Dozens of pastors and ministry leaders revealed their "aha!" moments during an entirely online conference on Wednesday.
The speakers, who submitted pre-recorded videos of themselves, had six minutes to tell thousands of viewers the wisdom they gained when they went through a rough patch or when they just had a light-bulb moment during ministry.
"God wants us to express the talents He has given us, not talents He's given someone else," said Shawn Lovejoy, lead pastor of Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, Ga., in his short video segment.
Lovejoy recognized that pastors often struggle with insecurity especially when comparing themselves to the more renowned or "successful" pastors.
Once leaders become insecure in their own skin, they begin to question what they're doing and copy others, borrowing programs, sermons or even personalities. When that doesn't work, they begin condemning other churches or ministers and when that fails, they start condemning themselves, Lovejoy explained.
"You and I are insecure in our own skin as ministry leaders [and] it's affecting the church," he said, noting that there are many "cookie cutter churches."
"We're not okay with the fact that most of us will never be megachurch pastors," he said. "We think if we don't have someone else's talent then we're not successful."
But by trying to be someone else or not accepting the unique talents God has given, leaders end up "limiting the movement of God," he cautioned.
Lovejoy's video kicked off a four-hour Web conference called "Aha! New Voices. Fresh Ideas." Hosted by Leadership Network, the online event is the second of its kind by the network. Last September, some 20,000 church leaders and others joined Leadership Network's first online event where speakers had nine minutes each to talk.
Shane Hipps, teaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., said his "aha!" moment came when he was struggling with preaching.
Hipps wanted to make sure his preaching was effective but realized he could never gauge the effectiveness especially with churchgoers often hitting him with the generic "great sermon" comment.
He later learned, through experience, that he had to divest himself of the outcomes of his preaching. That's when his preaching changed and when people began responding.
"I was not invested in whether or not they did what I said they should do," Hipps explained. "As a consequence, what comes with that is ... an incredible sense [that] my job is to offer my gift fearlessly, freely, independent of whatever the outcomes might be."
One of the most inspiring six-minute talks (judging from comments on the live Twitter feed) came from Micah Davidson, lead pastor of Real Life Fellowship in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Davidson recounted the time he went to West Africa with his wife to bring home his adopted son. In a village in the northern part of Ghana, people gathered in a circle to celebrate the adoption with singing and dancing. During that time, Davidson got the sense that they wanted him to dance but he was hesitant. His adopted African son then jumped in and danced, bringing the house down. Realizing this was important to his son and the village, Davidson scurried up his courage and pulled out the best dance he could do.
After that experience, the Real Life pastor realized, "My son did not care how many people I had in attendance last weekend, how many people our church baptized last year. ... What he wanted to know is will my dad dance? Does my dad love me enough to get into my world?"
Encouraging ministry workers to make family a priority, he said, "Let's work as hard as getting into our family's world as we do studying for our sermon."
Describing an even bigger "aha!" moment, Davidson reminded pastors and ministry workers that God loves them.
"Jesus came to this world to adopt me," he said. "I'm so glad God didn't look down from heaven and said 'I'm going to send you a little bit of change every month.' ... He came to this world."
"I'm so thankful I've got a Savior that can really relate to me. ... He knows what it's like to be tired ... to share vision and your staff doesn't even get it, to go through painful circumstances," he added. "God put skin on and He moved into the neighborhood ... so I can be adopted into His family."
"There's a father who gave everything He had to adopt you and I ... just because He loves us."
Notably, Davidson's dancing also opened up relations between his church and the village chief. Real Life was able to start medical missions and bring food and water to the indigenous people as well as start churches in the area.
"Let me give you a few seconds to dance," Davidson said.
Other notable quotes from the online conference include:
"I have a theory why so many pastors burn out: They start out walking with Jesus but they end up working for Jesus." (Pete Briscoe of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Carrolton, Texas, recalled hearing from someone at a time when he was depressed)
"You're going to have this proliferation of all these can-do's in your life and every one of these opportunities is going to be a distraction in disguise because rather than getting stuck with all these things you can do for God you need to pursue the one thing that you must do for God." (Clarity evangelist Will Mancini)
"[God] gives His people a heart. The eyes of the Lord are constantly ranging the earth looking for a heart, not for talent or resource or sexiness, just for a heart – a heart for the lost and the poor." (Andy Hawthorne, CEO of The Message in Manchester, U.K.)