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2016 NYC Conference Book Table

2016 NYC Conference Book Table

As requested, here’s the list of books (and music), we had for sale up in NYC, along with a couple of selections that were heavily referenced in talks. Lots of overlap with the “Recommended Reading” list on our I’m New Here page, but what can you do.


Between Noon and Three: Romance, Law, and the Outrage of Grace. Robert Farrar Capon.
The Christian Life: Cross or Glory? Steven A. Hein.
Comfortable Words: Essays in Honor of Paul F.M. Zahl. Jady Koch and Todd Brewer.
The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ. Fleming Rutledge
Eden and Afterward: A Mockingbird Guide to Genesis. Will McDavid.
Grace in Practice: A Theology of…

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Life Expectancy (In a World of Expectations): A New York Conference Review

Life Expectancy (In a World of Expectations): A New York Conference Review

A little self-referential praise never hurt, right? Grateful for this one from Sarah Denley Herrington. 

Last week my husband and I were fortunate enough to attend Mockingbird’s ninth annual conference at St. George’s Church in New York City. We grew up in the South, were at one time New Yorkers (I use that title very liberally), and are now living back in Mississippi with our two young children.

Courtesy of Melody Moore Photography

The conference title, Relief: The Boldness of Grace in a World of Expectation, as usual, could not have been more apropos to my life and circumstances. I’m seven months pregnant…

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2016 NYC Conference Recordings: Relief!

2016 NYC Conference Recordings: Relief!

Thank you again to everyone who helped put on this year’s conference in NYC, especially our invaluable friends at Calvary St. George’s. Feels rather poetic that a conference about “grace in world of expectation” so exceeded our own. Praise God for that.

We’re once again making the recordings available gratis; we only ask that those who were not able to be there in person consider making a donation to help cover the cost of the event. Download links are followed by an in-line player for each recording (with the exception of Eric Klinenberg’s talk, which was an in-person-only deal and CJ Green’s, which was a technology-is-the-enemy deal)….

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Wow! What a weekend. So grateful to everyone at Calvary St George’s for making it such a slice of heaven. Audio files should be available later this week – keep an eye on this space.

Needless to say, we’re going to spend today catching our breath. If you’re thirsty for fresh material, check out the ” conference episode” of The Mockingcast, recorded on site in NYC and featuring a wonderful interview with Ted Peters.

Tasting Myth: A Brief History of Story – Matt Boulter

In this talk from our conference in Tyler, TX, Matt Boulter discusses the history of story. From Mockingbird on Vimeo. 

The Most Foolish Job in the World: Planting a Grace-Centered Church

This conference breakout preview comes to us from our friend Curt Benham, who will be speaking this Friday afternoon at Mockingbird NYC


Church planting is so hot right now.

These are heady times in the Church Planting Industrial Complex. There’s lots of money flowing around, and lots of conferences with lots of hype and lots of really, really, ridiculously good looking people slinging lots of “actionable steps” to help you plant the church of your dreams and make a Giant Impact ™ for Christ on your city.

Church planters have become the tech entrepreneurs of Western Christendom. We’re the ones who must innovate, innovate, and innovate some more in order to get all those wayward millennials’ butts back in the pews and make our cities a utopian paradise.

But here’s what they won’t tell you: church planting will kill you (ministers and laypersons alike). You will die. The law (of church planting), which promises life, will in fact kill you.

In other words, planting a church looks a lot like a life. You have big dreams for your church (or for your career, or for your children), and you feel empowered to take control of those dreams, become the master of your domain, execute your strategy, and ride off in the glow of your success. But you soon realize that you do not have control, and that the millennials aren’t showing up, and that your city is not becoming a utopian paradise, and that people are sick of hearing about grace and want “better, deeper” sermons with more “life application,” and that you’re a crappy “leader.” Ultimately, even though you talk about him all the time, you realize that you are not God. And that kills you. That’s the death-blow.

Resurrection is pretty sweet too, though. What comes out of the ashes of a dead church planter and his/her dead church can be a beautiful thing. Resurrection life usually looks nothing like what you expected or what you would have chosen. But it’s beautiful.

In this break-out session we’ll get honest about the joys and the sorrows of planting a grace-focused church.

Pre-register here!

A Just Relief: A Conference Breakout Preview

This conference breakout preview comes to us from Raleigh Sadler.


“Do you not care about the orphans?” she asked. “Because if you actually do, then you will support my ministry.” I was at a loss. I simply stared back at her as she continued to take me on her “guilt trip.” Though she was asking me to do something “good,” I couldn’t help but feel bad.

Oftentimes, conversations about “relief” can make us feel anything but relief. If you are honest with yourself, you will have to admit that at some point, you’ve felt this way.

For this reason, many of us resist following the latest social justice trends. Though we are not against “digging wells” or “fighting human trafficking,” we struggle with exhaustion at the very thought of it.

This year at the 9th annual mockingbird conference, I will be leading a discussion entitled “A Just Relief: How the Gospel produces Justice.” Using the parable of the Good Samaritan as our paradigm, we will discover how we can use law and Gospel to radically change how we approach social justice.

In this breakout, we will discuss shifting our motivation from law to grace, how “rest” in the gospel leads us to good “works,” and how to free your church to enjoy doing mercy and Justice in your community. See you next week!

Pre-register here – Walk-ins are always welcome but Tuesday 4/12 is last day to guarantee food.

Wes Anderson and the Catastrophe of Redemption – David Zahl

To tide you over until Mockingbird in NYC, here’s another talk from our conference in Tyler, TX. David Zahl speaks about the Gospel according to Wes Anderson.

Wes Anderson and the Catastrophe of Redemption – David Zahl from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Costly Grace? A Conference Breakout Preview

This breakout session session preview comes to us from our friend Javier Garcia. Hope to see you next week in NYC for Mockingbird 2016. You can register here!

bonhoeffer-1In Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton presents us with an unsettling truth: “The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard.” No matter how much or how deeply we consider the short words of our faith, such as “cross,” “law,” “gospel,” and, above all, “grace,” it is all too easy for us to slip, to miss the point, to twist the meaning and misunderstand the very heart of what we believe. Here at Mockingbird, we revel in what Paul Zahl calls “one-way love” – the steadfast, never-ending, ever-surprising and seemingly impossible truth (thank God it is not impossible!) that God accepts us and loves us completely in Jesus Christ, without question and without conditions.

Yet, in our wrestling with this reality – both to understand it and accept it – we often come up against competing definitions or interpretations of grace, which threaten to dim the light and muffle the promise. A contentious example here is the whole idea of “Cheap Grace” and “Costly Grace” that appears in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s spiritual classic Discipleship (more popularly known as The Cost of Discipleship). The misinterpretations of this trope are legion. Bonhoeffer’s economic language doesn’t help – grace doesn’t have to be earned, as if somehow it were expensive. Grace is free! A gift isn’t bought, nor is this one merited by us (in unison, let us join the Pauline chorus: by no means!). Other aspects of Discipleship make us wonder…We hear “only the believers obey and only the obedient believe” or “faith is only faith in deeds of obedience” and it sounds as daunting as the heavy-metal guitar riffs (yes, that guitar with fire bursting out of its fret board) of Mad Max: Fury Road, heralding the bitter end to this hopeless world. Is this grace?

The question remains, then, is Bonhoeffer a Mockingbird or its bogeyman? Is his understanding of grace compatible with one-way love, or is it something else entirely? We would like to think that Luther-an (i.e. all lovers of Luther) birds of a feather flock together, but does Bonhoeffer’s doctrine of grace fly, at least with us? In this breakout session we will be taking a fresh look at Bonhoeffer’s theology of grace, making a detour from his more famous works to find the short words we love in his sermons and reflections on pastoral care. We will find that Bonhoeffer is a crucial resource for us to understand the different forms of relief we can find in grace, especially in our world of expectation.

To anticipate some of our discussion and to see its relevance for the season of Easter, I leave you with Thomas Cranmer’s collect for this past Sunday:

“Almighty God, which hast given thy holy son to be unto us, both a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of Godly life; Give us the grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life.” Amen!

Pre-register here!


“I’m New Here: What’s Going On?” A Conference Preview

What a joy it is to host everyone at Calvary St. George’s for the 9th Annual Mockingbird Conference! Things are shaping up for a memorable weekend with great food, excellent speakers, and a topic that any human being in 2016 can appreciate–Relief. For friends who are new to church, new to Mockingbird, new to Christianity, new to New York, here’s a pre-conference word of Relief for you.

We are Mel Smith and Bryan Jarrell, and we’ll be hosting the breakout session “I’m New Here: What’s Going On?” At this session, we’ll talk about The Law, The Gospel, the Bible, everyday life, and Mockingbird’s vision to connect all those things with the human heart. If it’s your first time at a Mockingbird event, if you’ve come to the conference by yourself, or even if you have attended the last 8 and are wondering “what am I doing here?”, join us!

Together we will explore how God’s immeasurable grace intersects with our human experience through the culture, faith expressions, and everyday living. Here at Mockingbird we can seek to explore the threads of truth & grace as we interact with the world around us.

Travel safe, see you next week!

Nothing else in the world matters but the kindness of grace, God’s gift to suffering mortals. ~Jack Kerouac

Pre-register here!

The Good News About Death: Your Story Can’t Make It Out Alive – Sarah Condon

Continuing with the videos of our Tyler talks, here’s Sarah’s keynote from Saturday. Can’t wait to hear what she cooks up for NYC!

The Good News About Death: Your Story Can’t Make It Out Alive – Sarah Condon from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Impossible is Nothing… And Everything: A Conference Breakout Preview


I think it was three or four slogans ago that had the Army asking us to be all we can be. I wonder, actually, if that was happening during the same time the first Mission: Impossible movie was coming out. Seems like forever ago. In light of Ethan Hunt hanging on to the outside of an airplane as it’s taking off, “be all you can be” seems refreshingly possible. You know you’re in kind of a sticky spot when you find yourself wistfully remembering a time when things seemed possible, right?

So much seems impossible now.

It’s impossible to graduate from college and get a job in your chosen field, much less one that will begin to make a dent in your student loans. It’s impossible to date in the world of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, not to mention that world of Tinder and Grindr. It’s impossible to be the kind of provider for your family that will allow you an undisturbed sleep at night. Impossible is everywhere. Impossible is everything.

And Jesus doesn’t seem to be helping.

With his commands to turn the other cheek, to love and pray for your enemies, to give even more ground to those who persecute you, and to give everything you have away, Jesus only ratchets up the bar of impossibility. Impossible doesn’t just live in the world. If it did, we could boo and hiss at it and think ourselves safe and immune, ensconced in our pews. But impossible lives at church, too. “Therefore you must be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Thanks a lot, Jesus.

During the morning break-out sessions on Friday (10:30am, April 15) of the up-coming Mockingbird Conference, I’ll be hosting a discussion of the impossible. It’s called “Impossible is Nothing…and Everything.” We’ll talk about some of the impossible things God asks of us in the pages of Scripture, and some of the impossible things life asks of us every day. As we see, more and more, that impossible is everything (or, more accurately, that everything is impossible), we’ll get a clearer and clearer picture of the Good News: that because of God’s accomplishments in Jesus Christ, impossible is nothing. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope to see you there.

Pre-register here!