By Carl Stagner
“The church isn’t the subject. Our history isn’t the subject. Our traditions aren’t the subject. Our location isn’t the subject. Our name isn’t the subject. Jesus is the subject!” Jim Lyon’s words to the Church of God on Monday were clear: the Church of God must make the proclamation of Jesus through word and deed priority again. From the afternoon town hall meeting to the kickoff service with Sidewalk Prophets, the opening day of the Church of God Convention was full of energy, people, and contagious enthusiasm.
Crowds of guests poured into the foyer at Crossings Community Church on Monday afternoon, well before the official kickoff of the convention at 7:00 that evening. At one point, the line to check in stretched across the very large entry way, circled back, and reached the door. From the discussions in the hallway, to the Twitter universe, it was evident that excitement for a new day in the movement—mixed with a little curiosity—had brought the Church of God to Oklahoma City.
The Town Hall Meeting—“Go Ahead, Ask Anything”—provided two hours of opportunity for Jim to respond to questions ranging from the revamp of the convention to politics and policy. “Powerful!” reflects Melissa Pratt, pastor of Teays Valley Church of God in Scott Depot, West Virginia. During the event she commented, “I am here and am so excited about the transparency and passion of our general director! I have already received new understanding about some things that weren’t clear to me!”
Following a break for dinner, convention guests returned to Crossings, eagerly anticipating a night of worship. More than two thousand believers from across the movement sang songs of praise and thanksgiving under the leadership of
national recording artists Sidewalk Prophets. The spirit in the room could hardly be classified as anything less than electrifying. One glance around the vast sanctuary and it was abundantly clear that the Church of God was excited to host this group, which began on the fourth floor of Anderson University’s Smith Hall several years ago. Hands were clapping, many were raised, and everyone was reminded that the Church of God can surely sing!
Jim Lyon’s message resonated with the gathered saints and prompted both applause and plenty of amens. His tone communicated a passion and urgency for the Church of God to discard distractions and make Jesus central to our vision and mission. Jim challenged the church to embrace the heart of Jesus in a world that has changed dramatically since the Church of God began, yet renew the boldness exhibited by our pioneers, like that of E. Faith Stewart. Stewart, who founded the Shelter, will be featured again on Tuesday during a special video presentation on the ministry, which for a hundred years has rescued children from the sex trade.
Also included in Monday evening’s gathering were a memorial video tribute to ministers who had gone on to be with the Lord over the past year, a “Jesus is the subject” audio clip featuring the iconic voice of Eugene Sterner, the late Church of God radio speaker and author. On Tuesday, Michael Thigpen, Diana Swoope, Marty Grubbs, and Anne Graham Lotz take the stage to deliver messages timely to the movement today. Alanna Story and Sandi Patty will lead worship.
For more information, visit www.chogconvention.org.