Sunday, June 3, 2007

Report From National Conference

Pastor Brent, John Fisher, Mike DeKarske, Phil Criner, and I just got back this afternoon from our denomination's National Conference at Saw Mill Creek Resort in Huron, OH, and I wanted to communicate with you some of the main insights that I came away with from the weekend.

  1. We are headed in the right direction as a church. When the various speakers talked about what it takes to transition a church toward effectiveness (i.e., accomplishing the church's mission of reaching lost people and making new disciples--Matthew 28:18-20), it was clear that we are already doing many of those things at Pathway Community Church. As a result, it was a very affirming weekend for us as leaders. We came away with a lot of encouragement that we can avoid the stagnation and decline that characterizes most churches in America today.
  2. Our church is ahead of most of the churches in our denomination. Not every church received the teaching the same way that we did. Unfortunately, many felt lost, confused, and overwhelmed because they have grown accustomed to and content with ineffectiveness and unfruitfulness. Be praying for our sister churches and their pastors as they go home and process all this, that God would show them how to implement healthy change in their churches and that he would raise up the people and tools they need to lead effectively.
  3. We are still not where we want to be. As we took a hard look at our church, we had to face the fact that we still are reaching very few new people for Christ. While there are a handful among our attenders who could be considered recently unchurched, most of our new families have come from other churches in the area. That kind of growth, of course, does not grow the kingdom of God, only our tiny little empire. Christ calls us to be fishers of men, not swappers of fish from aquarium to aquarium. We currently have a breakdown (or several breakdowns) in our fishing strategy, and we will be addressing those. Pray for us.
  4. We believe God wants to do incredible things at PCC. The God who created the heavens and the earth; who parted the Red Sea; who spoke to his prophets; who healed the blind, lame, and sick; who raised Jesus from the grave; and who turned the world upside-down with a rag-tag group of unschooled fishermen--this God is the same God who is living and active in our lives and in our church. He has declared that he will build his church and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1)--we have absolutely everything that we need. Therefore, if we just listen to him and do what he says, we will see the full extent of his power--transforming hearts, lives, families, and communities. And he will use us to accomplish it! Isn't that a sobering and humbling thought?

Regarding our vision to become actively involved in planting new churches to reach the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family, I spoke several times this weekend with Tom Blaylock, our denomination's Director of Church Multiplication. He will be sitting in on an upcoming elders meeting, and we will begin gaining information from him regarding the next steps for us to take in the implementation of this vision. Our goal is to discern with him what method of church planting we should pursue (parenting, partnering, multi-site, satellite), and what we will need to do to make that happen, whichever method we end up pursuing.

He had many kind words to say regarding our church, and he believes that we will be a leader for United Brethren churches in this area regarding church planting, since we have specifically established this as a concrete vision of where we believe God is leading us as a church.

I want to thank all of you for praying for us as we were gone. We will be delivering a more complete report to you during an upcoming worship service. I would also encourage you to talk with me or the others who went. I believe this weekend was one of the most important events in the recent history of our denomination, and the response of our pastors and churches will determine everything that matters about our collective future. My prayer is that we will turn a corner and become a denomination that is playing offense again--penetrating our world and impacting lives and communities for Jesus Christ--instead of standing around and waiting for the world to change.

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