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Regional Guests Grapple with Identity Tuesday Night in Anderson

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Church of God Convention, Great Lakes

By Carl Stagner

Identity is commonly associated with words like crisis, theft, and politics. But for followers of Jesus, true identity is wholly wrapped up in whose we are. When the wide variety of pre-conference electives on Tuesday, June 21, connected and reconnected Church of God sisters and brothers in Christ of common roles, similar challenges, and unique gifts, identity was affirmed on the opening day of the Anderson Regional Conference. When Sarah Scharbrough McLaughlin led worship with the gathered saints in the expanse of the worship center at Madison Park Church of God, songs like “Child of Love” and “A Child of God” reaffirmed this blessed identity. When Jim Lyon, general director of Church of God Ministries, preached a message expounding upon the “irreducible prime” of the Church of God movement, collective identity was refocused and realigned with who Jesus is calling us to be.

The ever-changing world and increasingly challenging culture in which the Church of God of the United States and Canada conducts ministry has left far too many pastors and church leaders feeling disconnected and disillusioned. Some have unwittingly faced an identity crisis; evidence certainly points to such a crisis concerning the larger body of Christ. Others have been affected by identity theft as circumstances and even the spiritual forces of darkness have threatened to extinguish the light. Identity politics have crept into spiritual spheres as the need to rediscover the identity God has given the Church of God has become increasingly clear. From the luncheons and pre-conference electives to the worship music and preaching of God’s Word, the entirety of Tuesday at the Church of God Regional Conference in Anderson, Indiana, was designed and carried out to help the Movement toward such a goal.

Pre-conference elective held in youth auditorium.

In caring for these pastors and church leaders, Chris Adams offered strategy and insight on soul care during a pre-conference elective titled “Flourishing in Ministry.” Among other meetings, interest in the soul care seminar was so high conference that organizers had to relocate the gathering a larger room—the church’s youth auditorium. The panel discussion on “A Stuck Church in a Changing World” had similar capacity requirements!

In encouraging these pastors and church leaders, Sarah Scharbrough McLaughlin shared her gifts in musical artistry to foster an atmosphere of celebration, adoration, and introspection in song. The eclectic selection of current praise and worship chart-toppers and hymns of ecumenical and Church of God origin inspired guests of the Anderson Regional to remember the characteristics that describe who we are—chosen, loved unconditionally, saved from sin, and adopted into God’s family—to name a few. At just the right moments, the musical instruments dropped out and a cappella harmony became the vehicle by which the words were proclaimed, “I have washed my robes in the cleansing fountain, I am a child of God!”

Sarah and team leading worship on Tuesday.

In challenging and inspiring these pastors and leaders to return to, consider, accept, and live out the sacred identity of the Church of God movement, Jim Lyon delivered a dynamic sermon on what makes the Church of God the Church of God. Reiterating and explaining in depth what he has called “the five non-negotiables,” Jim connected the propensity of individuals to forget their identity to the trend of the broader church to lose sight of who they are. A personal overview of family history chronicled Jim’s own journey with identity as an adoptee—and his ultimate search for meaning behind his vague understanding of who he was.

“Who do we think we are? Who do others think we are? [but the most important question is] Who is Jesus calling us to be?” Jim asked.

As a reminder, the following are the five non-negotiables:

1. Jesus above all else.
2. The Holy Spirit and holiness.
3. Unity of the body of Christ.
4. The Great Commandment.
5. The supremacy of Scripture.

More great sessions are planned through the day Wednesday at Madison Park Church of God!

Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

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