By Carl Stagner
Do you dream of a local church that is healthy and growing? Do you dream of unity across racial lines? Do you dream of those “greater works” that Jesus talked about, or victory in a particular spiritual battle? Wednesday, Day Two of the Church of God Regional Convention in Safety Harbor, Florida, was a day of rekindling the fire, reclaiming the passion, and resurrecting dreams once lost in a world prone to busyness, burnout, and a blurring of what matters most.
Terry Rolen, host pastor and first to the pulpit on Wednesday, has observed that one of the first things to fall by the wayside when life abundant become life mundane is our dreams. Using an object lesson of two sports balls, one filled with air and one flat, he insisted that deflated dreams and lifeless spirit requires an infilling of the Holy Spirit and a refilling on God’s Word. He knows this personally, and poignantly shared his testimony. “There have been times in my life in the last five or six years when, if someone asked me to dream, I would have said I’m just trying to breathe,” he explained. “One thing I know is that’s not the abundant life.”
But Terry reclaimed what hell had stolen. He and Bayside Community Church began dreaming again, and dreaming big. Now in the midst of an incredible turnaround, the church has been able to pay down debt and renovate. As Terry’s words resonated throughout the room Wednesday morning, listeners observed firsthand the newly renovated sanctuary—the realization of a dream. “When the people of God begin to dream again and step out, God will unleash resources you have no idea about!” he exclaimed.
Jo Anne Lyon dared convention-goers to dream big, too, while avoiding the placement of unintentional limitations on what God can do. She’s seen and heard numerous examples of God coming through around the world in miraculous ways where only he can receive the glory; a few of these she sheared in fascinating detail on Wednesday. Urging the church to believe God for “greater things,” she put the simple, yet vital question on the table: “What is your ask?”
In the afternoon, Kevin Earley charged the saints to engage again in the spiritual battle, using 2 Timothy 2:3–4 as his primary text. Though the Word of God is clear that God’s church is victorious over the enemy, too many believers walk around defeated—and deflated. Through “Rev. Kev.” listeners heard and embraced life, reclaiming the dream that victory over the forces of hell is not only possible, but ultimately inevitable. Adventure returns to the Christian relegated to the sidelines when the battle is reengaged; there’s real life as a soldier for Christ!
The dream for unity and reconciliation is still alive in the Movement today. Like Martin Luther King Jr., the Church of God dreams of a better day. For the Church of God, that dream is one where Jesus is the subject—and nothing else. The panel on reconciliation on Wednesday afternoon, led by Paul McAllister, served as another step forward toward realization of that beautiful, God-given dream. The regional pastors’ luncheon and other activities through the day also further promoted a unified “Jesus people.”
Worship led by the Bayside worship team and a practical message about leadership from Brad Lomenick closed out the day and the fifth-and-final 2018 Regional Convention of the Church of God. Jim Lyon dismissed the crowd with the following inspirational words of benediction:
“As Jesus stood in the colonnade of the temple, he said, ‘The thief—the enemy of our souls, Satan the adversary—comes to rob, to kill, and to destroy. But I have come to bring life and life abundantly.’ As we began our meetings yesterday, I observed, even walking with Jesus, that we are in a world that takes life away from us. Yet, we want to receive life and give life as Jesus has done. If Jesus is the subject, we must be bold. If we’re to be bold, we should be taking back what hell has stolen. And if we’re going to take back what hell has stolen [especially life!], then we must give life.”
Convention information, including details about Orlando 2019, is available online at www.chogconvention.org.