Thursday, September 26, 2013

Evangelism and Church Growth Conference

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Evangelism/Church Growth conference organized by the Evangelism/Church Growth team of the Presbyterian Church (USA) which was held at a hotel in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida.
It was wonderful attending the conference with five other people from our Presbytery.  I had the opportunity over five days last week to have extended conversation with Walter Chuquimia, Newell Krogmann, Rochelle Le Tourneau, Beverly Modlin, and Dan Vigilante.
The conference was organized into a traditional format of worship, large group presentation, seminars, and shorter workshops.
I particularly enjoyed the two large group presenters.  Deb Hirsch shared six important incarnational practices from the life of Jesus that we are called to share with people.  She labeled them as six “P’s.”  They are 1) presence; 2) proximity; 3) prevenient grace; 4) powerlessness; 5) passion—of Christ; 6) proclamation.  What was significant to me is proclamation was the last part of the process.
Many of us have been taught to encourage our congregation to invite their friends and family to worship.  We have even set up special, “Invite a friend” days where the church can shine.  The mistake in these is we proclaim first and build relationship second.  What would happen if we trained people in our congregation to bless folks through relationships outside of God and the church.  After building relationships, we can then invite the person.  This process will undoubtedly take longer, but will also seem less manufactured. 
The next day Doug Pagitt from Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis shared the characteristics of what he called the “Inventive Age.”  He’s written three books on the idea which I purchased.  I’ll be sharing more in the future.
My favorite seminar was led by Glenn Mc Donald called, “Disciple-Making in a Fresh Context.”   He talked about how churches can get caught up in the ABC’s—Attendance/Building/Cash.  We can do well in all three and not help people have significant conversation with God.  He shared the characteristics of a Disciple-Making church. 
It was ironic or perhaps the work of the Spirit that I attended this workshop as I just shared a sermon series with folks at Chain of Lakes about the priority of making disciples and growing in discipleship.  The sermon was based on Mc Donald’s book called, “The Disciple-Making Church.”  I had a brief opportunity to share with him how I just had preached on his book and now was attending his workshop.  Yay, God!
I particularly enjoyed attending a workshop by Camie Minter on helping the families of New Church Development pastors.  Camie and her husband, Caz, have started a new church in Austin, Texas.  I’ve gotten to know  Caz through past workshops, but this was the first time I’ve met her.  He talked about the importance of developing boundaries and developing a support network.
I regret that more opportunities weren’t shared to help connect Organizing Pastors at the conference.  These folks are a special breed and need to connect and support each other.  I hope that opportunities for connection and support can be shared in the future.
I especially loved experiencing the energy of the 1001 Worshiping Communities Initiative.  I had the privilege of attending a workshop led by Vera White who explained this Initiative and how churches can get connected.  I hope that someday in the not-to-distant future Chain of Lakes will be sponsoring a new Worshiping Community.
I’ve always believe that conferences are successful if one idea is implemented in the following six months.  I’ll let you know by March 26 if this conference was successful for me, but I have every reason to believe it was!

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