Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Report from Last Week's Conference

The 2010 Transforming Churches Conference

Just last week I attended the Transforming Churches Conference, so I thought I’d use my column this month to report on the conference.

It was held, for the first time, at Hillside Community Church in Alta Loma. Temple City and Hillside have a deep connection. Many Hillsiders are people from the San Gabriel Valley who’ve moved out to the Rancho Cucamonga (looking for lower housing costs, low crime and open spaces), including people from our church. As a matter of fact, two Hillside staffers have Temple City roots: Alan Aylor (Executive Pastor) and Leslie Walpus (Women’s Ministry).

While we often think of the conference as the annual conference of our Transformation Ministries churches, technically it’s more than that. For the last four years, we meet jointly with the Conservative Baptists of Southern California. At one point, the two groups separate to receive their annual reports and act on any necessary business. This year, the business session was devoted to reports on our financial standing (a bit rocky, which is par for the course in 2010 America) and on progress toward calling a new executive (the title is “Mission Lead”). We are down to two candidates. A tipster told me geographically where they’re from, but I will not pass that on here. I would expect that we a new executive could be named by year’s end.

The theme of the conference this year was “Mission USA” and that concept was broken down as “Every Church a Mission Center”, “Every Pastor a Mission Strategist” and “Every Believer a Missionary.” The organizers of the conference are to be commended to the focus they maintained on the theme through the two days.

Two outstanding speakers carried forth the theme with excellence. Dave Gibbons of New Song Church in Orange County and Harvey Carey of Citadel of Faith Covenant Church of Detroit gave messages that were a study in stylistic differences but in full sync in substance.

On Thursday afternoon, Dave Gibbons spoke on how miracles happen in the “in between” places (see Luke 17:11 and following). Jesus focused on the marginal people. “You reach the masses by loving the margins.” He also urged us to come to see our own stress and pain not as something to be covered, but to be confessed, embraced and seen as a gift and even a guide from God.

That evening, Harvey Carey stressed the simple idea that the church is not a huddle. From Acts 1, he painted the picture of the disciples huddling, looking up as Jesus ascends, and the angel had to “break up the huddle” and get their minds on to the mission.

He also emphasized the idea of going to the marginalized, but the way he formulated it was that we are light, and when the light is on, darkness must flee. He told stories of how his church has gone after darkness. For example, his men camped in front of the most notorious crack house in Detroit, singing and praying, until the crack house shut down. As Harvey put it, “It’s hard to shoot up with fifty men out front singing Kum-ba-ya.”

I have to admit, as I feel asleep Thursday night, I kept thinking of this question: what is the deepest, darkest spot in our area? We don’t have crack houses. We don’t have the blaring, overt evil that you can find on the streets of Motor City. It just so happens that three days hence I was scheduled to stop by the Pregnancy Help Center in Temple City after worship for their open house. It made we wonder—what would it be like if all the unwed mothers who have no supportive family were able to get “adopted aunts” to assist them—to help them practically and to led them to Jesus. That’s a dark spot in our area that we could do.

You know, there’s a saying (attributed to Bill Hybels): “Vision leaks.” You can get busy dealing with a lot a hard challenges and difficulties, and what happens is that vision leaks away. One of the great things about a conference like this is the chance to get your vision bucket refilled.

Dave started us out on Friday morning. He suggested that there is a strategy of renewal in Isaiah 58. I won’t list all the elements, but here’s a highlight: shout a message of awakening. Listen to the street. Be liquid, led by the Holy Spirit. And the key number to measure the success of our mission: zero. In Orange County, he’s been especially targeting this zero: zero kids in foster care.

Friday also included the business session and excellent workshops. After dinner, Harvey shared on the theme of “every believer a missionary” with this memorable phrase: “You are an answer to a problem.” He compared the church to a car owner who insists on High-Test and them just drives around the parking lot. He urged us to get out of the lot, trusting not only in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but His power exhibited in signs and power.

I am told that the messages will be posted on the website of Transformation Ministries. Be sure to check www.transmin.org.

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