2017 Annual Conference Reflection: Day 2
By Pastor Mike "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." - 2 Peter 3:8-9
"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answerto everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." - 1 Peter 3:15
The second day of the conference has been a full one! There is almost too much to include in one post - at least if I want to keep this to a readable length!
Our morning began with a reminder from Northwest University professor Joshua Ziefle that the Pentecostal movement is worldwide. Our movement is made up of people from all continents and languages. While we do not seem to have much in common, in reality we are one in Christ and one in the Spirit. A worthy reminder in our divided age!
After this "Net Talk" we received an update on our Network's effort to plant one-hundred churches in three years. Eighteen months into the initiative, we have planted 28 churches with another 38 churches in the pipeline to be planted soon. That leaves 34 more church plants and our Network has reached a, humanly speaking, unbelievable goal! But nothing is too big for God! This missional emphasis to our district is one of the things that makes working with the Northwest Ministry Network so inspiring for me as a pastor.
Our morning session ended with an interview on race relations in the church. I personally was challenged by a question that, for our church, transcends the question of race and applies immediately to our arguably homogenous context: At what point do new people, "different" people who visit our congregation go from being "guests" to being part of the group? As a church with deep roots in a small town with a lot of history, this is a challenging question. People who attend our church regularly but remain on the fringe flashed through my mind at the question. Is Vashon Island Community Church a welcoming church? Are we more than a friendly church? Are we actually and genuinely inclusive?
In the midday we attended workshops. I attended a preaching workshop with Dr. Robert Stallman of Northwest University and Nichole and I attended a workshop entitled, "When someone you love is gay." This second workshop was a testimony time about a pastoral couple's journey with their gay son. Their story was honest and a little raw. Easy and simple answers were avoided, but Christ was honored. I was very glad we were able to attend.
The second general session of the day was a time of worship followed by an inspiring and challenging sermon from Rick Cole of Sacramento, CA. Pastor Rick preached on his own experience with the principle of allowing people to "belong before believing," particularly in relation to the homosexual community. From being a pastor known in his community for preaching hellfire and judgment against gays and lesbians, Pastor Rick and his church began to invest in local nonprofits to AIDS victims, bringing them face to face with people who thought his church hated them. In time the Lord taught Rick and his church to start with love in their ministry to their neighbors and have seen many in the gay community come to their worship services, with several coming to faith in Christ and coming to terms with the lordship and love of Jesus in their lives.
It has been a full and challenging two days and I can say with honesty that we are exhausted! We miss our kids and miss our church. As a group we have decided to skip the business session tomorrow and head home early. Thank you all so much for, once again, sending me and my team to the Annual Conference of the Northwest Ministry Network. As I get home, get resettled, and have time to reflect on our time at conference, I am hopeful that some real results will come out of the things God has poured into us over these days.