By Carl Stagner
Salt does no good inside the shaker. A candle is useless unless it’s lit. Though Jesus called the church both salt and light, many in the Church of God have observed that we’ve not lived up to that description, often shirking back, afraid of the darkness. At the Church of God Regional Convention in Columbus, Ohio, pastors and lay leaders were present, but the especially powerful presence of the Holy Spirit was what really got people talking. The worship, the fellowship, the electives, and the spoken messages seemed finely tuned, clarifying the charge to the Church of God to boldly reclaim what hell has stolen. At a time when life is so widely taken for granted, when signs of true life are hard to find, and when lives are at stake for people around the world, the Church of God Regional Conventions this year are championing life at all stages, all ages, among all races, and under all circumstances. Perhaps like no convention before it, the Regional Convention in Columbus called the Church of God to courageous, contagious Christianity.
The regional guest speaker was Harvey Carey, who many in the Church of God remember spoke at an International Youth Convention several years ago. To the sound of Amens and applause, he said, “You can’t give life if you ain’t got life to give!” That’s why the Church of God Regionals have focused this year on receiving, hearing, and embracing life. Listeners were particularly blessed by the opening session, which featured key insights for doing just that, from the experience and expertise of Ben Hardman and Gravity Leadership. In our church organizations today that often resemble the world more than Christ, Church of God pastors must exercise soul-care. The pressure may be great to do more, do it faster, and do it better, but Ben Hardman reminded listeners that, “God isn’t waiting for us to get better. He’s waiting for us to get real.”
The problem, as First Church of God host pastor Timothy Clarke put it, boils down to our response to the gift we’ve been given. Like the gift cards he explained he received for Father’s Day, we have to first accept it. Even then, it does no good to carry the gift around in our wallet if we never use it. “The gift card must be activated, and that happens at the Source. Then I draw down the value.” Then we can, and must, “advertise it.” That is, we are compelled let people know that this gift is available to them, too!
Similarly, Harvey Carey said that salt is useless if not poured out. “I’ve never seen salt do any good while it’s still in the shaker!” he exclaimed. But much of the church has, in recent history, demonstrated fear of contamination by the world. Harvey responds, “Have you ever tasted ‘steaky’ salt? Neither have I! The steak tastes like the salt!” Drawing from 1 Samuel 17:32–40, he showed that the world’s condition is directly related to the church’s lack of involvement. Thankfully, we can do something. We’ve got to give life from the overflow we’ve been given. We can be courageous about it, too, because, as Harvey Carey reminded listeners, “The moment light shows up, darkness has to leave!”
The Holy Spirit also worked in and through Jo Anne Lyon, Jeff Whye, and Jim Lyon to challenge and equip the Church of God to accept and share this gift of life. Those who have not yet heard this combination of speakers should register now for one of the two remaining Regional Conventions, Fairfax, Virginia (September 18–19) and Safety Harbor, Florida (September 25–26) at www.chogconvention.org. Of course, there were a variety of other events that took place, speaking to the soul and reconnecting the five hundred saints convened in Columbus with each other and with the divine mission. The CWC Luncheon was one of those events, which seamlessly related Jesus’ offer of abundant life to the story of Jesus’ offer of living water in John 4. And when students, representing IYC, NIYC (National Inspirational Youth Convention), and the Hispanic Council (Concilio Hispano) came together for the ONE Event which followed the Regional Convention, there was a strong sense that the Spirit’s work had once again spanned not only geography and culture, but also the generations.
The Church of God Regional Convention in Columbus, Ohio, was a step forward for those who attended and for the Movement as a whole. Indeed, as Jim Lyon, Church of God Ministries general director, described it, “There was an unusual spirit of celebration, anticipation, and promise” as we recommitted to being salt and light. In the proclamation of the Word and in practice, the unity of the body over the third week of June in Columbus, Ohio, demonstrated that Jesus is the subject, and that he’s made us givers of life.
Early-bird registration for the Fairfax Regional Convention ends July 16; for Safety Harbor, July 23. Register today at www.chogconvention.org!