Asking the hard questions Are we living in the day when the US church no longer...
We are so grateful for the many powerful and exciting ways in which God was at work at ECO’s STRIVE national gathering in January! We had a wonderful time together in worship, connecting with friends and colleagues from across the country, and learning from so many effective ministry leaders from both within and outside of our tribe.
We quickly discovered that it takes a lot of energy to put on a gathering! I have to admit that there were times in the beginning of January when things were busily coming together in our office that I wondered, “Is this even worth it?” But the answer was very clearly, yes! It was very apparent afterwards that the event helped ECO move forward in a number of ways. First, since this was the first time ECO had a national gathering on our own, it provided an opportunity to recast the vision for who God is calling us to be. Second, it was great for people to connect with one another personally. While there are some areas of the country that have many ECO congregations, there are other parts where congregations are isolated. It is great for these leaders to gather and connect with others for support and encouragement as we seek to live out the call that God has on our lives. Third, it was an opportunity for us to be challenged to grow in some ways in which we are not already particularly strong, including multi-ethnic ministry, missional community ministry, and Sticky Faith.
The theme of our conference was STRIVE, which sought to build off of Paul’s words to the Philippians where he says that he is “pressing on toward the goal of the heavenly call of Christ Jesus.” ECO was never about just creating a denomination. We have instead always sought to become a gospel movement in our day and time. Since our goal is to become a true movement, we realize that there are a lot of areas and places where we have traditionally been weak and therefore need to be willing to strive forward toward the call that God has placed on our lives and congregations.
If you were with us at St. Andrew’s, we asked you at the beginning of the conference to think about the ways in which God is calling you to grow or take steps of faith individually or as a whole congregation. We asked you to submit blogs about those next steps that you are going to commit to going forward. I am grateful that several people have already written and sent us blogs outlining their next steps for ministry after the gathering. We will be sharing those blogs over the next several weeks. I encourage you to read their reflections and see how they might inspire you toward action. Also, pray for those individuals and their congregations as they seek to enact what God has put on their hearts!
I know I was personally challenged and inspired in many ways by all of our main stage speakers and our preachers. One of the many steps that I came away with was from Kara Powell’s Sticky Faith talk. I have heard Kara talk before about how a young person needs 5 adults to support them and be on their “team”. I have to admit that when I heard this before my mind has immediately gone to thinking about who are the 5 adults on each of my kids’ teams. But when Kara was talking this time, the Lord was prompting me, “Don’t just think about the adults that can be on your kids’ teams. Who are the kids that need you on their team?” I am now feeling much more diligent about seeking to intentionally invest in the lives of young people that we interact with on a regular basis.
I am looking forward to reading and sharing your stories from across the nation. I hope that you will be inspired and encouraged by these as well. If you were not at the gathering personally, you may watch the videos as they become available on our ECO website. They will be well worth your time.
Thank you all for a wonderful time in Newport Beach together. I love being a part of this gospel movement with you and I’m excited to see where God continues to lead us in 2016. I look forward to when our paths cross again at the next gathering, January 24-26, 2017, and until then will be praying for you, your congregations, plants, and ministries across the country.