Workshops intended to educate and inspire
By Connie Faber
Preparing local church workers to excel in their areas of responsibility was the focus of the Southern District Conference convention held Aug. 5-7 in Norman, Okla., at the National Center for Employment Development (NCED).
Guest speaker Steve Macchia, founding president of Leadership Transformations, Inc., spoke to the gathered pastoral staff and lay leaders about the mission of the church and character of church leaders. These messages Friday evening and Saturday morning set the stage for 18 Saturday workshops offered in three “Equipping Breakouts.”
The heart of the church
Friday evening Macchia began by recounting his recent experience of a misdiagnosed pelvic fracture. A misdiagnosis, said Macchia, leads to the wrong treatment. To make the correct diagnosis requires one to listen well and deeply and to pay close attention, said Macchia.
“Church leaders misdiagnosis their church all the time,” said Macchia. “You have an opinion of your church. Will you be open-handed and admit that you may have it wrong?”
Understanding the mission of the church is key to successfully diagnosing the health of local congregations with their idiosyncrasies, said Macchia. “The heart of the church is the heart beat of Christ…. What is God’s desire for the church?”
Macchia offered a graphic of three circles triangulated to create an overlap area to illustrate his understanding of God’s intention for the church. One circle represented God’s intention that congregations worship as they encounter his presence, a second circle represents the love found in community relationships and servant leadership and the third circle is outward focused and represents service, wise administration, accountability, networking and stewardship.
The overlap area is the place of “spiritual discernment,” said Macchia, where a congregation is “back at God’s heart.”
Leaders that desire to hear God’s voice for direction in life will be led toward what the church is supposed to be, said Macchia referring to Acts 1-4. “Go back to the heart of the church. It is the heart of God,” said Macchia. “ The heart of God lives in us and God reside in us corporately. God will give us more and more of himself.”
Macchia invited the audience to “go to a new place—not new programs. Get on your knees…and ask God to begin a new thing.”
The heart of a leader
Macchia’s message Saturday morning focused on the heart of the leader using the parable of the sower and the seed. “The sower (God) never runs out of seeds,” said Macchia. The heart of the receiver is the issue. “Our hearts as leaders are not open to receive the many gifts God has for us. How good are you at receiving? We’re doers and providers rather than receivers in today’s world. We are told to constantly work at things. One thing we don’t have to work hard at is God’s love.”
Leaders can experience a great deal of stress, said Macchia. “We need to be the good soil, to receive what God has to nourish us in the stress.”
Macchia encouraged those present to “be in the Bible,” to listen to God in prayer and to reflect on what God reveals. He spoke of the value of having a designated play for prayer and reflection, to be open and attentive as one reads the Bible slowly and carefully and to not be in a hurry when nourishing the soul.
The duo of Carlin Buhrman of Belleview Community Church in Littleton, Colo., and Jarod Richardson of Parkview MB Church in Hillsboro, Kan., lead the convention attendees in singing. Stephen Humber, SDC chair, moderated the sessions.
Equipping to serve
A total of 18 workshops were offered during three Saturday workshop sessions. Topics offered covered a variety of topics. Some targeted specific areas of church life—worship, teens and youth ministry, first-fruits stewardship, family discipleship, and Christian education—and others were more general in nature—living a missionary lifestyle, multi-generational ministry, assessing church health, dealing with theological disagreement and cross-cultural missions. Workshops were also offered about the SDC budget, graduate theological education, the ministry of the U.S. Conference of MB Churches and the MB Confession of Faith.
Workshop presenters included Macchia and his colleague Rick Anderson and national conference ministries representatives: Ed Boschman of the U.S. Conference of MB Churches, Jon Pritchard of MB Mission, Jon Wiebe, MB Foundation president, and Lynn Jost of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. Wendell Loewen and Terry Wise from Tabor College both gave workshops. District pastors and leaders who were workshop presenters were the SDC Stewardship Commission, Ken Ediger, Steve Fast, J.L. Martin, Jenny Wall, Carlin Burhman, Tony Cannon, Russ Claassen, Ellen Funk and Jeff Nikkel.
Business was kept to a minimum, with a one-hour business session held Saturday morning. Delegates voted on the district budget and affirmed the slate of nominees for district boards. There were no oral reports from district boards; written reports were included in delegate packets from SDC boards and partner agencies.
The one exception was a presentation by Ed Boschman, the U.S. Conference of MB Churches executive director. Boschman outlined an upcoming shift in the formula local congregations will use to calculate their contribution to the national conference.
Church planting banquet
Saturday evening delegates met at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Natural History Museum for dinner and a program highlighting SDC church plants. Church planters Paul Bartel of Watershed in Kansas City and Vaughn Jost of the Micah Project in Littleton, Colo., shared stories of men and women involved in planting these churches as well as stories of those they know who have not yet committed themselves to following Christ.
During the Saturday afternoon free time, delegates could volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. That morning teenagers attending the convention with their families worked with Habitat for Humanity helping with the construction of a home for an Oklahoma City school teacher and her family.
Activities organized for younger children took advantage of the gymnasium located on the conference center grounds. The National Center for Employee Development is a unique conference center and hotel operated by the U.S. Postal Service. NCED features a food court rather than a traditional restaurant and a variety of recreational options.
The convention concluded Sunday morning. Tim Sullivan, SDC district minister, preached and led the communion service. Outgoing SDC chair Stephen Humber commissioned district workers for the next biennial and Tony Cannon, incoming SDC chair, dismissed the convention by asking those present to form a circle for a closing prayer.
A district pastors’ get together preceded the convention Aug. 3-5. Unfortunately Michael John Cusick, the scheduled event speaker who is the founder and president of Restoring The Soul, was delayed due to air travel complications. Cusick is an ordained minister, spiritual director and licensed professional counselor who has experienced firsthand the restoring touch of God in a deeply broken life and marriage.
Ed Boschman, executive director for the U.S. Conference of MB Churches, filled in Thursday, providing a session to pastoral staff members and spouses and a second session for just men. Cusick spoke Friday morning on prayer and tending the soul.
Thursday evening NCED staff led the pastors and their families in games, relays and competitions in the conference center gymnasium. Activities for children and teens were provided on-site during the pastors’ gathering.