Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Addressing the elephants

Students come together to watch live simulcast featuring leading pastors

Addressing the elephant in the room can be a dangerous and intimidating task, but on Wednesday, Jan. 25, seven leading pastors banded together for the Elephant Room 2 Simulcast to unearth issues that Christian leaders often avoid discussing on a public platform.

Confronting the issues — Students gathered in TRBC to hear leading pastors such as James McDonald and Mark Driscoll discuss controversial topics often avoided in the public realm. Photo credit: Ryan Perry

Armed with pens and notebooks, an attentive audience filled two dimly lit rooms at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Wednesday afternoon. Eyes fixed on the projector screens, those in attendance watched as several of the nation’s leading pastors confronted issues such as what to do when church staff members stumble morally, the future of denominations and segregation among believers.

“The purpose of the simulcast was to unify ministry leaders, allowing them to hear discussions with some of the nation’s top pastors on pertinent ministry issues. Instead of crouching behind walls of disagreement, pastors come to the Elephant Room speaking directly to others, even if their philosophy of ministry is different than the one they practice. In many respects it puts unity on display, showing how Christian leaders can openly discuss ministry, even if they go about it differently,” Travis Doucette, simulcast coordinator and Liberty University music and worship studies instructor, said.

Seven pastors from various denominational backgrounds spoke at the event, among whom were James McDonald, Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick and Bishop T.D. Jakes. They covered seven different topics during the live stream, and each issue was covered by alternating the seven pastors, allowing for a better variety of opinion and insight from each person. The host pastor, James MacDonald, orchestrated the conversations and kept the momentum moving throughout the entire simulcast.

According to a press release from the School of Religion, the event was filmed in front of a live group in Rolling Meadows, Ill. and audiences in 70 major cities viewed the live stream. According to Kelly Jacobson, the office manager for the School of Religion who was in charge of promotion for the event, the crowd of 600 who gathered to watch the simulcast in Thomas Road Baptist Church was the largest nationwide.

“I think it’s great,” senior Jonathan Barber said. “When you bring together all these pastors from different backgrounds, as well as different denominations and different networks, and they confront issues head-on, that’s actual edification.”

People of all ages sat side-by-side to listen and absorb the seven hour long discussion, with excited amens and spontaneous clapping echoing from the rooms. The event began at 10 a.m. and lasted until 5 p.m. Due to the length of the event, the audience was treated to a catered lunch and coffee breaks.

Many Liberty students were able to attend the Simulcast in replacement of their regularly scheduled classes. Sophomore Ashley Johnson, who attended the Elephant Room Simulcast Round 1 in 2011, enjoyed the daylong event.

“I knew it would grow me and help me have a better understanding of issues that usually aren’t addressed in the church,” Johnson said.

Barber, who arrived at the start of the day, said that time moved quickly.

“I feel like I’ve been here for an hour, because I’m just so enthralled in what they’re saying,” he said.

Senior Calvin Lindsey commented on the quality of the discussions.

“The material is just so rich,” Lindsey said. “You keep soaking it up. It’s like sitting in a worship service for two to three hours and you have no clue, because the Spirit is moving.”

After seven conversations and a personal question and answer session between all of the pastors, the simulcast came to an end.

“Students really loved the conversations. The topic was very relevant to all of us, whether we’re old or young,” Jacobson said. “I think it’s good for those going into ministry to see what other pastors are dealing with.”

“I think we’re also all blown away by the humility of these pastors, to submit themselves … to a completely unscripted conversation,” Barber said. “They knew what their topics were, so they could prepare, but…when a moderator questions them, that’s really revealing as to where they stand on a topic…this whole day has been about transparency.”

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