By Carl Stagner
It wasn’t so much the wind sweepin’ through the plain, but there was quite a bit of rain at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Nevertheless, the dreary skies seemed to have little or no impact on the mood of those gathered for Day 2 of the Regional Convention of the Church of God; after all, God was busy raining down blessing after blessing throughout the day. From a riveting message by host pastor Marty Grubbs, to an evening graced with the amazing voices of Sandi Patty and Don Peslis, the closing day of #LifeOKC was anything but dreary. During the day and after the closing service, convention-goers absorbed as much as they possibly could from every hard-hitting sermon, uplifting worship song, meeting, seminar, reception, and divinely orchestrated encounter. As a result, the portion of the Church of God that chose to make the second of five Regional Conventions this year their event-of-choice went away with tablets full of notes and quotes, hearts full of awe and wonder, and stomachs full of great Oklahoma City barbecue.
Sometimes the truth hurts. But Jesus also said the truth will set us free. “Life more abundant and free” (“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”) is the kind that Christ offers, the kind he breathes into us. On Wednesday, attendees of the Regional Convention in Oklahoma City embraced this kind life, but as with all spiritual growth, growing pains can be present.
When Marty Grubbs spoke, his words from firsthand experience pastoring the largest Church of God congregation in the country brought listeners face to face with some hard realities. Jo Anne Lyon’s message about injustice, reconciliation, and grace—complete with incredible stories of global transformation—compelled listeners to intense moments of introspection. Jeff Whye’s personal stories of growing up in a still racially divided Church of God were stories we needed to hear, though they may have been hard to hear. The Town Hall on reconciliation, led by Paul McAllister, was fruitful, though, at times, painful. And Don Wilson’s sermon, which challenged the complacent inward-focus of too many churches today, certainly stung a bit, but, as he said, “If you have love without truth, you have liberalism. If you have truth without love, you have legalism.” (Speaking of pain, he also said of a common experience among pastors, “Migrating Christians will give pastors migraine headaches!”)
There were also moments of great progress and fellowship. Pastors and laypeople posted several pictures on social media of reunions of friends from long ago—including some unexpected encounters and connections that reminded everyone that, as it has been said, “It’s a small world in the Church of God!” Not only did friends reunite from churches near and far, but also, as Handel Smith of Church of God Ministries reports, there were “amazing kairos moments and stories” shared among the regional pastors when they gathered for lunch on Wednesday. Even meetings and matters of business were God-moments of eternal consequence. But the experiences that many will remember the most from Wednesday at #LifeOKC was the worship.
In the morning, Sandi Patty rose to the piano bench and husband Don Peslis stood to lead the gathered saints in some of the classic heritage hymns of the Movement. The harmonies resonated in the expanse of the Crossings Chapel, a perfect acoustical setting for singing. Only one thing matched that beautiful harmony: the eternal truth contained in the lyrics of “What a Mighty God We Serve” and “I Am the Lord’s, I Know.” These moments in the morning were but a preview of what would come in the evening, however. A mass choir, orchestra, worship team, and Sandi and Don returned to the platform of the main auditorium at Crossings Community Church, joined by the local community, for a memorable and life-giving night of worship.
Feel left out of the Regional Convention experience? You don’t have to. Plan now to attend one of the three remaining events: Columbus, Ohio (June 19–20); Fairfax, Virginia (September 18–19); and Safety Harbor, Florida (September 25–26). Visit www.chogconvention.org to register today!