By R.W. Moody and Carl Stagner
Remain Connected to the Vine
Have you ever taken a walk through a vineyard? There are a few things you will notice if you do. First, the vine. It spreads out in many directions as it meanders its way across the field. It is the source for everything that grows out from it. Second, the branches. These branches carry all of the nutrients that the vine gives. Third, there is the fruit. This is the product of the vine. All of the resources that the vine pushes through the branches shows itself in the fruit. The health of the fruit depends on the connection of the branch to the vine. The vine is the source of life.
In John 15, Jesus compared himself to the vine. He is the source of life. We are the branches. Our connection to the vine is critical if we are to bear fruit. As Christ-followers, if we want to grow, we must remain in him. This is the lesson that more than two hundred student and adult leaders learned at this year’s Leadership Summit.
Each of the worship sessions and breakouts focused on the importance of remaining connected to the vine. The speakers each challenged participants to truly think about how well their connection is and what changes needed to be made. The overall message of the week was simple: in order to produce fruit, one must remain in God by focusing on a relationship with him, feed on God’s word regularly, and allow God to flow through one’s life all of the time.
Leadership Summit served, and serves, as a launching pad for student leaders. Since its inception, hundreds of students have attended and received clarification about God’s call upon their lives. Some have stepped into vocational ministry roles, while others have taken leadership roles in other capacities. This event is intentional about training students for a life of Christian service. This year’s event took place on the campus of Warner University in Lake Wales, Florida.
A special thanks to Eric Reeder and the Leadership Summit team for all of their hard work in preparation for this year’s event. A job well done!
Unexpected Blessings, Unanticipated Consequences
When Handel Smith agreed to serve as speaker for one of the worship services at Leadership Summit 2015, he had no idea what he was getting into. As chief domestic officer for Church of God Ministries, Handel was used to the idea of addressing crowds of various sizes, cultures, and ages—he even has a son who was thrilled to attend the event this year. But upon arrival at Warner University, Handel learned that one of the “family group” leaders would be unable to fulfil his responsibility at the event until later in the week. Someone needed to fill the void, and after praying about it, Handel knew it was he.
“I got to my room, and the Holy Spirit said that if I was going to really connect with these students in my message later that week,” Handel explains, “I had to get to know their struggles. I had to connect with them now. The Holy Spirit told me to engage. To build relationships. And they began to build relationships with me, sharing openly and honestly what was going on in their lives. So, my speaking on Thursday was more relevant, more customized, and more transformational for them.”
Handel was assigned to a group of about ten students. Handel had come to bless and challenge them, but he left with an unexpected, unanticipated blessing and challenge himself. Handel says was able to “tap into where they were in their walk with the Lord.” The times of sharing, he explains, were “intimate, transparent, and life-changing.” The family-group time allowed opportunity for processing the teaching that took place each day in a small-group setting. “I had to change my look, and for three or four days, I became a teenager,” Handel quips.
Responding to a direct invitation, Handel learned the Church of God in Jamaica sent two of their youth leaders to Leadership Summit. As a result of their experience, they’re planning on bringing at least fifteen of their youth to International Youth Convention next summer. And responding to the Holy Spirit’s call, one student in Handel’s family group, who had made arrangements to attend Indiana University in the fall, announced her decision to attend Anderson University instead—wholly committed to a Christ-centered learning experience.
Since Leadership Summit 2015, Handel Smith has a new passion to make sure even more of the Church of God movement is exposed to this kind of life-changing experience. “I left so excited about our emerging leaders,” Handel explains. “These are young people who are sold out for Christ, plugged in, and connected to the Vine, ready to bear fruit and change the world for Jesus.”
Learn more about the youth ministries of the Church of God at www.chogy.org.