Saying Goodbye to Off the Map

My friend Jim Henderson has posted the news that Off the Map, a project he started with some friends a dozen years ago, is going to walk off into the sunset. OTM hosted a number of events that were gathering places for a wide range of people over the years. The conferences were a great mix of the usual emerging church celebrities, and people I had never heard of before. One thing I’ve admired about Jim since the time I met him is his ability to identify people who are good thinkers and practitioners, but who have gone unnoticed by others. He “finds” these people, and just sticks a microphone in their hands . . . sometimes without asking permission!

For all the conferences and events I’ve attended over the past ten years, Off the Map was far and away my favorite place to just hang out with people. There were a couple of these conferences where I literally paid for my ticket to get in, and then ended up spending no more than 30 minutes in the actual event programs – I was too busy having fun in the hallways and around the book table. Of course, when I would pop my head into the speaker sessions, there was always something to enjoy, too. The ideas were always energizing, often provokative, sometimes maddening . . . but that was part of the fun. Of course, hearing Jim sing the blues at the close of the shows was also fun.

Over the years, a lot of us got burned out on going to conferences, only to hear the same six (ahem, white, USAmerican male) people on stage, frequently recapping their latest books . . . which we all had already read anyway. Off the Map did far better than most at putting women and global voices out front, and they were ahead of the curve in doing so. Burnout aside, it’s good to acknowledge the moments we all had together (cue the slideshow montage music)

It would be very easy for me to dwell in nostalgia, perhaps even long enough for me to wish that Jim would produce one last OTM conference, just for old times’ sake. But shutting it down gives us the chance to let the good memories gel in our heads before we move toward whatever is next. It also gives us a chance to say thanks. If you had the pleasure of going to an OTM event, I’d encourage you to go to their blog and do just that.

Of course, I should say that while Off the Map won’t be an active part of my life any longer, I’m happy that Jim Henderson still will be. As many of you readers know, he’s now not only my friend, but also my father-in-law. So, yeah, this post is biased – but I would have written it anyway.

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  1. Thanks for writing this, Steve. I can say that outside of God’s grace, my wife and a couple close friends, that OTM is a huge reason I’m still a pastor. Tons of great memories and some divine appointments from those first few conferences!

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