Oct 05, 2018
I just returned from the inspirational three-day “Essential Church Conference,” hosted at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Among the 800-plus local church ministry leaders on hand, I’d love to introduce you to a few from close to home and one pastor as far away as South Africa! But first, what’s this annual conference all about and why was I there?
Essential Church is “a conversation” to help participants “explore the health, story, practices, structures, and power that are essential to our call as local church ministry leaders.”
The conference helps those of us who have a heart for the church to keep the main thing the main thing! “It’s so easy to get caught up in the pursuit of more," conference promoters said, "or to lose ourselves in the busyness of the urgent and the good, that we end up drifting from the center. It’s time to return to the heart of it all, to strengthen the core, to become best at what matters most.”
Just think about recent news headlines involving the church—pastors affected by #MeToo allegations, perennial church conflict issues, one pastor so overwhelmed he took his own life! Distressing! One presenter, Kay Warren—international speaker, best-selling author, and co-founder of Saddleback Church with her husband and The Purpose-Driven Life author, Rick—spoke about how essential it is “to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).
“You need to take care of yourself,” she stressed—spiritually, yes, but also physically and emotionally. “No one else is going to do it!” Among the resources she mentioned to help in so doing are books we use in our Church Ministries: The Emotionally Healthy Church and The Emotionally Healthy Leader. It was clear that conference participants—again, among the most committed people in their churches!—welcomed this exhortation as “a spring of water” (see Isaiah 58:11)!
Why was I there? One, God clearly wanted me to hear Kay’s message. Like many pastors and church leaders I connect with regularly, I have to pay close attention to balance. (I’m grateful for family and close friends who help me with this!) When it comes to ministry, I jump in with both feet! Kay was talking to me!
Second, fellow Navigators from the Rocky Mountain Region joined me in hosting a booth. We partnered with NavPress and had a booth that was chock full of resources to help church ministry leaders thrive as they focus on the essentials—living as healthy disciples who are used of God to make healthy disciples!
We connected with so many people there! I'll mention a few key conversations that I had:
Ryan is a young man in his late 20s, early 30s, who said he’s been looking for a mentor in his Montrose, Colorado, church for some time. Remember, here he was, a church leader himself, looking for someone to invest in him. When I introduced him to Side-by-Side—the life-to-life discipleship ministry God put on my heart in the late 1980s and have been practicing ever since—Ryan immediately caught the vision! “It’s so biblical,” he said. “And it works,” I added. He’s returning home with a new vision to come alongside others and help them grow spiritually—and to see how God helps him to do so at the same time!
Tony is a man in his early 40s who greeted me with a huge smile and a hug! Why? He was a former student of mine at Colorado Christian University (I teach classes from time to time as an affiliate instructor). He pulled me aside and asked if we could talk and pray. “I want to follow in your footsteps,” he said. “I’ve graduated from CCU and am planning to go to Denver Seminary. Then I want to return to CCU as a professor.” What a joy to lay hands on him, pray for him in light of Ephesians 2:10, and ensure that he had my contact information so I can continue to cheer him on!
Neville . . . He’s the pastor from South Africa I mentioned earlier. “I came here looking for resources,” he said. “And you came to the right place!” I responded. We had display copies of resources we often use in our ministries with churches—The 2:7 Series® and The Ways of the Alongsider. As the conference ended, we put copies of each in Neville’s hand for the journey back to South Africa. We also passed along a good solid contact from The Navigators for him to connect with back home!
We met so many other folks—again, the most committed members of their churches! Come to think of it, perhaps the main reason we were there was simply to show loving support
to these dear church leaders!
On a scale of 1-10 (not balanced to maintaining healthy balance), where are you? If you answered “4,” what would a “5” look like? What’s your best next step? Who can come alongside you to offer loving support
in this area?
If you would like to learn more about Dean's ministry with The Navigators, or if you would like to connect with him, please click here.