By Carl Stagner
The charge has been given. A line has been drawn in the sand. We’ve accepted the challenge. Church of God Convention 2015 galvanized the Church of God to boldly reclaim in Jesus’ name that which hell has stolen. Where the bond of perfectness is broken by the evil of racism, we’ve resolved to be agents of reconciliation. Where the enemy has hijacked tradition for his crafty schemes, we’ve determined to honor our heritage while following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Where selfish ambition and lukewarmness have subtly crept into our local churches, we’ve pledged to renew our humble fervor. Where hell has sieged the sacred, we’ve committed to reclamation for heaven’s sake.
Whether you were one of the few thousand people crowded into the expanse of the sanctuary at Crossings Community Church, or one of the incalculable sum of online viewers connected online, you soon realized there was something divinely different about Church of God Convention 2015.
To Jim Lyon, Chris Britton tweeted, “You and your team did a great job. Very grateful for your leadership and vision. I have renewed hope for the Church of God.” Laura Davisson wrote, “Amazing week at #BeBold2015! The Church of God is moving and is anointed to bring Jesus’ name everywhere. Honored to be there and to be a part!” The Three Worlds team wrote, “Church of God Convention 2015 [is] surpassing last year’s excellent convention. New format for the convention is a real winner for the Church of God.” Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook both lit up with convention feedback and interaction categorized by (hashtag) #BeBold2015. But what about this year’s convention really got people talking?
The Church of God is known for its singing. CHOG Convention 2015 only furthered this impression. Worship leaders from within and beyond our movement encouraged the gathered saints in times of harmonious singing, high-energy musical celebration, and quiet introspection. Selah, Shane & Shane, the Crossings Venue Band, Sandi Patty, and Larnelle Harris helped to lift our hands, hearts, eyes, and voices toward heaven. Sheila Walsh, who came to Oklahoma City to preach the Word, also offered a dramatic and soulful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” which according to one pastor, “brought the house down.” The Heritage Sing-Along, featuring Joe Gregory, Jean Shackleton, and friends, took place on Wednesday during the General Assembly and offered convention-goers the opportunity to sing our faith in four-part harmony. Even in the General Assembly, pastors and delegates could be heard at one point spontaneously erupting in the Doxology.
Pastors who preach from Sunday to Sunday were blessed to be on the other side of the pulpit at CHOG Convention 2015. Timothy Clarke’s message reminded us that our boldness can be found in who we are, whose we are, and what we’ve been given. Gillian Grannum’s message tasked the church with loving one another with Jesus’ love—in spite of our flaws and imperfections. Steve Southards insisted that “big moves of God often start with small acts of obedience.” Mixed with humor and intensely personal reflections, Sheila Walsh testified, “I am Sheila, daughter of the King of Kings, and nobody can touch that!” In a move of the Spirit, a ripple effect prompted listeners across the sanctuary and watching online to insert their name into that bold statement, many on Twitter: “I am _____, a child of the King of Kings, and nobody can touch that!”
Francis Chan’s sermon was met with great anticipation. But in his characteristically humble way, he chose not to dive right into the biblical text. Overwhelmed by the palpable presence of God in the room following inspirational worship with Sandi Patty and Larnelle Harris, Francis Chan fell to his knees in front of everyone, acknowledging first and foremost the magnitude of his calling and his dependence on God. Among several powerful statements, he made it clear that we believers must love so deeply that the world will know we belong to Christ. Jim Lyon’s closing message to the saints on Thursday wrapped up all that was said and done and re-emphasized our need to be agents of transformation in a culture that desperately needs to be reclaimed by the power and grace of Jesus.
We prayed. We worshiped. We commissioned missionaries. And we heard some of the finest preaching on earth. But CHOG Convention 2015 wasn’t just a feel-good party for ourselves. Being bold, and reclaiming what hell has stolen, implies action. Through the Change the World initiative, we rejoiced with the recipients of grant funds for local societal transformation. Through an update on CHOG TraffickLight, we celebrated successes and recommitted ourselves in the fight against human trafficking. We thanked God for story after story of what Church of God congregations and missionaries are doing to reach the lost. We were also introduced to new tools and resources available for Church of God ministers and congregations, including the Be Bold Academy, Global Strategy, a new credentialing initiative, and more.
From June 22 through June 25, every speaker, worship artist, and conference leader devoted themselves to bold reclamation under the banner and authority of Jesus Christ. Our encounter with the King of the universe was life-altering and thoroughly transformative. May we never be the same.
Sermons are expected to be posted online for viewing soon, and more information on DVD/CDs will be available soon. Check www.chogconvention.org for details as they emerge. Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.