Today I went to the Christian Resource Exhibition…a gathering of anyone with a company that has something to sell to people who work at churches or in ministry. You have people and companies that all across the spectrum: from your traditional Christian publishing house, to Tearfund, to clergy clothing companies, to sound system companies, to ministries who think the occult is everywhere (whoops, is it?), to Christian puppet companies, to the local Christian radio station. I was encouraged to go because the lure of free stuff (pens and post-it note pads) is almost too much to resist.

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Within about 10 minutes of arriving I realized that if I did not adopt an intentional strategy for parousing the exhibition I was likely to pound some of the exhibitors in the face and be thrown in jail. I realized quickly that if I appeared remotely interested in anything, or even disinterested, but still made eye contact, all sorts of flyers, pamphlets and brochures would be stuffed in my hands. So my strategy sadly was to look 3 or 4 booths ahead of where I was and avoid contact with any exhibit I wasn’t interested in.

Sadly, this still wasn’t a totally effective strategy. Trying to pass on booth, a woman stepped in front of me and asked me, ‘Can I give you some hope?’

I responded with, ‘Thanks, but I have plenty of that.’ (I was actually being serious, not trying to be a jerk-face)

She then responded with, ‘Well then, let me give you some grace.’ She then stuffed two Christian ‘evangelistic’ tracks into my hand.

Ummmmm….isn’t Jesus the only one who can give hope and grace? And you’re handing out tracks at a Christian Resources Exhibition?! Or is this your strategy for making me think, ‘Wow…these tracks are amazing…I have so much hope and grace…I better order 4000 of them to hand out to everyone in South Croydon!!!’

Wait…it gets even better.

Walking past some other booths, another exhibitor stepped in front of me and asked, ‘Are you interested in Jesus Christ’s return?’

I did my best to politely reply, ‘If I wasn’t, do you think I’d be here and working for a church doing youth ministry?’

She then tried to give me a business card for their website. I wanted to say to her (I recognize this is a bit simplistic) that there are only two things that are really important to know about Christ’s return. They are 1) HE WILL RETURN and 2) No one but the Father knows when. Done. Sorted. Nuff said.

There were alot of great exhibits there. I talked with a really cool RAF Chaplain. I spent some time talking with some cool people involved with the ‘Fresh Expressions’ movement freshwith the Church of
England. And of course I found my way to the Fairtrade Organic coffee booth…with free samples!!! Holler! And Hallelujah!

What caused me to pause often during the day was the thought that this exhibition was supposed to be about making people and ministries more effective at doing ministry, doing the work God wants them to do and serving the wider community. Yet, more often the feeling I got throughout the day was that it was more about convincing people they need stuff, new and better stuff, to do ministry, do the work God ‘needs’ them to do and to make their community wider. Ok, maybe I’m being a little cynical.

But it all caused me to ask myself, ‘What do I need to do ministry?’ ‘What do I need to do the work that God wants me to do, to serve the wider community?’ All I can come up with is: Not much except the willingness to live, love and bend my knees, bend my will and bow before my Lord.

Time to go count my free pens and post-it notes…I think I have both in blue, green, and red.

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