Collaborating and Community lead to Improvement and Innovation (Exponential 2013)

From Sunday until very, very early Thursday morning, I was in Orlando, FL at at conference for church planters called Exponential. I would share with you everything I learned and experienced, but I don’t think you would want to read it. I took 18 pages of notes, and there were several sessions where I did not take notes. It would be an overly long blog.

So, I’m sitting here very tired, racking my brain for ideas, and all I can think of is my time at Wally Cleaver’s Recording Studio with Jeff Covert in Fredericksburg, VA. Jeff was the studio-owner and engineer. For HEREtoday, he also basically functioned as a producer. The role of the modern producer in music is one of a collaborator and sometimes, coach. We went into the studio with the skeletons of songs, and he made suggestions to make them better. He got us playing on a click, added mellotron and accordion to our songs and helped us rewrite guitar solos so they better complimented the song. His experience in the studio was invaluable to us. Sometimes we butted heads on song ideas, but he always made us be sure we wanted something a certain way and be sure it was best for the song. He banished the phrase, “That’s the way it’s always been done,” and its derivatives from our vocabulary.

I think my studio experience is in my head because of Exponential. I learned a lot (remember, 18 pages of notes), but for me, the most impacting parts of the conference were the one-on-one conversations I had with other church planters and people passionate about church planting. On Monday, I went to a barbeque for Stadia, a church planting organization and thanks to my friend and advocate, Paige Mathews, I met a ton of influential people and was able to briefly discuss mission, vision and theory with several of them. On Tuesday, I went to a gathering for The Orchard Group, where I met and was able to talk one-on-one with several of the people who had been teaching and inspiring me in the preceding 36 hours.

My perspective is different than theirs due to my experiences both within and outside of church, and their perspectives are different than mine. I believe the overlapping areas of experience are crucial for finding common ground and affirmation, but it is in those areas where we differ in perspective that we find ourselves stretched and inspired to innovate. I look forward to future conversations with Ben Grace from Forefront Brooklyn about music at church. I look forward to future conversations with Brent Storms from The Orchard Group about church planting. I hope to have more encouraging (and hilarious) chats with Jeremy Hazelton from Village Church in Buffalo. I am super thankful for the conversations I was able to have with Brian Moll, Chris Hall, Kyle Costello, Jonathan Williams, Jen Wills, David Thorne (go MWC!), and of course the whole team from The Foundry.

I think relationships and community are the best drivers of progress in life. Inviting people close to you is scary and it can be (it will be) messy at times. Sometimes, you get hurt. Sometimes you hurt people. However, it is in relationship with others where your strengths and areas for growth are most apparent. Life alone is not only unhealthy, it is often stagnant.

Find collaborators, build community and write guitar solos that compliment the music instead of your ego.

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