Group of young adults reading books together Mission Affinity Groups (MAGs)
August 2, 2016

MAGS & ELI In Alabama


In March, I had the privilege of joining a group of ECO churches who were gathering for their initial MAG meeting. It wasn’t so much an “official” MAG meeting, but rather one of those “first date” meetings where leaders gather and see if they might be a fit for a longer term relationship. (I love using dating analogies when it comes to matching up ECO churches in MAGs.) The group that gathered included churches in my state of Sweet Home Alabama and comprised of representative leaders from Overlook Presbyterian and Westminster Presbyterian in Mobile and leaders from a splant in Enterprise, Alabama, now called the Eden Seekers. I shouldn’t really say it was a “first date” meeting… several of the leaders already knew each other from having been connected previously. It was nice to see these folks reconnect as covenant partners and leaders in now ECO churches.

Later when I communicated with the pastors, I learned that there was a desire and deep need to engage in elder training together. I didn’t know what that might look like for these churches, so I tucked that thought away. A few weeks passed and during our ECO staff retreat, I had the chance to meet with Lisa Johnson, Director of ELI along with Dana Allin. Lisa shared with me more details of her work with carrying forth and expanding the mission of ELI. We brainstormed about some ideas of how ELI might benefit ECO churches. Don’t you love it when God puts a plan together!!?? It was during that conversation that we realized the prime opportunity before us in inviting a Mission Affinity Group to engage in ELI together. And, I had just the PERFECT group to do it!!

Coming Together

Lisa and I gathered the pastors of the South Alabama MAG together via conference call and invited a fourth Alabama church, Bryan Memorial in Hoover, to join. When we described how we thought ELI might help these churches achieve the goal of training up and spiritually strengthening its elder leaders, the pastors enthusiastically said, “Sounds great! Let’s check with our sessions to make sure we have buy in.” (Well, they didn’t EXACTLY say it that way… but that’s the gist of the tone and response.)

Each of the sessions agreed, and we’re embarking on the ELI journey together. All of the churches signed a covenant of commitment and has begun the work of Phase 1 of ELI. One of the elders at Westminster has reached out to a PCA church in a convenient location to all where we will meet for our first retreat in November. I am excited to serve as a facilitator and coach working alongside Lisa and the leadership of each of these churches to implement the ELI methodology.

“Healthy churches are led by healthy leaders”

You may have heard me say, “healthy churches are led by healthy leaders,” a quote I lovingly borrow from John Ortberg’s message at our first ECO Synod Gathering in Dallas in 2014. But what does that really mean? We cannot expect our ECO churches to be healthy, vibrant and flourishing if we do not have leaders who have healthy, vibrant and flourishing spiritual lives. If our leaders – pastors, elders, deacons, staff, and others – fail to be faithful and seeking followers of Jesus Christ, then we cannot expect those who want to know Jesus to follow them or Him. My hope and prayer for our ELI – MAG beta group is that we all will be strengthened and deepened in our relationship with Jesus and thus be more healthy, vibrant and flourishing Gospel proclaimers in this broken and hurting world that so desperately needs it. I also hope and pray that this will give us an experience to build and grow on for other MAGs to participate.

So stay tuned!! I can’t wait to share with you how it goes in the coming months!!

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Anna Kent

Anna Kent serves as Director of Mission Affinity Groups for ECO and The Fellowship of Presbyterians. She also serves on the ECO Synod Executive Committee. A newlywed living in Huntsville, Alabama, Anna previously served as pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Waxahachie, Texas.

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