Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. I am not a Blackhawks fan, but an old friend, John Franke, is.
One of my most memorable dinner conversations took place in Houston, Texas over a decade ago. Chris Seay and the Ecclesia community graciously hosted the Emergent Theological conversation on the Bible. It was a great event, but as always dinner conversation was just as good.
One evening John and I unintentionally ended up seated next to each other at dinner. A young couple attending the convo had asked if they could talk to me at dinner and I responded “of course” when we found our way to the restaurant we found a spot at the group table and sat down. When this occurred, in those days, it was usually because someone wanted to better understand what I was saying or because they wanted to argue with me to “fix my theology”, either way was fine with me. The reason this couple wanted to talk with me was not what I expected - they wanted to share something they felt very deeply about their future - I will never forget what they said next. They told me that they heard me speak at the Leadership Network, Church in Church conference at Santa Cruz Bible Church and that they felt God was leading them to move to Texas. They shared with me that “God was leading them to either work with me and the Axxess community in Arlington, TX or Joel Osteen and Lakewood Church in Houston, TX”. Not knowing how to respond to that - I just started smiling (I was a bit stunned). This was back before Joel Osteen was a household name and before Lakewood moved into the Compaq center, Joel had just become the senior pastor of Lakewood after his fathers death. So outside of Texas, at that time, you may not have heard much about Joel Osteen or Lakewood, but even still I was stunned because Lakewood was almost antithetical to Axxess. I could tell the couple was not happy by my stunned smiling response, so I asked them two questions about size and scope of ministry they felt God leading them and said to them “I think it is clear that God is leading you to Lakewood” and explained to them that our Axxess community was never going to be the size and scope of Lakewood. I think they were a bit offended by my initial response, because they politely excused themselves after that and left the restaurant.
John Franke overheard the last part of our conversation, he did not know about Lakewood (at that time) and asked “Was Lakewood an emergent type of church?”. After, I laughed some more, I shared with him the difference, he understood my shock. We started talking and found out we had a lot in common, including a background of conservative theology and mutual love for the game of hockey - I found out he was a loyal Blackhawks fan.
Who knew, over a decade ago, Lakewood would eventually define “mega-church” and Axxess would become a diaspora.
Because this was such a random, but memorable evening for me - I have always remembered that John is a huge Blackhawks fan - so I was very happy for him last evening. Congratulations John and all Blackhawks and their fans. They haven’t put their name on the cup since 1961. I am pulling for them especially since they are an “original Six” team.
I have to also add I am still proud to be a part of the Axxess Diaspora and still believe God is using this community to shape the future of ministry.