The Everything Must Change Tour (Part 1)

Brooke and I just spent this past weekend at the Dallas stop of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change Tour. Going into the event, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited to go and was glad there was a good group going from the Emergent Waco cohort, but I really had no idea what to expect. This was probably good and bad. Good because I was open to anything happening. But bad because I probably did have some subconscious expectations that didn’t end up getting met.

It was clear that a lot of work went into planning the event. Here’s a bit of an overview for those who might be interested.

On Friday night there was one long session which included music, art appreciation and reflection, alternative worship, and an excellent overview by Brian of the suicidal system he presents in his book (if you would like to read a great summary of McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change, I highly recommend the one Mark put together).

Saturday began with a Q&A intended for Emergent cohort members and church planters. This was probably my favorite scheduled part of the event. In fact, I would have been perfectly thrilled for this to continue all day long. I’ve heard Brian speak multiple times but my two favorite times with him involved extensive Q&A – I think a much more complete picture of Brian’s vision comes through during these times.

Following the Q&A was Session 2 of the conference. This session was entitled “Which Jesus” and largely paralleled the similar discussion in the book. I really enjoyed this session because it helped bring to life this part of the book for me in a new way. Again, Mark’s summary of the book is a good place to go for more info if you haven’t read the book yet. Session 3 was a panel discussion involving Brian and four local leaders who discussed their work and hopefully spurred people’s imagination to see ways to be part of the change already being promoted by local faith communities and organizations. The session ended with a slideshow presentation by Brian in which he gave the audience a “tour” of the D.C. war memorials and used this as a basis to touch on the security/peace crisis he talks about in the book. I thought this was a really creative and helpful way to engage this topic. During the lunch break Brooke and I joined a short informal Q&A session with Brian which mainly continued the discussion regarding war. The main part of the discussion was related to just war theory. Brian responded with a call to peacemaking, and without saying his specific opinion on just war theory, he did say that a just war is certainly better than the alternative. He also talked about the need to add the Geneva Convention as a continued progression of just war theory. Lastly, he questioned whether it is even possible for today’s America to be part of a “just war.”

After lunch there were two more sessions before the conference came to an end. Session four was facilitated by Linnea Nilsen Capshaw, who was Brian’s partner in leading the conference. This session primarily focused on provoking reflection and used an art collection called “Nude Truths” as a way of guiding the reflection. I appreciated that throughout the event there was a focus on reflection and conversation. During each session there were times allotted to discussing the topics with others around you. While this is sometimes awkward, I did think it was good and led to some helpful conversations (at least for me). In session four I also really enjoyed the artwork as an aid to reflection. I thought it was very helpful and fit with the overall tone and theme of the conference.

The final session was led by Brian and focused on the “revolution of hope.” I thought this session was a great way to end the conference. Much of the material in the first two sessions can be quite overwhelming. I think Brian did a good job in this last session to call people to simply believe in a new way, to believe that change in possible, and to embrace the call of Jesus to be part of the work of the Kingdom of God. Brian specifically said he did not want to tell everyone what to do in response to this conference, he said he did not want to give us the five simple steps to changing the world, or anything like that. Instead, as in the book, he called us to simply disbelieve the suicidal framing story we are part of and to embrace and believe Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God. He did give some practical examples of what it might look like to begin to change, but he was very careful not to place a huge burden on everyone, which I really appreciated. Instead, he proposed that this is a matter of changing direction and beginning to make small changes, as possible.

Wow, I just wrote a lot more than I set out to write. I think I’ll save my more subjective reaction to the conference for a follow up post. Hopefully this post served as somewhat of a summary of what the conference was like and what it involved.

Go to Part 2


6 Responses

  1. […] If you’re interested, check it out. […]

  2. Several of us from around the blogsphere are reading “Everything Must Change” together and discussing our thoughts. We’ve just begun, but we’ve set it up in a way where it’s never to late to participate.

    If you have any interest, you can visit us at:

  3. I only attended about half of this conference, and was distracted for much of that. But I was a little disappointed. I don’t know what I expected, but what I got was basically a (good) summary of the book with some effective spaces for reflection and conversation thrown in. (I was surprised to run into some old friends from college and hear their stories. This was perhaps the best part of the conference for me.) So, I would say it was well-planned for the most part, but I did feel there was something missing.

    I believe what was missing was specific instruction on how to go about changing things within my circle of influence. I’m not talking about changing people’s minds. I’m talking about doing what we can to see, as Brian says, the Kingdom of God come a little more in our lives, families, churches, neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, countries, continents, world.

    What if this tour had sort of a “grassroots campaign” feel to it? When you go to a Barack Obama rally, you sign up at the door to volunteer, they get your contact info, they show you where to go to vote early, they give you signs to put in your yard, they invite you to other events, you meet people with similar convictions, etc. In other words, your enthusiasm is immediately given an outlet for action.

    What if there was a website to sign up and be a part of a campaign to “change everything”? What if this tour was about bringing people along, signing people up for specific action items, enlisting volunteers for specific projects/committees, identifying people with leadership skills to carry this vision out in their communities, distributing packets of information about starting an organization in your area directed towards meeting a specific need of your community, etc.???

    I understand and appreciate that Brian doesn’t want to put a burden on anyone or tell people what to do. But it seems to me there were a lot of people there this weekend (me included) that are basically asking for some direction, and leaving not really knowing what to do. This is a source of frustration for me (not really knowing what to do or how to start), and I don’t think I’m the only one.

    This conference is obviously going to be attended mostly by people that are already on-board with McLaren’s message. Most people I talked to had already read the book, and I would be surprised if many people would be willing to pay $100 or more if they weren’t already excited about what he has to say. So I think it should be an opportunity to harness that enthusiasm, rather than be focused so much on the basic message of the book.

  4. My thoughts are similar and different. First off, I actually felt like there were a lot of people there who weren’t already on-board. I talked to a number of people who seemed to be feeling out McLaren and wanting to learn more about him – I was surprised about that.

    I think your thoughts about what could have been are exactly what I was thinking as well. Imagine how that might fit with the “faith communities” stuff we’ve talked about before. I’m thinking about this a lot. I’m even considering how some action on this might look…we’ll have to talk more…

  5. Good to hear your perspective on those who wanted to learn more about him. I really didn’t talk to that many people. I am glad to hear that. The conference was perfect for someone who was intrigued by this message but hadn’t really heard much about it.

    Also, to clarify my earlier comments… I’m not advocating that Brian become anything like a politician or that his organization look anything like a political campaign. Its just that I’ve been interested in seeing how the Obama campaign has gotten thousands of people involved in Texas in a little over a week and was thinking about what a grassroots campaign to usher in the kingdom of God might look like.

  6. One other thing…I see your point about faith communities. But I’m still not sure I understand just how that is supposed to work.

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