By Carl Stagner
“I have always believed everyone needs a Paul to pour into you, a Timothy to pour into, and a Barnabas to encourage you.” Ben Hardman’s words come from personal experience. Returning to the Regional Conventions this year—all five of them—the featured speaker hasn’t always lived up to this aspiration. He knows how difficult it is to lead well, make disciples in a 21st-century culture, and balance the needs of self and family. But out of his struggles, he’s celebrated numerous successes and gained a wealth of insights on the ground. The co-founder of Gravity Leadership and host of the leadership training workshop “Making Disciples in the Way of Jesus” at each Regional Convention 2018, Ben’s unique combination of life experiences has captured the attention of Church of God pastors across the country.
Since the Church of God was re-introduced to Ben Hardman at the Regional Conventions in 2016, his teaching and training opportunities have been highly sought-after among pastors in the movement. He looks forward to reconnecting with those who have already gone through, or are currently enrolled in Gravity Leadership Academy. Certainly, Ben’s return to the Regionals will be a reunion, but the first reunion was actually in 2015. Born and raised in the Church of God, Ben’s aunt is no stranger to the movement. The late missionary Susan Hardman’s contagious commitment to Christ—both in mission and methods—are evident today her nephew, now a highly influential pastor to pastors.
“We are excited about all that God is doing in the Church of God right now,” Ben explains. “It’s a wonderful movement, and we consider it a huge honor that we are invited to share and train for a few hours at each convention.”
Ben’s not the only one who has felt the new wind blowing through the movement. When he considers the direction of the Church of God in recent years—rallying around Jesus as the subject, calling churches to reclaim what hell has stolen, and now emphasizing the abundant life that Jesus gives—and that we are called to give—Ben rejoices.
“Jesus is the full revelation of God, and our command to live as he lived and walk as he walked (1 John 2:6) is central to who we are at Gravity Leadership,” he explains. “Much of what we do at Gravity is help Christian leaders and pastors make disciples, lead like Jesus, and live on mission. The challenge of this is that many of the modern American church methods actually fight against disciple-making. We are committed to challenging leaders to not just understand the teachings of Jesus, but look deeply at the methods of Jesus, as well. We are thrilled to be partnering with the Church of God again!”
Unlike the workshops Ben led in 2016, this year’s events will also introduce some of the other voices of the Gravity Leadership team to the Church of God. “These are all leaders who have been making disciples and living on mission in their local context,” Ben explains. “They will share a love of practical wisdom and experience.”
All the work Ben’s accomplished in a relatively short period of time has empowered countless leaders to “re-imagine discipleship and navigate the mission of God together.” Despite the challenges inherent in ministry, Ben keeps pressing forward. “I am a pastor, myself,” he reflects. “I know how difficult and challenging ministry can be, and I know what it can take from you. The comment we get most often from pastors who go through Gravity Leadership Academy is that their lives are so much healthier today. For many years as a pastor, I believed that God was disappointed in me—that I could never really do enough to please him. I have begun to see my identity as a son and not a slave.”
But the heart of a shepherd, especially a shepherd for other shepherds, is a tender and vital organ. It must be cared for, or it cannot truly take care of others. “People know me and see me at my worst and my best,” Ben reflects. “I think it’s really easy for pastors in our culture to hide—to never really be known apart from the pulpit. When you’re doing life with other believers, eating meals with each other, and being honest about what’s going on, that makes the difference. I have mentors and leaders who invest in me. I have weekly conversations with people who are simply pouring into me. I am now so fired up about walking beside leaders and helping them rediscover the passion ministry once had for them. I have the best job in the world!”
Sit under Ben’s teaching at one of the Church of God Regional Conventions. Register today at www.chogconvention.org.