ZOE Conference

We start planning the ZOE “Look to the Hills” Leadership and Worship Conferences in the Spring and the first one is in Nashville the first weekend in October each year.

This year the theme is “Closer,” not to be confused with the homonym name for a popular TV show. This is closer as in intimacy and drawing near to God. I’ll let the cat out of the bag here a little bit because I’ll be happy to have input as we put some finishing touches on the sub-themes.

In the last two years I’ve invited my friend and co-worker, Wade Hodges, who Mark Riddle calls one of the greatest thinkers in Tulsa. Yeah, that’s about right, but once you get out of Tulsa, he’s about par with guys like N.T. Wright and McLaren and they could probably outwit him on a given day, if not outpublish him, though not digitally, because like Riddle I’ve used my own superlatives for Wade, one of the best bloggers “we” have, the “we” meaning Christian progressives I guess, and Wade is currently my favorite preacher, and he’s also in good company there, where some of my favorites and friends have been Mike Cope, Rubel Shelly, John York, John Barton, Mark Moore, Deron Smith, not to leave out prominent other friends and family of mine who I’ve worked with but these are guys out there preaching regularly or semi-regularly.

Back to subthemes for ZOE leadership part of the conference . . .

Wade had the idea for breaking the Closer theme into these four subthemes: we draw near to God through Heart, Head, Hands, Home. So we’ll have “discerning communities” led by four people who I’ll announce in a few days. Our keynote speaker who will deal with the main theme that leads to these breakout discerning communities (everyone will go to each of the four subtheme breakouts), is Lauren Winner. If you haven’t read Lauren Winner’s writing, you are missing one of the great, authentic and engaging writers of our day. Her first breakaway book was Girl Meets God and her most recent is Real Sex. I’ll be featuring excerpts from her writing in Wineskins in the parallel universe Wineskins issue also called “Closer.”

I primarily draw near to God through home: right now I experience God with, in, and through my wife and children and how we are drawing near to God and being shaped into Christ’s image together. I have exchanged much of my “personal” time with God for family Scripture reading, storytelling, and prayer.

Where do you most often draw near to God? Through head (study, Bible), heart (emotion, prayer, spirit), home (shared experiences in family), or hands (service experiences)? What stories can you tell about that?

4 comments on “ZOE Conference

  1. Isn’t it best if we draw near to God in all four of those areas? I believe strongly that we as Disciples of Jesus Christ ought to be doing all four of those. Jesus calls us to touch lepers, befriend prostitutes and eat with sinners. I understand that some are stronger in some areas than in others but we should all strive to be evenly keeled in all four areas of head, heart, home, and hands. We should Comprehend Christ with our heads, Become Convicted by Christ in our Hearts, Show Commitment to Christ in our families and Show the Compassion of Christ with our hands.


  2. Drawing close to God right now as a 21 year old would simply be in this order and I may not use the words you want, but I’ll explain to what I view.

    1) Relationships – my friends and church family play a large role in my life outside of my family. I am close to Christ when I open my eyes to the love I share with my friends as we break bread together, laugh together, wrestle together and just share each others doubts and hurts.

    2) Heart/Mind – My music, my conversations, my prayers, my dancing, my fears. All those things are weighted and can be used to either bring me closer to God or further away. Right now in my life, I’ve chosen to use almost all those things to increase my intimacy and to gain trust in God and lose the fear of His anger and knowing that God really sees my heart, not the way I see it most of the time, but the way I’m wanting to be and wanting to think and wanting to do.

    3) Giving – I love to give to people. I’m not in a place where that is easy, but I give a lot of my time to our church, a growing amount of time to our community, to people who need advocacy, to people who are ignored, and to those who feel marginalized in my church family. It’s tough- I hope that one day I can give more financially, more spiritual guidance and learn to give more encouragement, which is something that’s hard for me.

    When I do give money, encouragement, love, purpose, laughter to people and share in those things with them, I feel as if not that I’m close to God, but I’m acting as God and the true intimacy that “God lives in us.”


  3. I would really like someone to talk about the “God in us,” the closeness not just being where we can hug and hide under God, but that God emerges out from our very soul and our words and our actions and our thoughts and our writings. God is not only close, He’s within us, emerging out of us each day we don’t mask the Holy Spirit or pridefully take responsibility for some of our actions of good, righteous things. Just a thought!


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