Engage 21 Comments

Guys, I’m rolling out from Engage 21.  It was great meeting a ton of you guys.  I left feeling like this had been really productive…awesome stuff.  When I get some time, I’m posting up my notes.  In the meantime, share your feedback…love to hear it.


30 Responses

  1. I felt as if the first night was weird and many walls of defensive were up. However, friday was great! I feel our church leaders sincerely want a new generation of young leaders to rise and carry the COG into the 21st century. I also feel our church leaders are willing to let inovative and missional churches to rise up and do things out of the box. I’m hoping the hole has been patched and we will stop seeing our inovative leaders leave our denomination and go independent. I have hope after Engage 21, but I must warn every emerging leader that we shouldn’t be disapointed or shocked if we get a lot of flack from those who want to stay in the 20th centruy.

  2. Travis, first of all, it was great to see you and so many of the younger emerging leaders in the Church of God in attendance at Engage 21. I realize that many were skeptical for many reasons and I appreciate your taking a chance and attending. I appreciate the warm comments many shared with me personally. As a member of the planning team, my greatest desire was that many of our young leaders would sense a sincere opportunity for coming together for the purpose of connection and to share their personal visions and concerns. It was encouraging to me to hear from many who benefited from the various aspects of the conference.

    This is simply the first step in a process. I appreciate the Executive Committee for their role in setting this up and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be involved in the planning. Granted, things in the future will perhaps be done differently and I strongly encourage young leaders who attended to respond with their comments and suggestions!

    There are many of us in my generation who are also experiencing tension. I read a quote recently by Lou Gerstner of IBM in ‘The World Is Flat” book:

    “The transformation of an enterprise begins with a sense of crisis or urgency. No institution will go through fundamental changes unless it believes it is in deep trouble and needs to do something different to survive.”

    Change comes from within. However, my concern is that we are so caught up in our comfort zones where the light abounds that we don’t even see; we’re not even aware of the darkness around us in our world! I just don’t believe that God intended for us to build great churches whose sole purpose is feeding the saints and making them feel good.

    I’m just at a point of tension in my life and I really need the Lord to direct my steps. I feel a tugging to my past, a loyalty to my dad’s generation, to my grandfather’s generation. And at the same time, I feel a tug towards going where no one has ever gone before-the next generation of leaders. That conflict ever resides within me and at times the stress of it becomes greater. Perhaps the struggle will help me to measure my desires, my action, and my plans a little more dangerously.

    I guess I’m looking for some who will stand and ‘save the cheerleader, save the world’…know what I mean? I believe I saw some at Engage 21 who are willing to go to the dangerous places? I believe that we have those kinds of leaders in the CoG!

    I would like to request some comments and suggestions. As a member of the YCE departmental staff, with the portfolio which includes Christian education/discipleship, as well as children’s ministry and Sunday school, I would like to know how we might be able to resource the emerging church. Please know that I really do want to help and sometimes we don’t appear that we do desire to help because we don’t know where the help is needed or desired. I welcome any suggestions and pledge personally to take seriously any ideas presented.

  3. Hey Tony,

    Thanks for doing your part to make Engage 21 happen. I really hope to see this event continue and mature. This was a good beginning.

    Although it was not exactly what we would all have liked it to be, I do think it was a big first step in the right direction. Tony Lane is a great guy and trust me when I tell you that he has great ideas that, if allowed to be heard, will bring this conversation forward light years. Tony – YOU’RE THE MAN!

    I was at Engage for most of the conference. I missed Thursday night, but bought the DVD and watched it. I sat on the panel discussion about “Enpowering 21st Century Pentecostal Leaders” (response to Dr. McMahan’s paper). Here are my initial thoughts about Engage 21.

    -That we had the conference (great first step)
    -Raymond Culpepper’s attitude and demeanor toward it. He clearly was excited and engaged (sitting on the edge of his seat, hanging on everyone’s every word). I think he REALLY gets it. Not sure the rest do.
    -Ed Stetzer
    -Brian Hunter
    -Sam Santana

    -Lack of identity (no one really knew what this was supposed to be. This is to be expected, however, as this is a first for us)
    -Whining about recognition (Give me a break!)
    -The discussion about “Empowering 21st Century Pentecostal Leaders” got turned into a discussion about “What is Pentecost” (how did that happen?)

  4. Tony,

    From the first time I met you, you were genuinely interested in me with no strings attached. Thank you. You make a difference in people’s lives.

    I have to tell you that I’m glad that I came. I made a lot of new friends and stretched some existing relationships as well. I also ended the conference with more hope than when I came. I was already hopeful. I left full of hope. I also left with the knowledge that the road ahead won’t be easy. It will be good though. For all of your effort, exchanging emails, phone calls, and for putting up with my dysfunction, I have to say thanks again.

    Thank you for talking about your tension. I understand what you’re talking about. For me, the tension finally broke when I realized that my decision-making filter that honored the Christian sub-culture I lived in was more powerful than my filter that honored my mandate to share Jesus and to live life “in the neighborhood” (John 1:14). So, I broke my sub-culture filter.

    I realized that my great grandfather would be hugely disappointed in me if I had more passion for maintenance that I did for the Jesus Mandate. I began praying for the 60 families that are my neighbors. I started going to their parties, throwing parties, watching football with the guys, and doing life with them…no matter what they were doing at the same time. In the year that I’ve been living in my neighborhood, I now have 13 families that are at Life Pointe every week. Only two of those families were in church before that. Eventually, the tension breaks.

    With that said, you are placed strategically…a bridge between two worlds. Maybe you are the guy in the COG that’s going to do what Ed talked about. Maybe you’re the guy that takes arrows for some of our young leaders. So, maybe the tension you’ll live in is a different kind of tension – one that has to balance cultural realities with political realities that accompany your job. That’s tough. I’ll be praying for you and ask that God gives you favor to speak into our lives and into the lives of our fathers.

    You said a mouthful in your response. Already my response is too long. We might need to open a new thread in a few days on resources and get some more feedback in addition to what I’m going to share.

    There’s a lot to chew on, especially when it comes to resources. I have some thoughts, much of which I’ve processed through over the past 12 months. Prior to that, I was struggling to figure out a lot of basic church systems and still am…just not at as rudimentary of a position as I was. I’m glad to have figured some basic stuff out that had been holding us back.

    Even though I had been a part of a great church at North Cleveland and was even responsible for some critical systems, I didn’t understand a lot of it to the degree and from the perspective I needed to – at least not for our paradigm.

    A few things have helped me:

    1. Peer Resourcing. There have been so many key resources that we’ve picked up from other guys that have helped us. It has never been cheaper to share or easier to adapt than now. Also, I’ve found that the “broker” we are, the more creative we have to be. The result is there is some great resources floating around out there created by guys you’ve probably never heard of before. A resourcing/sharing/generosity culture has to be created among us. As we find stuff, we need to point one another to it.

    That’s one thing I try to do by blogging. So, maybe the way we go about it is to get more people communicating in this arena. I have about 10 blogs I need to add to the blogroll…getting a couple new ones every day. But, I think this is something we can build into our DNA going forward…a culture of sharing and generosity. We can rely on user generated content distributed among us.

    2. Coaching. Winfield Bevins and I have been talking about creating some coaching opportunities for pastors. Something that goes beyond our Pastoral Covenant Groups. We’ve both been coached, he through Acts 29 and me through Nelson Searcy of the Journey Church in Manhattan. I’ve gotten about 50 COG guys to go to his events and about a half dozen that have been accepted into one of his coaching networks. I’ll be going into his advanced network this spring.

    It was a huge benefit for me. We nailed small groups (our fall registration was 92% of our Sunday average. In the 4 weeks following the kickoff of our fall semester ’07, we grew by over 100 people) and assimilation (we’ve hammered this area and are moving people from guests into ministry rapidly…over 50% of our Sunday attendance volunteers in a weekly ministry).

    We need to walk our guys through systematic pastoral coaching on 6 or 7 of the systems of the church. I never learned anything at Lee or the Seminary about Church Systems. I did learn how to effectively shepherd about 75-100 people. I didn’t learn how to be strategic in my leadership of the church. But, I did in my coaching environment…a lot from my coach and a lot from the other 11 pastors that were going through with me.

    I’ve written too much. To sum it all up, “THANKS.” Thanks for a great couple days. It was an event unlike any other COG event I’ve been at. I know there are some things we can do better…no doubt. But, I think it is an event that went exceptionally well…something that we can build on. As you build, know that you have someone in Travis that is 100% supportive, will participate, and who will stretch and be stretched in the process.

    Thank you.

  5. I was not at the conference, so I won’t comment regarding it..

    Travis, you mentioned your education at Lee and Seminary. I too have a Pastoral Ministry major. I chose this because it seemed more practical and hands on than Bible and Theology… I can’t say there has been much I could apply either from a strategic point of view.
    After a failed attempt at a church plant right after graduation, and another 4 years to reflect on it, I am pursuing a secular master’s degree in Human Services Management and Leadership. It covers things like Program Evaluation, Leadership, Strategic Planning, Fiscal Management, Grant Writing, Staffing and Supervision, Building Multicultural Organizations, and more.. I saw the deficit and found a degree that met the need.
    I don’t say this to cut on Lee. I loved it, and would have done it again. But I would have double majored in Ministry and something else like Business.
    As far as resources go, the COG would do well to provide young leaders with the type of skills I am learning through Springfield College (YMCA school out of MA).
    For me, I feel like I know WHAT to do, but not HOW to go about it.. I think Pete Zefo mentioned something similar on actscelerate. A degree from Lee, or CIMS, or some of the other resources the COG offers tell us WHAT to do, but coaching, and other resources with more depth could provide the HOW TO that some of us need. Currently, I get most of that from reading numerous blogs from successful church planters and pastors.

  6. Tony,

    Although I was not able to attend Engage 21, I am very encouraged by the energy and efforts of leaders like you. Thank you for standing in the gap for an emerging generation of leaders and for taking time to post on this site. I think this speaks volumes. I want to commend the International Offices for opening the dialogue by hosting Engage 21 and I personally believe that this is a step in the right direction for us all. I hope that this is just the beginning of many more dialogues to come.

    I would also like to encourage everyone that if Tony says he wants your feedback, he means it! He has been an advocate for emerging leaders in the COG for years. Send him your comments, suggestions, and questions and he will respond.

  7. Travis, Jerry, and Winfield, while I am not looking for affirmation, I appreciate your kind words. I do have a concern and have expressed to several in leadership, regarding the young leaders in our church. I just don’t want to see any of you leave. I appreciate what you are doing and you have proven yourself through your faithfulness to the mission which has been given to you by God. When I hear about the impact you are having on your communities, I am encouraged. Yes, go ahead and do it a different way, please! Whatever it takes to reach the unbeliever, by all means, do it! I have been a behind the scenes supporter for several years. Just ask Brian H. And when I ask for your input, it’s a sincere request. I would love to hear your ideas as to how we can assist you in the area of Christian education/discipleship, and children’s ministry. I do believe in you! I’m available if you want to talk. I’d love to hear your story!

    Travis, maybe we should start another thread regarding what emerging leaders and pastors need in the way of help and resources regarding these areas of ministry.

    Blessings! I serve Him when I serve you!

  8. I enjoyed hanging out with you guys at Engage. I think I enjoyed the personal conversations around the dinner table as much as I did the conference (what I was able to attend). Right now I’m on my way back to Cleveland after spending the weekend celebrating my gpa’s 85th birthday. I’m sitting in Maccaroni Grill in B’ham enjoying a 3-berry tiramisu and surfing the Net. 🙂 But, I wish I could have stayed at the conference longer (instead of hitting the road after lunch Friday).

    I don’t even know how to explain Thursday evening– I left thinking “Why am I COG?” I also would have perferred to have seen stats from the last 5 years instead of from 1970 to the present. But Friday AM was better. I’m planning to purchase CDs from the afternoon and evening services I missed.

    My reason for attending the conference was to give me some idea of what the COG is thinking about its future ministry– and if there is a place for me in that. I understand my calling, but I sometimes question if the COG understands it (or even perceives me capable to fulfill my calling). And, I often feel isolated because I’m not a pastor or church planter. There is very little contact for non-pastoring ministers to know what is going on in the church– other than reading the Evangel. Sometimes I think my time just hasn’t come to do what I feel led to do, but other times I think that my lack of family connections within the system limits me. Please know I’m not meaning this as a slam– just expressing my personal frustration. As I’ve received mentoring outside of the denomination and other opportunities have arisen as a result, I question whether or not I should move into these other ministry networks. My roots are deep in the COG– going back 99 years. However, I am the last person my age in my family line that is left in the COG. Part of why I went to Engage was to help me discern if I should remain or leave the ministerial ranks in the COG. However, I’m very thankful that I did not stand up Thursday evening and share my heart.

    I really wish I could have stayed throughout the conference. It seems like the best is what I missed. Anyway, it was great to see friends and make new friends. I’d just ask that you guys keep praying for me so that I will have clear direction about my future ministry path. Now… back to this aweome dessert. You all must try one!

  9. Louis, sorry for the disconnect that you are feeling. I would love to get together with you and hear your story.

  10. Tony,

    Thanks for your part in Engage 21. I came very skeptical and left very encouraged. We planted a church 2 years ago and honestly struggled with the whole COG thing. I’m glad we stayed. I have a hope that generations are finding a common bond and goal.

    I agree that the best thing for emerging leaders is coaching and networking. We are by nature info. freaks. The more info I can gather from others in my situation, or from others who have been in my situation, the better equipped I am.

    Resources and tools are pretty plentiful. More important to me is coaching on how to implement those resources to facilitate health and growth in my community. Thanks again for your eagerness to listen and help.

  11. Engage 21?

    I am still processing what I experienced last week but here are my thoughts so far…

    The words of Malachi 4:5 & 6 were ringing in my ears. It is the part where Malachi said that God would send the prophet Elijah before great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.

    I went to see Dr. Moore before Engage 21 started and I asked him if he was going to the conference and in the course of our conversation concerning the prophetic message of he gave back in 1996, he said that it was mine to carry now and he wasn’t going to attend.

    I had a great sense of anticipation that God’s Spirit was going to do something powerful at Engage 21 but at the end of the first night I felt like we were missing the mark and the speakers were not connecting with what is really going on. So, I felt compelled to deliver the message to Dr. McGuire. So, after the conference I approached Dr. McGuire in humility desiring to communicate the heart of this message to him. My hope was that God would use this message to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. Suffice it to say, that conversation did not go as well as I would have hoped.

    The next day was much better! Brian’s message also made me cry and touched me deeply. His humility and transparency was refreshing and anointed. In Brian’s obedience I saw the first glimpse of God turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers as Dr. McGuire and the rest of the executive committee responded and prayed for Brian. Brian exhibited the anointing, humility, honesty and transparency that heals and unifies Christian communities. He did not hide the bad or the struggle.

    Ed Stetzer was awesome and insightful. But what was really significant to me was Travis’ question to him before we broke for dinner. Travis’ question encapsulated our missional desires, grief over those who speak in tongues but have no passion to reach the lost and our desire to connect with our elders. Ed admitted it was a great question but he did not have the answer.

    After the service ended I approached Dr. Culpepper and introduced myself. (I sent him a DVD of Dr. Moore’s message a week before I posted it on Missional COG) Dr. Culpepper thanked me for sending him the video and I explained that “my desire and the desire of others like me is not for the destruction of the COG but our hope is in the life that is found after the death to all that is not pleasing to the Lord. Our heart was heard in Travis’ question when he expressed his desire for the hearts of the fathers to be turned to the children and the children to the fathers. That is our desire!” He graciously received the message I delivered and he expressed a heartfelt desire to bring us in from the fringe as Ed Stetzer encouraged in his presentation.

    At the end of the night, before Dr Culpepper led us in the Lord’s Supper, the words he spoke were full of life and hope. He said with no malice in his voice, he stated, I know that there are many who believe the Church of God is dying but still see hope for the future.

    I believe Dr. Culpepper through his obedience to the Holy Spirit, united the generations and our common hope for healing, life and restoration. I believe this is the beginning and Initial Evidence that God is turning the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to the fathers… a very good thing!

    (I need to get the videos, sorry if the quotes are not exact)

  12. This past weekend can be described in two words…interesting and insightful. I found it interesting that Thursday night our general bishop spent the better part of an hour and a half covertly and overtly telling the “emerging leaders” in the COG how they were all wrong and how great the denomination has been since the 1970’s.

    I quote “recognition…recognition…give me a break, preach!!” I did not sense God’s love in this, nor did I sense a desire to actually hear anything that had been said by any of those whom he was clearly addressing.

    It was so clear that the entire atmosphere of the conference shifted when he took the stage. I have said this before, maybe on this site, but I did not know the COG even existed until I moved to Tennessee three and a half years ago. Since that time I have seen a lot of form and function, but little organic community.

    Although I hold my credentials in the COG, and now am baptized in the holy spirit (with the initial evidence that seems to be more important than preaching Jesus), I did not grow up that way. I grew up catholic, and I have seen form and function at it’s best, and most of what I have seen in the COG in the last few years has been a counterfeit of it at best.

    Here is the point…I was very disappointed to see the head of our movement/organization be completely defensive about the greatness of an organization and the supposed lack of understanding we have for it.

    Jesus said that they(the lost) would know us by our love…would they have known us Thursday night? No, they would have seen subversive and heavy handed combat take place form the top down, this to me is unacceptable, and until the heart behind that chastising that we received changes, nothing in this denomination will.

    I am sorry Matt that I am not as convinced of the hope that we have for the future. I did see Dr. Culpepper’s heart in every word he said. He was genuine. and his heart is pure and loving. If he is the future…then yes there is hope.

  13. Sorry for the length of the last post, had a lot to say. Side bar…Ed Stetzer was incredible. It was also great to see you Trav and meet some new people. I pray God continues to use all of you guy’s in an incredible way.

  14. Leonce,
    I hear you brother! I have hope because God is greater then our system. I have hope because of people like you, Travis, Tom, Brian Hunter, Tony, Dr. Culpepper, Dr. Moore, Mike Chapman, Mark Swank and many others.

    If we look at the contrast between Dr. McGuire and Brian Hunter we see the kind of leadership we have vs. the kind of leadership we need and want. Raw, honest, transparent, full of love and pain.

    One last thing… hope is not placed in the institution nor recieved from it. Our hope isn’t even in the man Dr. Culpepper, no matter how great he is. Our hope must be in the Lord as we obey and then see the fruit that God ordains. There was hope when the children of Israel were sent into bondage. Their new king was Nebuchadnezzar, and that was God’s will! So remember to vote!

    I’ll talk more later about it. I have to go take care of my Airmen.

  15. Thanks for that bro. and I totally agree with you…God is bigger than it all, and in Him my hope never wanes…Thanks for your voice and your heart…

  16. Thanks, Tony.
    Let’s get lunch one day soon. I’ll email you my contact info.

  17. I’m 50…soon to be 51…and, listening to the likes of Travis Johnson, Buck Marshall, and Leonce Crump…that would make me “old.”

    Conclusion: I am an old Pentecostal guy…that’s cool too. (Spirit filled shuffle board…that’s me!) I like what the bible says about Old Pentecostal guys… “and the old men will dream dreams.” Old Pentecostal guys still have a dream.

    #1 – I enjoyed the Engage 21 conference (as other have said) in terms of the future potential of this initiative. This was a start.

    #2 – I am disappointed that the “recognition” emphasis/dialogue was pointedly mandated by the printed material that was distributed…and when the guys responded in accordance to the discussion guidelines…it appeared they were slammed. Disappointment: The next time they are asked what they think…they may not communicate.

    #3 – I think those of us who are farther along the path of life must bear the responsibility of listening and responding redemptively. (By the way…”redemptively” doesn’t mean being non-confrontational or failing to speak in a corrective or directive fashion). Spiritual fathers provide context for new vision.

    #4 – I enjoy (REALLY enjoy) hearing God’s young leaders…they see things in ways I do not. They hear the cry of empty culture in a way I do not. I want to see through their eyes and hear through their ears. So refreshing.

    #5 – We talk about our “Pentecostal Distinctive”…And I wish we would pursue more than the tongues part. What about this evidence: Old men/young men being so full/baptized by the Holy Spirit that the mission of Christ becomes super-ordinate above and beyond generational distinction.

    The Acts 2 “Pentecostal Distinction” is unique in that it removed “distinctions”… I guess I would expect that we who are pentecostal would be inherently prone to embrace diversity more readily…whether generational, social, racial, gender, etc. That would certainly make us “distinct.”

    If we are pentecostal we will not fear that the “young men’s visions” will steal the “dreams of the old men.” The barrier has been removed….we are Pentecostal. Pentecost says, “dreams and visions work together…inseparably.” My “old man” dreams are not threatened by the vision of young men. They need my dreams to empower their vision. I need their vision to stretch my dreams.

    Finally – Young men will become old men one day.
    What kind of “old dreamers” are we making out “young visionaries?” If today’s vision is tomorrows dream…and we crush the spirit of the visionary what will they become when I am gone? Answer: Dreamless “old men” of tomorrow who were convinced earlier in their life of the futility of vision? And so it will continue…….

    So……..bring your vision, your ideas, your limitless hope and faith. Make me laugh like a father and shake my head at the stupid ideas that can certainly never come to pass…after all, your just children that really haven’t learned that your faith has limitations.

  18. It was a joy to be with everyone at Engage 21, an opportunity to affirm, recognize and connect. The insights and personal sharing was refreshing and a blessing. I was able to talk to several one-on-one during the conference. Would have liked to have the opportunity to talk with others, people I knew and new relationships. Very important to dialogue. I was at all of the conference.

  19. Thanks to all for the feedback…another record day on missionalcog.com. You guys have created an amazing little community here. Thanks again!

  20. One of my favorite things about Engage were some great new friendships.

    I don’t want to leave anyone out. But, to all the guys that came over to my place for the cookout, you guys were awesome. I should have smoked Jason Isaacs in a game of ping pong. I had him on the ropes but couldn’t close the deal.

    Apparently, we had a really great time. At one point, I was talking to Dennis McGuire and Lynn Hildreth in the hallway prior to a session. Leonce Crump #2, the former NFL’er and Defensive Tackle for the Oklahoma Sooners walked by and smacked me on the backside. I smiled and took it like a man. He’s a big guy. He can do what he wants.

    Tom Sterbens looks good in an apron…a decent chef too.

    John Stokes has the coolest name, second only to Leonce “numero dos.”

    Keith Whitt is cooler than the other side of the pillow.

    David Boggs fell head first into a bowl of peroxide.

    Patrick Ballington stood for the three hours straight talking…I began to wonder if he had a hemorrhoid that was bothering him.

    Matt Boyd is about the most decent human I’ve ever known.

    There’s more. I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

  21. Hey will it looks like I am a little late on my remarks from this past weekend. Over all i thought the weekend was good, I went into the conference with very low expectations. I really didn’t think i would get much out of it. But i was wrong.

    Over the course of the two day i got to reconnect with friends that i had not seen i a long time. I got to have some great conversation about church and what others were doing to advance the kingdom of God. Also, I got to hear Ed S. and that was by far the highlight of the two days.

    I cant wait to see how God continues to us… to be sent….to all people…with a message…empowered by the holy spirit. May we make our churches a safe place to hear a dangerous message!

  22. I learned one thing i have yet to share,

    Travis will eat dirt for dinner as long as they offer free Wi-fi.

    it really was a good weekend.

  23. I join with what many have already said.

    Thursday night was weird for me, but Friday morning was worth the price of admission. Friday afternoon and the night session just added on top of the blessing.

    I left feeling encouraged and proud to be COG for the first time in a long time.

    I really enjoyed making the connections at the BBQ.
    Travis, thanks for putting it together.
    Tom, thanks for cooking and pouring into me.
    Everyone else, thanks for hanging out…
    That fellowship was worth more than you will ever know.

    In closing, Matt Boyd is the MAN! I have huge respect for you. Thanks for all you do for the kingdom of God!

  24. I hate that I missed the weekend. It sounds like it was a really good start. I think there is something to the community being built right now through blogs and weekends like Engage 21. Relationships are going to be the key to this thing.

    Perhaps some type of fall “get together” is in order for those of us who missed the first cookout?

  25. Throughly enjoyed the conference. This was my first time hear Ed Stetzer. Simply brilliant! And Mary Ruth Stone had the insider line that will stay with me. If we going to reach the generations that come behind us, she said we have to be willing to admit “we were slaves in Egypt”. Tremendous wisdom here!

    Great to meet some new folks and learn what God was doing in their churches! I was encouraged by what I saw, heard, and… experienced! It was after all a pentecostal conference. 🙂

  26. First let me begin by saying how impressed and intimidated I am to see you guys blog as much as you do. Serving as pastor in a community where our church is really doing missional minstry has made far more demands on my time that I could have imagined. I can’t seem to get off the phone or out of meetings long enough to blog or dialogue with you guys like I want. But I read it all so keep posting.

    Travis’ comment about me having a hemorrhoid at the barbecue has drug me out — if he only knew that I actually had a “tail bone” issue just a week prior due to 57 hours of travel in 2 days by plane, train and automobile returning from India and immediately hitting the road for speaking engagements. The doctor called it “trucker butt”.

    While I was perfectly fine at the barbecue it is great to see Travis exercising a “Pentecostal Distinctive” through the gift of prophecy or wisdom. (I actually sat for a hour talking to Craig Harvey but Travis missed that).

    I really have grown to love Travis over the past year and the more we interact and more familiar I become of his story and journey and faith the more connected I feel. He has my vote to be the first Church of God Administrative Bishop of the Virtual State of Blog World.

    I found Engage 21 to be a mixed bag: stereotypical of most COG events on Thursday (Danny Murray singing “The Family of God” was over the top. I swear he was making fun of us and we were too clueless to pick up on it) and a surprisingly refreshing effort to engage a growing number of pastors who felt very marginalized if not rejected since the last General Assembly.

    I would hope that future efforts would include voices on the committee from the emerging / progressive / missional / etc. pastors and leaders. While the event ended with a positive tone for me and the majority of those who attended I can’t help but point out that the sessions (outside of Ed’s Stetzer’s) were answering questions few were asking.

    I was honored and incredibly humbled to be included on the panel discussion about Connecting but knew that most are not seeking ways to connect to other pastors or ministers — we want to discuss connection with unbelievers, unchurched, the culture and world. I made this point in an email to Mark Walker a few days before the event but the session was set and Mark had his instructions. He did a FANTASTIC job given the limitations.

    Having a few people on the planning committee could help improve future Engage efforts.

    A few years ago a couple of fellow minister friends and I offered ReFormation conference at Lawrenceville COG. The first attendance had about 200 with Len Sweet while the 2nd year had about 150 with Alex McManus. We got our topics from numerous conversations with those doing ministry on the fringes in the COG. Dr. Donald Walker and the N GA COG were VERY supportive and made the event possible — WITH NO STRINGS ATTACHED OR HIDDEN AGENDA. I have been pressed by several who attended to resume ReFormation and may consider doing so. The decision to not have the event the past 2 years was out of concern some of our leaders had that it was misunderstood as a possible “anti-COG event or movement”. THAT WAS NOT THE CASE. We just wanted to open dialogue and reduce the “threat level” that seemed to be growing between the traditionalists and emergents, the status quo and the ground breakers, the defenders of the COG and those striving to advance the kingdom.

    ReFormation was a step made by the “new COG” toward our COG fathers and leaders.

    I believe Engage 21 was a great step by our Cog fathers and leaders toward the “new COG.”

  27. Travis and Chris,

    Thanks for the compliment! You guys are too kind! I needed the encouragement and also your prayers this week. It seems all “Gehenna” broke loose on the AF Base while I was at the conference. You guys are great!

  28. You guys are all wonderful.

    It was great meeting some of you, and hearing your comments.

    I know I don’t know…

    I don’t know you guys. I don’t know the executive council even though they say they know me. (OK I know one but he doesn’t count). I don’t know my own overseer. I don’t know how to turn an old wineskin into a new one. I don’t know how to engage my urban neighborhood with my rural congregation.

    I know I don’t know…

    Twelve years ago when I worked the circles of Cleveland I felt a great connect to the COG. I felt I had a voice and was actually taken seriously…but I wish we had begun this dialogue then.

    When I was sent to pastor a dead church in North Carolina I was so focused on the stats that I missed out on any connections outside the COG…and any connections with ministers my own age (and younger) within.

    After being considered a “moderate success” statistically, I was asked to pastor what I refer to as “Sarah’s womb”.

    In the process of “taking” a “bigger-better” church I lost over 25% of the congregation because I couldn’t change things fast enough and buried another 25%. Of the remaining half, 1/3 believes I’ve moved to fast (6 years…too fast?) 1/3 believes I’m wasting my time and 1/3 will go on to their reward in the next five years.

    For the past 4 years I have been living off of an interdenominational city reaching partnership. Great things have happened in that arena. Not exactly the kind of stuff to report to HQ.

    But, now, the oldest Pentecostal church in my city is one year away from birthing “Isaac” (although it feels more like “Sarah” is dieing)…and I just don’t know if I can wait long enough to see it through.

    Going to this conference was probably one of the best things for me in at least 15 years…not because it made me feel better…but because it made me feel worse.

    Worse about what we/I measure success by…and worse about why I even want to “succeed”.

    I hear so many of you who to me are truly redefining success in ministry while simply being who you are destined to be, and sometimes I feel like I missed it.

    Sunday I turned 38. I am pastoring an 89 year old congregation in a community becoming more and more urban every day. I have 2 sons and a daughter who really don’t understand what being Pentecostal means but they can tell you what a Christian is.

    Basically, this conference challenged me on levels which I am still trying to process…and I can’t say where the denomination will go right now because I don’t even know where I will go.

    I am sure I will still be COG, but receiving an “Isaac” ministry while working as “Sarah’s” midwife will not be easy for myself or the COG until “Isaac” comes of age.

    I have more questions coming out of Engage21 than I had going in…and I hope that just because “I know that I don’t know” won’t mean that the questions go unanswered or worse yet unasked.

    At the end of the day, I am encouraged to deepen my commitment to Christ no matter what, when, where or how. For this I am grateful.

    None of this quite came out as I intended, and if it is too long or incoherent I apologize.

    Thanks for this forum Travis, and thanks for the conference Tony.

  29. Anybody know how much the DVDs from the conference are and where I could get them? I had hoped to attend, but various factors prevented me, most of all pneumonia. (If you can avoid pneumonia, by all means do so).

    Thanks. Sounds like the conference was in itself a growing pain of sorts.

    John Earp

  30. Pneumonia? Where’s your commitment, John?! 🙂

    Man, I hope you’re feeling better. I’ve had a slight chest congestion for about 3 1/2 weeks and I’m borderline miserable. I feel fine until I lay down. The next thing you’ll know we’ll be a bunch of old guys, puttering around and mumbling about our most recent hip replacement.

    Anyway, the videos are available. We’re going to boil a bit of it down and youtube it. But, I’d definitely recommend buying the vids. My guess is to contact the communications department.

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