Though several weeks have now passed, I am still so exhilarated from our National Gathering in Houston. It was a wonderful and long week, from preparing early at the venue to concluding with two days of coach training. Our fabulous staff deserves huge thanks, along with the gracious Houston churches who provided thousands of volunteer hours to make this event run smoothly. Allow me a moment to briefly reflect on three personal RENOVATE highlights that I hope we can continue to build upon in the future.
First, we palpably feel the enthusiasm and hope among our tribe to live boldly and excitedly into the future. In my talk, I reflected on John Ortberg’s words from the Orlando gathering several years ago when ECO was first launched. He said that our vision was not to become a denomination that simply died more slowly. These were the profound words that rallied us at ECO’s beginning. Now they are sobering words as we notice that on average churches that have been in ECO longer than two years declined by 2% in worship attendance in 2016. What I loved about the 2018 Gathering, and the spirit of our people, is that while we recognize the truth of what is happening, we don’t see this decline as a hopeless trajectory. Instead, we are newly excited and empowered to pray hard, roll up our sleeves, and make difficult but necessary renovations. After Linda Snyder and Jason Schepp shared about their experiences with Paul Borden’s Church Transformation Cohort in the main session, and as people attended the breakout sessions related to the cohort, many people have emailed and called to see how their churches can get involved. Details for the next cohort are included in this newsletter.
Second, I loved the way our speakers held the tension that we are not yet fully living into who God has called us to be, but there is tremendous hope in the power of the Holy Spirit. Ed Stetzer, Kyle Strobel, and Condoleezza Rice helped us think about renovating as a denomination, as leaders, and as disciples. Each one pushed us in ways that made me realize, “I really needed to hear that!” Yet they also affirmed and championed our desire and efforts to renovate and continue to press forward.
Third, I thought the Synod meeting on Thursday was fantastic. A huge thank you goes to Nate and our parliamentarian Len Young, the Theological Task Force, Maja Greig, and countless others who helped us to be able to focus on the most important issues for our denomination. ECO was created quickly, and as a result, there were some gaps in process and a lack of clarity in several areas. Everyone involved did a wonderful job in helping us fill those gaps. Several commissioners noted, “I can’t believe we got all of that done in 3 hours of actual business!” My response was, “You can’t even imagine how many hundreds of hours were put in beforehand to ensure that you only needed to be here for three!” I loved the spirit with which issues were discussed and deliberated. There was agreement about the fundamentals, including the centrality of the Word of God and the importance of addressing issues of racial and other divisions in our country. There were disagreements on how to resolve those issues, but I felt that the heart with which commissioners approached each topic was truly community building for us.
I am deeply grateful for all of you and this movement. I am humbled and honored to serve alongside of you as we catalyze the building of flourishing churches. I pray that we continue to keep a spirit of joy, humility and honesty, while also boldy pressing on toward that which the Lord has called us. May God bless you and your ministries as you continue to let Jesus renovate your hearts, minds, churches, and communities.