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A gathering of Narnians, Lutherans, and a few token Baptists.
Sharing a few Here We Still Stand 2023 reflections.
It’s been a little over a week since I visited San Diego, California for 1517’s annual Here We Still Stand Conference. Reflecting on the extended weekend spent gathering with sinners and saints brings a flurry of things to mind, not the least of which is the shared kinship around the gospel and God’s Word of Promise. Each session pulsated with the message of “Christ for you,” with a Narnian twist for good measure. This year’s conference was geared around everyone’s favorite Oxford don, C. S. Lewis, whose literary mix of fantasy and faith has served to galvanize the belief of countless others. Perhaps I’m biased, but Here We Still Stand is not like other Christian conferences, and that’s a good thing. The smaller venue and reduced attendance size allow for faces to become familiar and for genuine connections to develop. Not only were old friendships renewed, new ones were formed.
Speaking of which, what a treat it was for Natalie and me to meet brothers Hunter and Quentin Sipe and their wives, Nikki and Brittany. What a small world Christianity is sometimes as we soon learned that we had similar backgrounds and many shared experiences, down to graduating from the same Bible college (though in different graduating classes). I was so enthused to connect with Hunter and Quentin, sharing stories of how the gospel has impacted and transformed us since those collegiate days. If happen to visit the Columbus, Ohio area, you should definitely visit their church plant, Good Shepherd Bible Church.
I was so grateful to meet so many other amazing people, too, many for the first time. It was great running into Gretchen Ronnevik and Katie Koplin, hosts of the Freely Given Podcast; Sam Schuldheisz, whose presentation on The Inklings rejuvenated my interest in that group of friends whose evening conversations inspired so many of our most beloved stories; Raleigh Sandler, founder of the Let My People Go Network, who was among the other Baptists in attendance; Blake Flattley, who led us in confessing the truths of the gospel through song; Sarah Crowder and her husband Jason, who gave my wife and me such a warm welcome; Seth Moorman, whose enthusiasm was infectious; along with Kendra Dahl and her husband Jordan, Mai Choy and her family, Sam Leanza, and Lana Trombly, whose hospitality was without equal.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t express my gratitude for the kindness shown toward me by 1517’s director of publishing, Steve Byrnes. He was so generous with his time and with several of the titles in the store. I was blown away when he told me that my book sold out (!) during the conference. For those who picked up a copy, thank you! I was also greatly encouraged to run into Dave Zahl, as well, whose talk was particularly insightful, as usual. And what a delight it was to spend time with Ken Sundet Jones, whom I am glad to call a friend. As always, Erick Sorensen, Dan Price, and Chad Bird, and their families, were so friendly. I was especially humbled when Chad sat in on my talk and, even more so, when he shared how encouraged he was by it.
So as not to bury the lede, it was the people who made Here We Still Stand such a success. Perhaps that’s the case with other gatherings of this kind. Christian conferences are often more about the people than anything else. But 1517’s annual shindig in San Diego is well worth anyone’s time and investment. The shared interest and hope in the gospel of God is front and center, from the way you’re greeted to the strangers who sit next to you at breakfast who become more than that by the end. All of which brings to mind that incandescent passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where here declares:
There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord one faith one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Eph. 4:4–7)
Needless to say, I’ll gladly be the “token Baptist” at any gathering where “Christ for you” is the message.
Grace and peace to you, sinners and saints.