Be human. If you were like me, you immediately thought, “Well, that’s not difficult!” In spite of the statement’s simplicity, Orange Conference still chose that as its 2022 theme, and over the course of two and a half days, they unpacked in a such a way that made me think about my own humanity and others’ in a different way.
While there were a number of main session talks, round-table discussions, and breakout sessions, this is not an extensive list of all that happened at OC22. It is simply some of the highlights. Also note that I have tried to summarize and paraphrase. Where there were direct quotes that I remember, I will attribute them accordingly.
Jon Acuff kicked off Wednesday night talking about how humans are fascinating. After recalling the turtle incident from a previous conference, he reminded us that we were chosen by God, and our human-ness allows us to become new. He stated that God’s favorite hobby, in fact, is redemption. Later, in another session, he also spoke about human soundtracks. We all have them, and sometimes, we need to change our soundtracks and/or help others change their soundtracks. (You can read more about this in his book.)
Ryan Leak then went into a humorous, yet poignant talk about how humans are complicated. Nevertheless, we are called to live with each other. And in order to do this well, we have to focus on ourselves and follow the example of Colossians 3. He left us with two takeaways: (1) Use the phrase, “I could be wrong,” more often, and foster curiosity by asking, “What’s it like to be you?” when we encounter others.
Liz Bohannon spoke about our shared humanity. After explaining the story behind her clothing business that helps girls in Uganda, she urged us to be there for each other and also allow others to be there for us. There will be seasons for both. As she closed, she asked an important question for us to ponder: What if we decide to stop living life where we look like we have it all together?
Kristen Ivy went into the idea of home as she discussed the human church. She said we have an emotional connection to the idea of home, even though we have never really been there; we live in between Eden and Eternity. So our desire for home should shape how we will build the church, for we are building ministries for people who desperately desire home!
Brad Montague’s talk focused on human stories. He stated, “We already are what we most long to be—deeply loved.” So the stories we tell should be filled with absurd amounts of love.
Danielle Strickland discussed how humans are made to be free with the capacity to choose. She shared how the limits that hold us back are connected to sin. So we must break through those limits and help others to do the same. We all have the ability to choose life or death, and our goal should be to choose life and help others choose life too.
Dharius Daniels spoke about humans ability to think about the future. He said God is focused on the future, so his people will be prepared for the future. Further, we need to also help the next generation be prepared for their future. How? Through the formation of their faith. Specifically faith through pain. He asked, “Are we properly preparing the next generation to utilize their faith to navigate pain, an inevitable reality from which we cannot protect them?”
Albert Tate dived into how we love other humans, specifically within the church. Jesus’ last prayer, in John 17, was all about unity. We must be unified if we are going to stan up against Satan. He said, “Being offended is not the worst thing that can happen to you. Biblically, the worst thing that can happen to you is that you not love well those who offended you.” Jesus said the world will know we are His disciples by our love! And if you are weary, just remember that we have a God with a particular set of skills (reference from the movie, Taken).
Mark Batterson shared how our posture as humans really matters. We need to realign our focus, because it will determine our reality. In order to do that, we need to start with self-leadership: stay humble, stay positive, and stay calm and carry on. He ended with a great question for us to ponder: “When you walk in the room as a leader, does the anxiety level go up or down?”
Chuck Hunt spoke about the need for humans to be intentionally proximate. Citing Isaiah 58, we should not turn away from our own flesh and blood. When we say yes to Jesus, we say yes to our fellow brother sand sisters. He said, “The ministry of reconciliation is a ministry of power. In fact, it goes much deeper than reconciliation. True proximity is positioning ourselves to learn from, heal with, and lean on one another sacrificially.”
Clay Scroggins talked about human distractions. And in the middle of distractions, we have to learn and position ourselves for what leadership will require of us in the future. He then shared three things leaders of the future need to know: (1) You don’t have to know it all to start leading, (2) get the right people on the bus and a few who aren’t so right, and (3) conflict never gets easy, goes away, or feels great.
Carlos Whittaker wrapped up the conference by reminding us to stay human. He said, “We cannot be human as we are called to be without Holy Spirit.” We need to listen to God’s voice and follow, and we need to help the next generation do the same. Then he looked at the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8 to share a four-step process of following God: (1) Hear from the Lord, (2) do what He says, (3) go up to the chariot that makes you uncomfortable, and (4) get in the chariot. And he reminded us, “You can get into far more chariots together than you can on your own,” so go together.
The Orange Conference 2022 taught and reminded me about several things:
- I am human and others are human. Remember we are flawed and all in need of God’s love.
- To be human is to connect with our Creator, who made us in His image and wants to live in and through us.
- God is God, and I am not. My role is to partner with Him, not to take His position.
- As I live out my God-given humanity, the whole goal is to point others to the One who made us and loves us.
- Being human is, many/most times, often a lot simpler than we make it.
Did you go to OC22? If so, I’d love to hear what you took away from it! Also if anything needs further explanation, feel free to ask. I recognize that if you were unable to attend, some statements might lack enough context. If so, please ask me about it.
If you have never been to an Orange event, consider attending the Orange Conference or the Orange Tour when it comes to a city near you. And if you have any questions about Orange, student ministry, next gen ministry, networking with others, or anything else, please be sure to reach out!