together—ought to send everyone racing to secure a place at Synergy2011.  

Our world is bigger than we imagine. And our gospel is richer and more powerful than we've yet seen.  So don't miss out!  Join us in Orlando for this mind-boggling experience and let's catch a bigger vision together!

Register here!