Last weekend, I attended the Christian Life and Ministry Conference presented by the Penn-Jersey District of The Wesleyan Church. The theme was Creating a Culture of Caring. Culture implies a way of thinking, knowing, believing, valuing and behaving characterized by society.
During the opening rally, Dr. Benji Kelley did a compare and contrast of “loving fathers” and “older sons” based on the familiar parable in Luke 15:11-32. Kelley expressed that loving fathers are preoccupied with missing children and keep doors open and lights on. Loving fathers throw parties. Conversely, older sons are preoccupied with themselves, close doors and turn lights off. Instead of throwing parties, older sons throw fits. Kelley announced that “God is still on the peripheral edge of the church property, scanning the horizon for prodigals to come home… If we exude the attitude of the Father (over and against the older son), God will send prodigals to us.”
The conference schedule contained a slew of seminars related to the main theme. The first one I chose was led by Director of Church Multiplication, Rev. Phil Struckmeyer, who reported that, “The church has fallen asleep in North America.” The best math of today tells us that there are 200 million unreached lives in North America. To Struckmeyer, this number is “a whiff of smelling salts.” I, too, am bothered by the knowledge that there is such a large population of unbelievers in “our backyard territory.” It was during that particular session that a sense of “holy urgency” fell upon my husband and me. We vow to God that we will respond!
Then, after a satisfying lunch, I found a seat in the fireplace room and listened to Dr. Anthony Graham speak on the importance of prayer. He encouraged us who are deeply concerned about our world and future generations to pray sincerely and to love on people. “Honor, respect and forgive people,” he challenged. “See the goodness of God in life and pull that out.” The teaching ended in a valuable time of linking with prayer partners in adoration and supplication.
My last elective gave practical help in reaching people with the gospel in a world that has gradually assumed values and views that are not necessarily Christian. Rev. Andrew Dixon reminded us of how the apostle Paul related to people by reasoning with them, explaining the concepts and giving evidence. Being a Christian is no longer the norm in America, as more and more people have a pluralistic mindset. Dixon cautioned, “Don’t argue people into the kingdom of God.” Rather, he urged us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, “using God’s Word in truth.”
During the closing rally, Dr. Kelley cheered on the gathering of believers with these edifying words, “Let us not grow weary in doing good but in due season we will reap a harvest” (Galatians 6:9). I trust that this season is coming due soon. But in the meantime, I will stand firm. Thank you to conference director, Rev. Brenda Smith, for a job well done. Because of your efforts and your standing firm, we care more.
Dixon, Rev. Andrew. Reaching Out to a Post-Christian Culture. Faith Evangelical Free Church. Allentown, 2 March 2013.
Graham, Dr. Anthony. Creating a Culture of Prayer. Faith Evangelical Free Church. Allentown, 2 March 2013.
Kelley, Dr. Benji. The Attitude of the Father. Faith Evangelical Free Church. Allentown, 2 March 2013.
Kelley, Dr. Benji. What About the Meantime? Faith Evangelical Free Church. Allentown, 2 March 2013.
Struckmeyer, Rev. Phil. How to Understand the Mission Field of Church Planting. Faith Evangelical Free Church. Allentown, 2 March 2013.