By Carl Stagner
Church of God pastors and laypeople who descended on Fairfax, Virginia, and Safety Harbor, Florida, in September were the last to experience the impact of the Church of God Regional Conventions this year. By no means, however, were they disappointed. They were, in fact, the first to hear featured speaker Kevin Earley and regional guest speaker Brad Lomenick. The tested strategies and insights of host pastor Rod Stafford were only available in Virginia, and the deeply personal dare to dream came only from host pastor Terry Rolen in Florida. Jo Anne Lyon and Jim Lyon spoke at all five Regionals, but instead of tired, overdone messages, they brought refined words, fresh with content, anecdotes, exhortations, and inspiration. After the third 2018 Regional, the events took a three-month hiatus. But based on the new life breathed into the Movement this September, it was a busy summer for the Holy Spirit.
It was a unique blessing to be led in worship by the music ministries of Fairfax Community Church and Celebration Church at Columbia, Maryland, in Virginia; and by the worship leaders of Bayside Community in Florida. It was a unique blessing to receive the warm hospitality of the volunteers and staff of the host churches, and to gather in such stunningly beautiful facilities. After all, it was only this year that Fairfax Community Church completed their expansive addition for youth and children, and only a few months ago that Bayside Community Church renovated their sanctuary. One of the greatest wins of the five 2018 Regional Conventions has been hearing and seeing firsthand the ministries of five very different, incredibly dynamic Church of God congregations. Hearing God’s Word taught in these spaces served as a constant reminder that God has been, and continues to be, doing a mighty work in each host church.
Drawing from God’s Word, each anointed speaker delivered messages that were both memorable and meaningful. Jim Lyon’s messages took on an especially impassioned tone, as he made the strong connection between the abundant life Jesus offers and the Holy Spirit. He emphasized personal possession by the Holy Spirit and infilling of the Holy Spirit as keys to advance the kingdom that we all must embrace. We will never be able to be bold and reclaim what hell has stolen if we are not filled with the Holy Spirit: “We’ll never take any risks, nor even know what those risks are, without the lens of the Holy Spirit!” Jim exclaimed.
Of course, life requires death. The Scriptures are clear about that. The problem is we don’t often want to talk about, realize it, or deal with its applications in our spheres of ministry. Rod Stafford put it this way at the Fairfax Regional: “We all want resurrection, but no one wants to die. Resurrection requires dying first!”
The next week, in Florida, host pastor Terry Rolen led listeners on a deeply personal journey that brought him to the point of reclaiming the dreams hell had once dashed. Revealing how God had transformed Bayside Community Church set the stage for a challenge to the portion of the Movement gathered there. “When the people of God begin to dream again and step out, God will unleash resources you have no idea about!” God provided for Bayside; why not your church?
Kevin Earley, in both Fairfax and Safety Harbor, pulled no punches. He urged the Church of God to reclaim adventure, to reclaim a sense of urgency for the gospel, and to remember that we’re in a battle—but not against each other. Calling the church to battle and to unity, he insisted that “the church isn’t a cruise ship, but it is a battleship!”
Jo Anne Lyon, poignant and powerful, as always, pointed out that “God has called [pastors] not just to shepherd [their] congregations; he’s also called [them] to pastor [their] communities!” Brad Lomenick presented a highly practical message about leadership, based on the Bible and the years of experience he’s had equipping leaders through the well-known organization known as Catalyst. Among other important points he made, he asserted, “We are carriers of a gospel of hope, so let’s be Chief Inspiration Officers!”
From the Town Halls with Jim Lyon to the Town Halls with Paul McAllister; from the outstanding electives led by the stellar staff of the host churches, to the various receptions and meetings; from the edge of nation’s capital to the edge of Tampa Bay—the final two 2018 Regional Conventions were the perfect conclusion to a year of receiving, hearing, and embracing Life like never before.
So, what’s next? The Church of God Convention 2019 and General Assembly, of course: June 27–30 in Orlando, Florida. The Spirit’s two steps ahead on this one, too! Register at https://www.jesusisthesubject.org/convention-2019/.