By Carl Stagner
Church of God Ministries is happy to announce Ben Hardman as one of several excellent speakers scheduled for the three regional conventions of the Church of God this year. Though you may not be familiar with Ben, you likely know his aunt. The same dedication to the Lord and disciple-making that epitomized Church of God missionary Susan Hardman is evident in the life and ministry of Ben Hardman today. Director of Missional Think Tank, a coaching and training organization, Ben helps re-awaken pastors and churches to the vitality of mission and discipleship. A brief look into his background and present ministry sheds light on why we’re so excited he’ll be joining us in Vancouver, Anderson, and Philadelphia.
Ben Hardman grew up attending Salem Church of God in Clayton, Ohio. His first ministry job was at North Anderson Church of God (now Madison Park) in Anderson, Indiana. Besides his missionary aunt, several of his relatives served as pastors in the Church of God, and he, his sister, his parents, and both sets of grandparents came to know Jesus in the Church of God. “The Church of God has always had a special place in my heart,” Ben explains. “So this feels like coming home for me!”
The theme of the regional conventions this year is “Reclaim Your Neighborhood.” Over the past couple of years, the Church of God has emphasized the practice of reclaiming what hell has stolen—and how such a practice is a natural extension of the concept, “Jesus is the Subject.” This year, the reclaim rally cry is centering on each church’s local sphere of ministry. Ben’s ministry experience, especially at Missional Think Tank, lends itself well to this topic. “According to recent research by the Barna Group, 99 percent of pastors don’t believe their churches are doing a good job of making disciples,” Ben explains. “I was shocked when I saw that number! We believe that we need to return our hearts back to a Jesus-centered ministry. As much as we have studied the words and works of Jesus, we have failed in many ways to embrace the way of Jesus. So our ministries look very different from the ministry Jesus modeled for us. We live in a scary world, so it’s often easier to close ourselves off from real relationships and shield our families and children from the world. This however, is not the posture Jesus modeled or taught.”
Sometimes it’s easy for the church to overlook a few of the important aspects of discipleship, whether in our neighborhood or on the other side of the ocean. Whether we realize it or not, sometimes our culture influences our perceptions of discipleship. “We want discipleship to be an easy, fast process because so much of world is fast,” Ben explains. “We live in a microwave culture. Discipleship takes time, however, because discipleship involves people. It can’t be microwaved into a simple easy small group or book study. Much of what the church calls discipleship I would simply call teaching.”
According to Ben, Jesus’ ministry involved not only teaching, but also training. “If I wanted to run a marathon, I could listen to a hundred seminars about running,” he explains. “I could read some great books about it. I could even go out and buy the right shoes and gear. But if I never train or get off the couch, that marathon is going to be a disaster! The same is true for our churches. Jesus-centered discipleship is inviting people into your life, loving them, serving them, walking with them, eating with them, and modeling The Way. It’s more imitation than information. You simply can’t do discipleship at arms-length or at a distance.”
Hear more wisdom from Ben Hardman at any one of the three regional Church of God conventions this year. Register at www.chogconvention.org.
Ben Hardman is a coach, consultant, and trainer for pastors and Christian leaders who desire to re-imagine discipleship and navigate the mission of God together. He lives in Dayton, Ohio, where he runs an organization called Missional Think Tank. To find out more about Ben’s ministry, visit www.missionalthinktank.com.