I had the pleasure and honor of speaking this past week at two events – MissionsFest Vancouver and, a few days later, a retreat for the students and faculty of Ambrose Seminary.
MissionFest was held at the sprawling, glittering Conference Center poised at oceanfront in the heart of downtown Vancouver.
The seminary retreat was held in small, homey facilities nestled in the mountain-shadowed woods outside Calgary.
The streets of Vancouver spill and teem with thousands of people – business men and women, tourists, shoppers, workers. Every form of transport converges here, and the city never sleeps.
The woods of the retreat center lie silent and white beneath a thick quilt of snow, stitched by deer tracks and, occasionally, human footfall. All manner of wild things roam here, or hibernate in burrows beneath the hard earth.
MissionsFest has 35,000 visitors over the stretch of 3 days. Altogether, 16,000 of those visitors – up to 1500 at a single event – attend dozens of sessions taught by a multitude of presenters.
The retreat had, I think, 60 attendees at its peak. Around 40 were there at any given session. Mostly, I was the sole presenter.
At MissionsFest, I stared into spotlights.
At the retreat, I looked into faces.
I loved both.
The wonder is this: God uses both to move hearts, change lives, redirect paths. I saw and heard stories of this at MissionsFest. And I saw and heard stories of this at the retreat.
Some of us have a preference for big and bold, others for small and intimate. And sometimes, if we’re not careful, we theologize and moralize our preference: the big is shallow, or it’s potent, it’s a sign of compromise, or it’s evidence of God’s favor; the small is deep, or it’s shoddy, it’s a sign of authenticity, or it’s proof of mediocrity. I’ve heard both – indeed, sometimes out of my own mouth.
The problem is, God doesn’t appear to have a preference. He likes big and bold. He likes small and intimate. Jesus met a woman at the well and changed her life forever. Jesus spoke to the masses, and ditto. The early church met in houses, and experienced transformation. The early church drew thousands in a single day, and ditto. He’s God of the unnumbered multitudes and God of one lonely heart. He’s God of the thunder from the mountaintop and God of the whisper in the night.
My awe at His power to show up anywhere, anytime grows by the day. The last thing I want to do is put my puny human limits and dumbed-down expectations on a God this creative, this big, this wild, this free. For God, large, small, bold, intimate – he makes no distinction, shows no preference. Our two worlds are only one to him.
He owns it all, loves it all, invades it all.
Just don’t miss him – anywhere, anytime.