I had the opportunity to drive up to York, Nebraska last week for a Converge conference that focused on the revitalization of the church. I must say that this was probably the most practical conference I have ever attended. That would include conferences like T4G, Desiring God, Moody’s Pastor’s Conferences, and even Sunday School training conferences. Much appreciation goes out to John Hawkins and Joe Nissen, pastors at Arbor Drive Community Church, for hosting and planning a greatly helpful conference.
Brian Croft was the main speaker with Scott Riddell speaking for a session as well. While I don’t have time to go through the entire conference, I want to give five lessons I learned while there:
- Wolves mean stay. In the first session, Pastor Croft made it a point to say, “When wolves rip off their sheep’s clothing, it is a sign to stay and not leave.” It is so easy to look at adversity within the church and say, “I’m out of here,” but instead we are to stay and protect the sheep. The text with which he drew this was not the hired hands text of John 10, but 1 Corinthians 16:5-9. In which Paul indicated that there were two reasons he could not yet visit the church: 1) there was still work to be done where he was in Ephesus, and 2) there was a presence of many adversaries. We must persevere through adversity.
- Distinctions of pastors and deacons. Having recently gone to a plurality of elders, this was helpful. We have been trying to explain that there is a distinction but to articulate what those are has not been as clear as we’d like. Pastor Croft’s three points were helpful:
a. Elders teach; deacons are well-taught,
b. Elders have oversight; deacons have service,
c. Elders shepherd; deacons do practical works.
- Pastors are stewards/manager, not owners. Scott Riddell explained that as stewards we don’t get to make decisions about a company because we are not the owners, but managers. The difference between an owner and a manager is that an owner asks, “What do I want to do with my company,” while a manager asks, “What does the owner want me to do with his company?” We must always be doing the Lord’s will.
- God is our audience. Back in the day, Big Daddy Weave had a song called, “Audience of One.” For whatever reason, I had associated that with singing in worship, but not preaching in worship. Pastor Croft (though not bringing up the song) brought up that “though we preach to the same people every week, it is God who is the audience.” I, as a pastor, am not to preach to the itching ears of any person, but to the God whose word I expound.
- Pastors need fellowship with other pastors. It’s easy to forget that being around a group of guys can be good for the soul. I had the opportunity to sit around with a bunch of guys from Arbor Drive and other churches and talk, laugh, eat, drink, and relax. Even though I am pretty shy and don’t do well in crowds, it was great to meet new people and fellowship with them all. We had some great conversations and not all of them were about church or the Bible or spiritual matters.
There were breakout sessions as well; I got a chance to go to one on evangelism and one on rebooting, rebranding, and restarting. These workshops were immensely helpful, though I will not go into why at this time. I bought a lot of books, but books that I want to read immediately. Most were by Brian Croft, but some only had him writing the forward. I also won a book on revitalizing the church and am excited to get into that one as well. All that being said, it was good to go to a conference and hear from a non-mega-church pastor who is still in the trenches, but is willing to guide others along the way. Much appreciation to Brian Croft.