The ten of us Beeson Pastors, along with some of our spouses, just returned from an incredible and jam-packed three day trip to Houston, Texas. Houston is the place to find leading churches of all shapes, sizes and styles. Our gracious hosts were the pastoral staff of Chapelwood United Methodist Church, led by Pastor Jim Jackson. Perhaps we gleaned more pastoral insight from Jim than any other epxerience from this trip. We spent time with pastors who are leading small churches in their home or in a cafe. We also spent time with the pastors of some of the largest churches in the country. We visited Lakewood Church and spent a few moments with Joel Osteen, the pastor of the largest church in our country with around 40,000 people in attendance. We also visited Second Baptist Church, the second largest church in the country, and spent about two hours with Pastor Ben Young. I especially enjoyed worshiping at Windsor United Methodist Church, an African American church led by pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell. Windsor is the largest United Methodist church in the country.
The most profound moments for me came from worship experiences at some smaller churches such as Mercy Street, a church of 600 people who are seeking recovery from addiction, and Ecclesia, another church of around 600 that ministers mostly to those in the 20-40 age bracket in a cafe/art museum. Both of these unique churches are led by young leaders, Matt Russell and Sean Gladding at Mercy Street and Chris Seay at Ecclesia. They are providing authentic community for people whose lives have been broken in significant ways.
I'm still sifting through this remarkable experience, asking the question "God, what are you saying to me and leading me to do through this experience? What do you want me to take away and apply to my life and ministry?" When I get some more insight, I will let you know. But I am convinced that what I observed and experienced in Houston the past several days has and will significantly shape my life and ministry. I told someone that it was the best continuing education experience that I have had in my twelve years of pastoral ministry. While I cannot say exactly why this is the case, I sense that it is.
Bill and Ann Steiner were my gracious hosts. They are members of the Chapelwood United Methodist Church. They are beautiful people and expressed the love of Christ in action.
This is the sanctuary ceiling of the Second Baptist Church, the second largest church in the country. The 66 books of the Bible are represented on this stained glass.
Here is our group with Joel Osteen. While many of us have questions about his theology, I have got to say he was very gracious and humble.
Here is a shot of the Lakewood Church which Osteen pastors. It is quite a facility, seating around 15,000 people.
We had a half hour with Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, arguably one of the most effective pastors in the country. You may recognize him as the pastor who prayed at President Bush's inauguration.
Here is Ian Wills, Nazarene pastor in Scotland, Spencer Lundgaard, Presbyterian pastor from the States, and me. We Beeson Pastors spent lots of time together on the bus traveling throughout Houston to different churches. The ten of us Beeson Pastors have an incredbly tight bond between us.