From the beginning of time, humanity has been locked in a fight to be seen, to be heard, to be known, to be loved. Yes, even in the Garden, the first human beings weighed the options presented them by the serpent only to reveal underlying uncertainties about who they were and whose they were. The Creator had formed Adam and Eve from the dust, yet their perceptions of reality had been utterly distorted by competing voices clamoring for their attention.
Without a clear sense of who they were, the first man and woman drifted from God’s best. Could they be gods themselves? Were the opening arguments of the enemy of our souls that persuasive?
Still today, the imago Dei is overlooked and ignored, and the rights and privileges thereof traded for cheap imitation. For what hell says we are. For what popular culture says we ought to be.
Identity. How do we see ourselves? How do others see us? How does Jesus see us? And, who is he calling us to be? What are our foundation stones?
Answers to these and other questions are the very building blocks of who we are and why we exist. Our chief ambition during each of the three Church of God Regional Conventions, from coast to coast in the year 2022, is to wrestle with the questions all of us have asked at some point along life’s journey, those questions which frame our understanding of where we’re headed as a Movement of God’s own. These, too, are the questions with which the culture at large has already wrestled to the ground, contesting the central tenets the church has unwittingly thought fixed in time and space. And, these are the questions falling on the doorsteps of our local churches with increasing regularity.
What, then, are we as the people of the Church of God movement, to do? How are we to respond in such a manner that is both true and loving? Real and redemptive? Substantive, yet practical?
We aim to explore what have become known as our five non-negotiables—1) Jesus is the subject, Lord of all, Son of God and Son of Man; 2) the Holy Spirit and his empowerment to holiness; 3) that we have been called to be a catalyst for Christian unity; 4) the Great Commandments; and 5) the supremacy of Scripture.
But wait, there’s more. Additionally, there are sixteen doctrinal statements outlined in the Credentials Manual of the Church of God, approved by the General Assembly in 2019, which capture an exegesis of the Word embedded in our history and identity. How do these GA-approved assertions espouse our identity as individuals, local churches, the Church of God movement, and broader body of Christ?
Join us. Dig in with us. Dialogue with us. Dare to dive into a family discussion as we come face to face, once again, with our IDENTITY.
3 GREAT LOCATIONS
APRIL 26-28, 2022
Destiny Christian Fellowship
Destiny Christian Fellowship
JUNE 21-23, 2022
Madison Park Church of God
Madison Park Church of God
Speakers & Special Guests
Brian Bennett, lead pastor at Pathway Church in Vero Beach, Florida, is a passionate Christ-follower who loves life, the beach, and being a part of God’s movement in the world through the local church.
He is from Michigan (don’t hold it against him!) and has pastored vocationally since 2003. Brian has been married to his wife Cindy since 2001, and they have four awesome children. Before moving to Vero Beach, the Bennett’s enjoyed their time living in southwestern Michigan and planting Overflow Church and Mosaic Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), a nonprofit organization that is transforming lives in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Brian has a doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary and is the author of Go Now and Be the Church, a book highlighting the first five years of the Bennett’s church plant.
Mark Matlock is a facilitator of innovation and impact, helping organizations adapt to changing times by turning research-based insights into action. A regular presenter and workshop
facilitator for Barna, Mark facilitates training and onsite application of research findings for Barna clients.
He is the founder of WisdomWorks, LLC, a consultancy helping churches and faith-based organizations leverage their collective wisdom and insight to innovate and adapt in changing times. Mark also has been an advisor to organizations such as the Seed Company, Youth Specialties, Brotherhood Mutual, Movement.org, and BetterMan, and he chairs the committee on governance as a board member of the American Bible Society.
Mark is the author of more than twenty books for teens and parents, and in 2019 coauthored Faith for Exiles: Five Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon, with Barna Group president David Kinnaman. Having initiated many research projects with Barna over the last two decades related to Next Gen studies, Mark’s research continues to provide insights into emerging generations and how to cultivate faithful disciples.
Mark is an ordained minister, certified LifePlanner, LEGO Serious Play facilitator, and MCORE trainer and coach. He’s been married for twenty-seven years to his wife Jade. They have two adult children.
Paul Sheppard is the pastor of Destiny Christian Fellowship in Fremont, California. An effective preacher and leader, Pastor Paul is widely known for his practical and dynamic teaching
style, which helps people apply the timeless truths of Scripture to their everyday lives. He serves as speaker for the radio and online broadcast Destined for Victory. He’s also an author whose latest book is Lessons from the Vineyard. He is married with two adult children.
Richard Smith grew up in Baltimore and still calls the city home. He earned a bachelor of arts in sociology at McDaniel College, and both a master’s degree and a PhD from Temple University.
He now teaches at McDaniel College and holds the position of associate provost for equity and belonging.
His academic expertise includes African American culture, race and justice, and ethics. Richard is also the lead pastor at a Church of God near Baltimore called The Movement Church, a Leadership Focus graduate, and a Chapter 4 Institute fellow. Widely published and respected, Richard has been recognized for excellence with multiple awards, including the Multicultural Leaders’ Most Valuable Faculty Award in 2015.
Carla Sunberg was elected the 43rd general superintendent for the Church of the Nazarene in June 2017. She has been a missionary, an educator, and a minister in the Church.
She began her ministry as a registered nurse, but was later ordained in the Russia North district, where she and her husband were serving as missionaries. After they returned to the United States, she and her husband pastored Grace Point Church of the Nazarene in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and went on to become the first couple to serve as co-district superintendents. In 2014 Carla took on the role of president of Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City. She has authored and edited numerous books, including Why Holiness?, Color: God’s Intention for Diversity, and the soon-to-be-released Faithful to the Call: Women in Ministry. She and her husband Chuck are the proud parents of two adult daughters, Christa and her husband Iain, along with their son Theodore, who live in Manchester, England; as well as Cara and her husband Justin, and their three children, Mackenzie, Alice, and Halston, who live in Kansas. Chuck Sunberg copastors Shawnee Church of the Nazarene with his daughter Cara.
Dr. Jason Varner serves as an assistant professor of the history of Christianity at the Anderson University School of Theology and Christian Ministries. After earning bachelor’s and master’s
degrees from Anderson University, Dr. Varner moved to Scotland where he studied early modern history at the University of St Andrews. Upon completion of his MLitt and PhD at St. Andrews, Jason returned ‘home’ to Anderson University, where he enjoys teaching courses in the history of Christianity, intellectual and American history, philosophy, worship, and biblical studies.
Dr. Varner’s research interests include European encounters with ‘the Other’ in seventeenth-century America, the changing notion of the ‘self’ in modernity, and the early years of the Church of God movement. Most recently, Dr. Varner presented a paper titled “The Transformation of Trauma: on Liminality and Identity in Seventeenth-Century New England” at the European Association for Early American Studies’ annual conference at the University of Poitiers (France) in December 2021. The 2021 conference theme was “Colonisations, Revolutions, and Reinventions in early America and the Atlantic World, 1492–1848.”
Dr. Varner is actively engaged at Catalyst (Church of God) in Pendleton, Indiana, where he leads worship and serves on the teaching team.
Nathan Willowby is the dean of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry at Anderson University. He grew up in Anderson, Indiana, attending Park Place Church of God, camp
meetings, and Anderson public schools. After high school, Nathan attended Anderson University, where he earned degrees in Bible and religion, and business administration. He studied one year at the Anderson University School of Theology before eventually earning a master of divinity from Duke Divinity School and a PhD in theology and ethics at Marquette University (where he wrote on holiness and political theology). An ordained minister in the Church of God, Willowby served as pastor of Crossroads Church of God in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for seven years. He was active in statewide unity services and was the president of the Wisconsin Assembly of the Church of God, 2013–2016. In 2016, Nathan began serving at AU as a professor of theology and ethics. He also currently serves as the General Assembly’s appointed historian of the Church of God. Nathan and his family live in Indianapolis and attend Church at the Crossing. He is passionate about Church of God commitments to racial and Christian unity, holiness, and full support of women in ministry.
More speaker announcements
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|7:00 pm – 9:00 pm||Opening Session|
|8:00 am – 9:00 am||Check-in and registration|
|9:00 am – Noon||Panel/Discussion/Presentation/Q&A|
|Noon–2:00 pm||Lunch Break|
|2:00 pm – 5:00 pm||Panel/Discussion/Presentation/Q&A|
|5:00 pm – 7:00 pm||Dinner Break|
|7:00 pm – 9:00 pm||Evening Worship, Speaker with Q&A|
|9:00 am–11:00 am||Closing Session vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv|
Convention 2021 in the News
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