Fried Chicken and Waffles

February 19, 2006

The NRB is like many conventions and meetings in that you have a certain set schedule with big meetings, well-known speakers, smaller seminars that delve into matters of specialized interest, and a large exhibit hall where vendors advertise their products and services. And like many conventions, the real action often takes place in the hallways, in chance meetings, and over meals or a quick cup of coffee. Historically NRB has been the premiere gathering of all the major Christian media ministries. For many years the convention was held in Washington. In recent years it has rotated among several cities. And you can usually count on all the high-profile ministries to have a presence here. This afternoon I saw June Hunt interviewing Charles Stanley and (later) Erwin Lutzer. Chip Ingram is here, Jerry Falwell will be in town tomorrow, R. C. Sproul spoke at the morning worship service, and Jack Graham and Tony Evans spoke last night. If you go two floors above the exhibit area, you find the hospitality rooms hosted by Zondervan, Harvest House, Ambassador Media, Moody Broadcasting, Insight for Living, Focus on the Family, and many others. When a friend asked me what happens at NRB, I replied in one word. “Schmoozing.” Okay, I know it’s more than that, but take away the schmoozing (which I both support and practice) and all you’ve got are a bunch of people sitting in chairs listening to other people talk. If you work on the technical side, you come here to find out the latest developments in high-def broadcasting, satellite technology, podcasting, etc etc etc. If you work on the media side, you come here to find out ways to cultivate donors, reach people, increase your audience, etc etc etc. If you’re an author, you come to promote your books or to talk to publishers, which explains my presence.
This morning I went to the Moody Broadcasting Affiliates Breakfast along with 400-500 other people. I sat at a table with Erwin and Rebecca Lutzer from Moody Church, Greg Thornton from Moody Publishing, John Maddex from Moody Broadcasting, and Brian Ondracek from Christianity Today. Brian also happens to be an elder at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park. It was good to see Brian and get caught up a little bit.
Michael Easley, the new president of Moody, challenged us to be grateful to God for his kindness and to serve the Lord faithfully wherever we happen to be. He introduced Wayne Pederson as the new head of broadcasting at Moody. There was a moving video greeting from Bob Neff, the outgoing head of broadcasting, who is much beloved by everyone and who suffers from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). During the meeting Erwin and Greg and I discussed a new book idea on the subject, “Why the Church Matters.” Erwin jotted down a few ideas on a card and passed them on to me. A recent book by an evangelical leader has called on Christians to abandon the local church because it has lost its effectiveness in our culture. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After the program was over, Michael Easley came up and said hello. Then I saw Bob Butts who (with his wife Heidi) attended Calvary in the early 90s. Then a man came up and said he and his wife attended Calvary shortly after they were married. I chatted with Wayne Pederson and Ed Cannon, and then said hello to Nancy Leigh-DeMoss.
Greg Thornton and I ended up eating lunch at a hotel in north Dallas. The waitress said we should try something called fried chicken and waffles, which in principle sounds weird, but she talked us into it. The dish turned out to be a Belgian waffle sprinkled with pecan bits with chicken fingers piled on top and covered with honey butter. Definitely not a Weight Watchers special. It was delicious. Afterwards I went back to the hotel and took a nap. All that schmoozing plus the big meal made me sleepy.
Later I attended the 6:30 PM service at nearby Irving Bible Church. Twenty years ago, when I pastored Northeast Bible Church in Garland on the east side of Dallas, Andy McQuitty served as my associate pastor. In 1987 he left to become pastor of Irving Bible Church. Back then the church had maybe 200 people and the situation seemed very discouraging. Nineteen years later the church, having relocated to the growing northern edge of Irving, attracts 3500-4000 people to four identical services every Sunday–two in the AM, two in the PM. Without a doubt IBC is one of the best-kept secrets among the megachurches of America. The church combines very contemporary methods, a deep commitment to the arts and the latest in high technology with a fervent commitment to biblical truth. It was awe-inspiring to see hundreds of people of all ages, including many teens and young adults, streaming out of the 5 PM service as I entered for the 6:30 PM service. Someone should do a study of IBC because what they are doing deserves to be shared with others. As part of a series on the Apostles’ Creed, Andy preached with power and clarify on “I Believe in the Holy Spirit.” Afterwards one of the elders commented with gratitude that “Andy seems to go from strength to strength.” Indeed he does, and it was good to be there and share the service and be encouraged by what God is doing. The author who said the local church has lost its effectiveness clearly hasn’t visited Irving Bible Church.

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