The Gathering 17: Unpacking the Upside Down KingdomEmily Owen - 9 Nov 2017
As a first timer to 24-7 Prayer conferences, Emily shares her experience, and her highlights, of our time together in Birmingham at #TheGathering17:
I’d seen the hashtag accompanying the upside down pictures on my screen. I thought I knew what The Gathering would be all about. I’d got it sussed.
We would chat about the counter-cultural Gospel and hear from inspiring people who were already living it out. Great things, obviously, but nothing new right?
I was wrong.
Day 1, session 1, and even my understanding of upside down was challenged when Pete Greig asked: "What if God is on the down side?" His question set a precedent for the rest of The Gathering - a new way of looking at things.
We heard discipleship, faith and justice, spoken about from brand new perspectives. Talks from which quotes are still stuck on repeat in my head:
"Rest is the secret weapon to change the world..."
"How do we hope for things if we limit God to our own understanding of Him?"
"We rarely lament because we don’t engage in the deep sadness of the world."
It didn’t take long to realise The Gathering wasn’t a conference full of holy hype that fades when you return to the normality of life. This was prayer, worship and teaching to impact. Stuff that sticks and doesn’t let you return to normal – it changes the way you do life.
I knew I was part of a 24-7 Prayer community before The Gathering; I knew we were part of a global movement. But I didn’t really feel part of it all.
I get it now.
I understand being surrounded by hundreds of strangers and knowing you’re united. I know what it’s like to be inspired by different cultures and 24-7 Prayer communities representing so many countries around the world.
To learn from the hard core ‘I’ve been here since the start’ people; to glean from the spiritual grandparents; to celebrate the new leaders carrying the vision forward. And to meet other first timers - like me - being included and welcomed into such a celebration of unexplainable love, generosity and expectation.
Every time I thought I had guessed what would happen next, what point a speaker was making, or who we were going to pray for, I was proven wrong.
"This was prayer, worship and teaching to impact...
it changes the way you do life."
Like when we were going to lay hands on those who know God is calling them to preach; but instead we went a step further and lifted them up to crowd surf over a sea of worship and prayer.
Or when we were going to have an auction for the causes close to our heart, and what followed was the most ridiculous display of over-excited generosity from a bizarre but united family of people squashed into a crowded room decorated with upside down umbrellas!
I left Birmingham with a hundred things flying around my head. Now, I’m still trying to work out what is going to land and take root. I don’t know what’s next, but I do know that when you turn things upside down, life gets messy - in a good way. Things move and look different.
While I’m working out how to tip my life upside-down and embrace the mess, I’m revisiting the pages of my now much-fuller notebook, and listening again to the talks that have shifted my perspective.
I’m determined that The Gathering 2017 won’t just be remembered as a fun sunny weekend we had in a brilliant city. Because, as Adam Heather challenged us: "...this isn’t about dreaming – this is about planting your feet and refusing to let things carry on."
Listen to the talks from The Gathering - you can find them here.