This time last week I found myself in Portland, OR at the Justice Conference. This is the 2nd year that the Justice Conference has run, but my first year going as an individual and as a representative of Steps of Justice. Here is my review of the Justice Conference.
As soon as I got into the convention center where the conference was being held I felt at home. I saw so many people that I have worked with or had some contact with over the years. It was beautiful that we were all there for the same reason, because we care deeply about Justice and the call of Jesus on our lives to be doing justice. There was this excitement and anticipation in the air, everyone I spoke with was expectant that Jesus was going to do something beautiful and painful in our lives.
When I walked into the first session I felt myself getting a bit cynical. My mind went to thoughts of “ugh, this is now a fad, is this just the newest and coolest conference to attend now?” I also let myself think “I hope this is not just another emotional summer camp experience where we hear people talk and inspire us and then go home full of hope, passion and zeal only to lose it after a month or so. Then, we come back next year to get our fix again and feel like we are really doing justice and making a difference in the world.” Yep, those were my sinful, judgemental, honest thoughts.
Then something happened. I realized that I was resisting what Jesus wants for me and for others. I realized that it was a cool conference, that it was trendy and popular and I started getting excited about that. Finally, people were gathering together to share and learn about God’s heart for justice. The more trendy the better. The more trendy it is the more people will get involved and the more people get involved the more chance that justice will be done and that lives will be changed. I am thankful that I get to see justice become the norm in the church of Christ, it is a beautiful day.
The speakers for the conference were incredible. Miroslav Volf was rad and he challenged me on loving people and on my thinking. Walter Bruggemann destroyed me as he talked on loving others and challenged us to move forward with Jesus. Here I sat, this 40 year old dude having my life and spirit moved and challenged by an old dude who seemed more relevant than me. Richard Twiss made me think more about mission and why we do the things we do when we bring teams on the field for short term work. John Perkins, well just listening to him and knowing his history and his life of Justice was beautiful. Even in writing this I am thinking “how in the heck did they get such solid and passionate speakers for this conference when only being in their second year?” Amazing.
OK, now on to some other things. The program that they gave out actually made me want to read through it. They did a great job on designing it, even the feel of it was great. The length of the sessions wasn’t too long, yet they didn’t feel rushed. They were sensitive to both Christ followers and non-Christ followers. Everyone was approachable and available to spend time with, even speakers like Rachel Lloyd. The venue was great for the event too, not too small yet not too big where you got lost in the crowd. Portland was a great city to be in for the conference too. Lots to do and great coffee.
The conference challenged me. It inspired me to keep going with my passion for justice and excited me about where we are going in the future. I am looking forward to next year already. I anticipate more content, and more people attending out of living a life of justice, not just a romantic idea of what justice is. Thanks friends for putting this on and for taking helping us take steps of justice.