A Movement on the Move – Jim Lyon, General Director, Church of God Ministries
Growing up in Seattle, my grandmother would often tell me about “the trip of a lifetime,” her adventure traveling across the country, by train, in 1937 with “Sister Neff” to attend the “Anderson Camp Meeting.” It took almost four weeks, there and back. She referred, of course, to the church’s convention held annually in Indiana each June. In those days, the camp meeting drew thousands who sometimes camped on the Anderson College campus for weeks. A central “mother-of-all-camp meetings” became a staple of the Movement’s life in the late 1800s, as crowds flocked to a beautiful property not far from Grand Junction, Michigan, where the Movement was then based with the Gospel Trumpet Company. It was there, on the campgrounds, that D. S. Warner himself lived and died (in 1895).
Each ChoG Regional Convention is being paired with a ChoG Table, an exciting new forum in which our church family can thoughtfully and prayerfully wrestle with the towering issues of our time. The ChoG Regional Conventions will each feature the same program and leaders; each ChoG Table will focus on a different and distinct topic. But, the calendar for all three Regional Conventions and Tables will be the same: starting on Tuesday evening and ending by 5:00 PM on the following Thursday.
Be Bold has become a part of the Movement’s vocabulary, since it was introduced as our theme for ChoG Convention 2014. In 2015, we added the word Reclaim. We are, after all, in the reclamation business, taking back what Hell has stolen. The gospel which defines us is God’s plan of reclamation, redemption, and restoration, after all. In 2016, our three ChoG Regionals will further dig into these ideas, exploring how we can Reclaim: Our Neighbor (Hoods). We will have to Be Bold to do so.
Each element of the Regionals’ program has been tuned to stretch us and help our church family focus on the Lord’s own compelling call. Luke 10 is the biblical frame for the Regionals this year. If you read through the chapter, you will see Jesus sending, calling, celebrating, and teaching about core Kingdom ideas of reclamation and redemption. The astonishing Parable of the Good Samaritan, so familiar as to be sometimes lost, is delivered in the context of the question, “What must I do to have eternal life?” As pastor and author Reggie McNeal has observed in his book, Get Off Your Donkey, only the Samaritan who stopped and climbed off his donkey to help the stranger is affirmed by Jesus in the story. The union of our eternal destiny and our Kingdom values in this world can still take our breath away.
And, speaking of Reggie McNeal, he’ll be with us at each Regional this year, to help us unpack the Scripture and ground in the call of Jesus in every believer’s life. Reggie spoke to us in Oklahoma City in 2014 and was the presenter most requested for a return appearance of all those on the stage that year. Milton Grannum, pastor of ChoG New Covenant in Philadelphia, is also on the docket; he is one of our most anointed communicators and a man with a message about reclaiming our neighbors and communities. Steve Arterburn, bestselling author and host of the nation’s most far-reaching Christian radio broadcast, New Life Live, will also be with us. His ability to speak into the need for personal wholeness and holiness will address a key building block necessary if we are to actually be instruments to reclaim others, in the hands of God. Ben Hardman, raised in ChoG Salem Dayton, is a new generational voice in the Movement, driving home the need to disciple as Jesus discipled. Ben will not only speak at our Regionals, he’ll introduce ways pastors can join together in cohorts pursuing the New Testament pattern of missional discipleship already sweeping many churches in the country. Arnetta Bailey leads ChoG Christian Women Connection (CWC) and will be teaching, too; her passion and wisdom borne by CWC will pour directly into our drive to reclaim neighbors and neighborhoods.
ChoG’s much-in-demand Alanna Story will be on hand at each Regional to lead in worship, introducing also a new hymn project that reclaims some of the church’s greatest lyrics and melodies, proved true over time, rearranged and adapted for a new day. Alanna Story has been giving this collection a test drive in one of our largest churches during the last year—and it has had powerful impacts on audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with this legacy music. At the Regionals, you’ll not only experience it for yourself, but be given ways to bring it home, too.
Wow. It’s a change-your-world-lineup, jam-packed, life-giving, forward-thinking, Spirit-inspired, Movement-worthy couple of days in store for all who make it a priority to be present. And, as always, Jesus will be the subject, I promise. Go to our website, www.JesusIsTheSubject.org, and register today. Make sure your pastor gets registered, too. Bringing our shepherds together is one of the most important elements of bringing the Movement into new life.
But, wait, there’s more. The ChoG Tables are in view with each Regional, as well. In Vancouver, WA in April, sexual ethics will be on the table. Sexual ethics? Yes. The first century church’s sexual ethics set it apart from the world around it more profoundly than any other marker. How the early Christians understood and experienced human sexuality—as a gift from God within God-given boundaries—was so radically different from the established norms of the ancient world that it defined the Christian community as a unique and extraordinary society in every place it was called into being. As the 21st century dawns in the Western world, we are, once again, being differentiated by our sexual ethics. We must talk about them and own not only our positions (our ethics and truth) framing human sexuality, but also our posture (how we express, explain, and defend them) in a world returning to a Corinthian regime. The ChoG Table West will open the dialogue.
The ChoG Table Central (in Anderson) will explore the challenge of immigrants and refugees, with which the nation (both in the United States and Canada) and our local churches grapple today. The experience of the broader Church of God around the world will also be in view (as, for instance, the German and Lebanese Churches of God are on the front lines of today’s refugee crisis).
And, the ChoG Table East (in Philadelphia) will open the door to a much-needed conversation about race relations and racial reconciliation in the church and the communities in which God has placed us. Everyone knows that current events have brought critically important issues on this front to the fore, once more. Where is the church in the challenge? What can be done? What should be done? There’s lots to talk about, for the health of the Movement and in the way we reclaim our neighbors and neighborhoods.
Again, go online to www.JesusIsTheSubject.org and register for the ChoG Regionals and the ChoG Tables. Choose your location and sign up today. Talk it up. Sign up. Pray up.
Like my grandmother, you may not have been able to often (or ever) attend the “mother-of-all-camp meetings” in Anderson. Time and distance may have denied you access. But, this year, for the first time, you have three options—one of which is closer to home than a single meeting has been. Make the decision now not to miss the ChoG Regional and ChoG Table nearest you. If, for some reason, the nearest Regional and Table is not convenient (the dates conflict with something else on your calendar), no problem. You can attend another Regional farther afield. We already have folks from California registering for Anderson, folks from the Midwest registering for Vancouver, WA, and so on. Whichever works best for you, pull out the stops to take in one.
This Movement is moving. The Lord is calling us to change the world, for Heaven’s sake. He is opening new chapters in our history, building on those He has written already. Thanks for being a part. Thanks for keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus and following Him. I am convinced He is walking both beside and ahead of us.