Stetzer cites statistics, studies in his challenge to live on mission
By Myra Holmes
About 115 pastors and spouses from USMB congregations across the United States gathered July 24-25 in Santa Clara, Calif., to reconnect and refuel at the National Pastors Conference, held every two years just before the National Convention. The combined events comprised Conection 2014.
Refueling took place both within and outside of the scheduled sessions.
Stetzer focuses on mission
Ed Stetzer was the keynote speaker for two sessions and fielded questions from attendees during an additional question-and-answer session. Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research, an author, pastor and church planter.
Stetzer focused on the “one mission” part of the USMB mission statement in both sessions. The full USMB mission statement reads: "We partner as one family serving one Lord on one mission, for the transformation of individuals, families and communities."
Thursday evening Stetzer outlined a study of some 7,000 churches from all denominations that indicate the majority of people in the majority of churches in North America are unengaged in meaningful mission.
“We live in a mission field with a relatively unengaged mission force,” Stetzer said. “It can be more.”
He encouraged attendees from 1 Peter 4, saying that all have gifts, which God intends all to use and for which he empowers, in order to bring God glory.
He challenged pastors to remove obstacles to congregants owning the mission, which may mean rethinking building structures or ministry roles. “You can’t have dependency upon clergy and empowerment in mission at the same time,” he said.
Friday morning, he pointed to research that indicates that Christianity is increasingly losing its “home field advantage.” The question, Stetzer said, is how will the church respond to major cultural shifts?
By way of an answer, he drew from 2 Corinthians 5 to talk about receiving a new view, being sent on a mission of reconciliation and representing Jesus and his kingdom. He repeatedly reminded attendees that personal transformation is the motivation for mission. “Any compulsion toward mission that does not take into account a bloody cross and an empty tomb is ultimately a fool’s errand,” he said. “The world doesn’t need more nice people; it needs people who have been changed.”
Several USMB pastors responded to Stetzer’s comments in posts on the USMB Pulse. Visit www.usmb.org and click on “See all USMB Pulse posts” to read their reflections.
Each session was set in the context of worship, led by John Szablowski and a team from The Bridge Bible Church, Bakersfield, Calif. The same ensemble led the delegates and guests in singing at the National Convention.
Reconnecting outside the sessions
Breakout groups late Friday morning were designed to further equip conference attendees. Options included workshops on specific topics and affinity groups—a new option that gave pastors in similar roles opportunity to discuss the joys and challenges of ministry.
The workshop targeting pastors’ wives, led by Jini Robie and Carol Boschman, was by far the most well-attended, with about 30 women participating.
Attendance for other breakout options was generally sparse, with far more people chatting in the hallways. That observation supports what many pastors and spouses informally offered as their main reason for attending: to connect with other pastors and families.
One attendee commented that this event was always a highlight because of those connections. Another appreciated how their children were building relationships (22 children participated in children’s activities).
Others took extra time before or after Conection 2014 to vacation, visit friends or see local attractions. Organizers had hoped that the Santa Clara location, close to attractions ranging from Great America Theme Park, Levi’s Stadium, state parks and beaches, would encourage just that.
Photo 1: "We welcome you with praise," sang pastors and their spouses during the Friday morning time of worship and singing at the 2014 National Pastors Conference.
Photo 2: Friday morning BFL chair Larry Nikkel (left) prays for speaker Ed Stetzer. "Let's hold our models loosely and our Jesus tightly," Stetzer said that morning.
Photo 3: Affinity groups, like this gathering of administrative pastors, were a new addition to the National Pastors Conference workshop options.
Photos by Christian Leader
View a photo album of Conection 2014 highlights.
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