Shirley and I have attended six Exponential Conferences, the east coast (Orlando, FL) version, which are largely organized and led by my good friend Todd Wilson and New Life Christian Church. This year the conference which is “the largest gathering of church planting leaders in the world”, expanded to include an offering on the west coast hosted by Saddleback Church, Pastor Rick Warren’s church in Orange County California. Mark Boughner, a good friend, men’s ministry leader, and fellow blogger, wrote about his experience at Exponential West and New Life just shot out Mark’s report in their online newsletter. You might enjoy reading the account. RMF
As you’ve probably heard New Life, through our Exponential ministry, puts on a national church planting conference each year. Last week we drug Mark Boughner along with half the staff to enjoy the relative California sunshine while you all were paddling your canoes around town. Since he’s a fellow blogger we asked him to share a little of his story…
Last week, I had the fortunate opportunity to serve as a volunteer at the first ever Exponential West.
Historically, the Exponential conference takes place in the Spring at a venue in Orlando, FL.
This past April, fellow New Lifer, Dave Baldwin wrote about his experience there. Rather than reiterate much of the same positive experience with the conference itself, I’d like to report on the uniqueness of what Exponential West offered.
New Life was able to send about 25 volunteers to support the 4 day conference. Many of us arrived in Orange County, CA on Sunday(Oct 6) and drove directly from the airport to the conference site to begin setting up for the event.
Saddleback Church was the host for the conference. The Saddleback campus is very large, widely spread and resembles a small resort. Several comments were made about it being larger than many mid-western towns and with more stop lights!
It was a real pleasure to work with the staff at Saddleback; they were very helpful and generous hosts! There was even an opportunity to watch baseball playoffs on their two ginormous 24’ X 14’ LCD high def screens in the main worship hall. It was a cool experience despite the outcome of the game…
I would highly recommend putting these on the wish list for the next capital campaign – preferably before the Super Bowl…
Considering it was the first time on the left coast, the outcome of the conference was exceptional: 2000 church leaders/planters in attendance, 75 + speakers with an offering of 100 workshops covering tracks having to do with church models, discipleship, missions and leadership, etc.
Given the demographics in Orange County and the surrounding areas, there was an unmistakable feel of multicultural influence both by the speakers and those in attendance. It was a foretelling snapshot of what Heaven will be like or at least Walmart on a Saturday afternoon!
We were blessed with beautiful weather for the most part and the saying, “it never rains in southern California” is somewhat true – that is, until you plan a 4 day event with much of the events and sponsor tables hosted outdoors. Wednesday was a very wet and chilly day…
Although, we were very busy during the days, the time was not without fun! After the conference day was finished, we were able to travel and enjoy some of the local sites and cuisine.
Local travel was fairly simple although we did notice navigation systems would consistently direct to toll roads even if they weren’t necessary or direct. This aroused suspicion that the state government had a direct relationship with mapping systems…
Nonetheless, we had little problem finding In-N-Out Burgers, Carls Jrs and delicious authentic Mexican restaurants. Although in hindsight, burritos may have not been the best idea just prior to spending 7 hours in airplane travel.
In addition, one of our evening meals was provided by Saddleback at their ranch, where we ate with many of the main conference speakers. The ranch is a peaceful, tranquil and rustic retreat located right next to a major freeway – a place to get away from it all…
Overall, we had a really great experience and I would recommend volunteering to anyone who has the heart to serve and the time to go.
Perhaps you would consider volunteering for one or both of those conferences.