July 17, 2013 by cbbeard
I used to hate conferences. They interrupted my ministry rhythm, they were a hassle to get to, and they were often exhausting. So when I accepted my current position as Lead Minister at Christ Covenant Church, I was not all that excited that the elders of the church had stipulated within my ministry agreement that I was expected to attend three to four conferences every year. Three to four a year? If one conference is an exhausting, interrupting hassle, what would three or four do to my year?
But I filled one of those conference slots my first year with the North American Christian Convention. I was aware of the NACC pretty much all my life, but being that my previous position was youth and worship related, my one conference a year was specifically related to those emphases. But now that I had four conferences to attend, I could finally find my way to the NACC, and I’m so glad that I did!
Since then, I’ve been to many conferences; some were good, some less-so. But the NACC has become the one conference I choose every year. Each year I leave refreshed, energized, and connected and this year was no exception. There are three things about the NACC that keep me coming back year after year: the tribe, the ties, and the teaching. So without further ado, here are my thoughts from NACC 2013.
I am a lifelong member of the Restoration Movement (AKA Stone-Campbell Movement). I grew up an Independent Christian Church, and I am Lead Minister in a church that was merged from an Independent Christian Church and an a capella Church of Christ. Not only was my faith nurtured within the Restoration Movement, when I entered into church ministry I made a conscious decision to be a part of Restoration Movement churches. My heart and mind align with the principles and values of the Restoration Movement, and I believe that a commitment to unity and a return to the values of the church as God intended and revealed in the New Testament will result in the spread of the Gospel in ways that can only be attributed to God.
Our movement, however, has not been the pristine example of unity that our founders anticipated, and three “streams” of our movement have formed: the Independent Christian Church, the Churches of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ. I regret this division. However, the NACC has attempted to reunite our tribe year after year. I’ve never seen a gathering in which all three tribes are all present and represented. At different times throughout the week, members from each of the three streams appeared on the main stage, and that gives me hope!
At this year’s NACC, my wife and I experienced a special treat. Because the conference was held in Louisville this year, there was an option to participate in a tour of the Cane Ridge Meeting house which is nearby. This meeting house is where one of the Restoration Movement founders, Barton W. Stone, ministered, and it is the site of the Cane Ridge Revival which took place in 1801 and included 20,000-30,000 people and was a part of the Second Great Awakening. You can read more about the meeting house and the revival HERE.
Being a history buff, I thoroughly enjoyed touring the grounds which played a pivotal part in our tribe’s heritage. To sit in the balcony of the meeting house and sing praises to God with other brothers and sisters in Christ is an experience I won’t soon forget.
One of the taglines for the NACC in recent years has been “The Connecting Place” and what an accurate tagline it is! I absolutely cherish the opportunity to connect with people I know and meet people I don’t yet know. Here are some of the people I was able to connect or reconnect with:
- Three people who were adult-types at the church camp I attended as a kid, who I later worked side-by-side with as a youth minister.
- A former intern who worked with me in youth ministry, now the Children’s Minister in that church.
- A former youth group student who has become a great friend, and another former youth group student who is now a youth minister (also a great friend).
- The Senior Minister and his wife who I worked under as Youth and Worship Minister.
- Professors and Cohorts from my PhD program; one Cohort I met in person for the first time.
- I met a Bible College professor from Florida, a Christian resource editor and publisher from Ohio, a church planter from Texas, a Missionary Educator in the Dominican Republic, and a guy who is taking the Gospel to people in pubs in Indianapolis, among many more!
It is hard to quantify the value of the ties that are made and strengthened at the NACC. It is one of my favorite parts of the conference!
Of course, one of the central parts of the NACC is the teaching. Whether it be the various seminars and workshops or the main sessions that include a wonderful time of praise, God uses the teaching aspect of the conference to fill me, refresh me, and spark my imagination.
The theme of this year’s NACC was “Victorious” based on the Book of Revelation. Each main session , various people proclaimed God’s victory through the examination of this great book of the Bible. Each session*, I was able to tweet a quote out that stood out to me from the sermon. Allow me to restate those quotes and expand on them here:
- Matt Proctor – “If you are using the same word to describe your Doritos that you are using to describe Jesus, you are doing it wrong.” As NACC President, Matt kicked off the conference reminding us of the greatness of Jesus. Our language and lives should reflect that greatness and not reduce Jesus to less than he deserves to be.
- Aaron Brockett – “We should never be offensive in the way we present the Gospel, but we should never be afraid to allow the Gospel to be offensive.” In addressing the exhortations to the churches in Revelation 2-3, Aaron reminded us of our calling and purpose as the church.
- Randy Harris – “God’s team wins. Pick a team. Don’t be stupid.” This was Randy’s brilliant summation of the Book of Revelation. Randy also reminded us that there is no book in the New Testament that speaks of worshipping God more than the Book of Revelation, and our worship should reflect the worship there.
- Jon Weece – “If you want to see Jesus you will find him where he is always found in the Gospels…among the suffering.” Jon reminded us of the inevitability of suffering, as well as our call as believers to engage those who are suffering for the glory of God.
- Frank M. Smith Jr. – “Our message must not be sanitized, but it must be socialized.” Frank energized the room by boldly proclaiming about the boldness we must have as we carry out our responsibility, joining God in his mission. He reminded us that God is bigger than any human entity.
- Kyle Idleman – I missed getting a specific quote from Kyle, but in his sermon “See Evil Clearly” he reminded us that we should not be deceived by Satan’s tactics, and that we must be wary of the emphasis we put on politics and we must be wary of the influence pleasure has on our lives.
- Rick Atchley – “Church: remember…a new normal is on the way!” Rick eloquently reminded us of God’s plan that will reach fulfillment when Christ returns. Since we already have the victory, we should strive towards the goal with reckless abandon.
- Joni Eareckson Tada – Joni reminded us of the courage we are to have due to the hope that is available to us through Christ.
I wish I could fully and clearly communicate how the teaching at the NACC impacted me this year. While that is impossible, suffice it to say that I have been filled, energized, and inspired!
The North American Christian Convention has solidified itself as a can’t-miss conference for me and my wife. I truly appreciate the opportunities I have to be a part of the tribe, to connect and reconnect with others, and to soak in incredible teaching theologically and practically. I am grateful for those who work hard to make the NACC so special, and I am exceedingly thankful that my congregation makes it possible for me to attend!