2017 Annual Conference Reflection: Day 1
By Pastor Mike "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility." - Ephesians 2:14-16
In the interests of letting people "in" on all that goes on at Annual Conference, I thought I would post a short reflection/recap each of the three days of the conference this year.
The Northwest Ministry Network of the Assemblies of God is a network (district) of over three-hundred churches throughout Washington and Northern Idaho. The Annual Conference is a time for the pastoral leadership of the churches to gather, vote on new leadership, hear updates on the state of things in the district, receive training, and be refreshed in the things of God. It is an experience I look forward to every year, and every year I am grateful to all of you, the people of VICC, for letting me and my pastoral team attend. This year Tyler and I were both able to bring our wives and leave our kids with family or friends, thus freeing up our spouses as well as ourselves to receive training and encouragement.
The theme for the conference this year is "ONE: One Gospel, One Mission, One Church." The emphasis seems both to be upon unity within our churches (and by extension, our district) and also unity within our communities and nation. The guiding text for the first evening was Ephesians 2:14-16, which is at the top of this post.
The first message was a brief "Net Talk" (think "TED talks") from Malaysian-America pastor Chris Chan. Pastor Chan spoke on the fact that we do not need to travel overseas to practice cross-cultural missions anymore. The nations of the world are on our doorsteps. 98118, the Rainier Valley zip code in which Pastor Chan does his work, for example, is not only the most ethnically diverse zip code in Washington State but in the entire nation! The northwest in particular is becoming a very ethnically diverse region. Dwelling on this fact, Pastor Chan encouraged us as pastors to think about how we might connect with those of a different ethnicity in our communities. He encouraged us to open our homes and open our churches, and to seek local ethnic churches with which we can partner. (On a personal note, it is significant to remember that our own Terry and Marsha Peretti are intimately involved in ministry to ethnic churches in the region, creating exactly the kind of connections Pastor Chan talked about).
The main message tonight was from our Network Leader, Don Ross. Don preached on the evening's text. He spoke on the hostility that has become commonplace in our country today, and he contrasted the hostility felt between different groups of people in our culture with the peace and unity the gospel brings. "Hostility's work is the exact opposite of the gospel's work," he told us, encouraging us to examine our own hearts as leaders, understanding that what is in our hearts will be what we produce in our ministries. He challenged us, for example, to consider whether when we interact with a gay person, or a Muslim, or a Buddhist, whether we think of them primarily as that label or whether we think of them as someone for whom Christ died, as someone who is lost and in need of being found.
All in all it was an enjoyable and encouraging first day. I look forward to what the Lord has for us tomorrow.
God bless, and good night.