Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Report on the 123rd North American Convention of the Church of God

“I so appreciate you sharing your heart with us - and sharing God's heart. I am hopeful that more and more in the Church of God are beginning to realize that we have a mission God has called us to and it is NOT just reliving our history or clutching to our distinctives. Thank you for helping us to realize that.” This is representative of some of the email or text messages I received after participating in the 123rd North American Convention of the Church of God in Anderson, Indiana.

Missionaries from around the world. Pastors from across North America. Congregations, choirs, and praise teams. Gifted musicians on strings, brass, percussion, and woodwinds. These gathered June 26 – July 1 to worship God and to commit themselves as missionaries who would Live Out the Love of Christ. It was the centennial celebration of global mission sending for this part of the Body of Christ. With a heritage dating back to Camp Meetings, this annual convention saw significantly increased attendance at a time when most denominational gatherings are in decline. Add those who participated globally via internet simulcasts of the worship and one gets the sense that God is stirring His church in fresh ways to live His mission.

During the assembly, I was privileged to meet with Area Administrators from North America as we considered how churches can most effectively equip members to live as missionaries in their own spheres of influence. These brothers and sisters are committed to assisting congregations to be effective and relevant in this generation.

Pam and I also were privileged to visit with international missionaries during a special luncheon where we discussed implications of increasing numbers of short term missionaries and the optimal roles for these individuals and groups serving globally. These dear global servants celebrate the church’s awakening to its part in God’s mission to the nations while holding concerns about how such groups can best be prepared to serve in cross cultural contexts with which they may have little familiarity but deep passion.

Finally, I was invited by Dr. Ron Duncan, General Director of Church of God Ministries to bring two keynote messages from Matthew 28:19-20a on the theme Commissioned – Submission. Other messages fleshed out the balance of the Great Commission passage. What a unique joy to connect the Great Commission with the grand narrative of God’s Kingdom and to challenge every individual in the Church of God to accept their “as they are going” place in that commission. On Monday evening, the message included a cry for the Holy Spirit to anoint His church anew and concluded with the commissioning of new global missionaries.

As we drove away, Pam and I sensed that we had been in the presence of God. His touch was profoundly poignant and we were blessed.