So, I have a spare hour or so to write a post about my ongoing trip to the States. I write this in a big house in Jackson, Mississippi. So far, I have travelled to Omaha and Louisville, and the experience in all three places couldn’t have been more different. In Omaha, I stayed at the family home of Erik Raymond, long time blogger at Ordinary Pastor, and had a great time. His wife and children were just brilliant to be around. What a warm, welcoming home they have. I have to say to all prospective planters/pastors that this trip has only heightened my belief that hospitality is an oft-overlooked spiritual gift in the church. There are lessons to be learned here without a doubt. I led a Saturday workshop in which men and women came from churches of all (theological) stripes to discuss the issues such as mercy ministry, social justice, and the local church. Again, it has only confirmed my suspicion that a high proportion of local churches engaged in outreach to the poor are at a loss at how to do it more biblically and in ways that are more helpful to those with whom they are trying to reach with the gospel of Jesus. The Sunday service was, again, very good and I got to preach the gospel. The trip was all too brief but I can say that I have made a good friend in Erik and we hope to partner in the gospel and maybe some writing sometime in the future. Good man. Good family. Good times.
Back in Louisville, it was time to go to the T4G Conference. This year I was going to be leading a breakout session, and had a couple of late-night chats and a panel chat on evangelism lined up. I got to stay at a posh hotel, the lobby of which was a sort of who’s who of the evangelical preaching and blogging glitterati. My hotel room was outrageous. I had a presidential type suite with a giant 50in plasma and a hot tub in the room! Like, totally awesome man! Ok, maybe not. It had a bed and a chair in it. It had a TV too but it wasn’t so big and it wasn’t a plasma. Still, there was a bed and I got to lie on it. I was informed that all my expenses were taken care of. I could order what I liked and eat what I liked and charge it to T4G. Nice! I had finally arrived! Now, what to order? I couldn’t really think of anything but I knew I had the power so that was a good feeling. About an hour or two after my arrival a room service dude knocked on the door carrying a large bag. A comical conversation (on my part anyway) ensued:
Me: What do you want?
Room Service dude: I have a package for you sir.
Me: Nah it’s not for me son. I didn’t order anything.
RSD: It’s definitely for your sir. Room 817.
Me: No it’s not pal. I didn’t order anything (the bag looked big and full of expensive stuff which meant T4G would be charged for it and then they would read the receipts after and they would discover that I ordered loads of stuff and put it on their bill and they would be mad or something).
RSD (looking uncomfortable now): Are you Mr McConnell, sir?
Me: Yup. But let me tell you son. I didn’t order it so take it back and let’s call it quits OK. Nice one. Have a nice day and all that jazz (closing the door).
RSD (looking panicked now, swings the bag around to reveal my name monogrammed into this black bag): It’s a gift from T4G sir.
Me (stunned. Well they had spelled my name right): Oh. OK. Nice one. I take the bag, unzip it and pour the contents on to my bed. There are books, lots of books. There are sweets, juice, water, biscuits and, oh my goodness, out falls an iPad mini. I was so shocked I actually throughout about calling down to room service to see if it had dropped in there by mistake. Then I thought better of that because I thought they might charge me for the call or something then I’d be fighting guilt for bankrupting T4G, etc. etc. But an iPad stinking mini! Come on! So, I did what any mature 41-year-old pastor would do in this situation. I took a picture of it on my iPhone and posted it on social media. Yeh baby! We were off to a flyer. If this is how they treat the plebs then who knows how the big guns get treated (and yes, I have heard the joke about how all the others got normal sized iPads).