Thursday, June 17, 2010

Church developers called to ‘Plant Generously, Reap Bountifully.’

The New Church Development Conference was held May 20-22 at Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind. Was it a church planting conference or a Holy Spirit conference? It was hard to make a distinction as 120 participants gathered for the fifth biennial conference sponsored by the Church of the Brethren’s Congregational Life Ministries and New Church Development Advisory Committee, in partnership with the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership and hosted by the seminary.

Planters, district leaders, and revitalizing pastors attended this event, which challenged, inspired, connected, and equipped the church for new mission and ministry development.

Guest leaders Jim Henderson and Rose Madrid-Swetman provided provocative and practical perspectives and tools for connecting with non-Christians and engaging local communities with the transforming Gospel. Henderson challenged the gathering to "take back Jesus" from Christianity and stay focused on valuing the "outsider" unconditionally, while clearly following Jesus. Swetman shared the purpose for and practical forms of community-based servant ministry, drawing on her experience as a pastor/planter in the Seattle area. Swetman also shared her gift of spiritual insight through reflective listening and prayer leadership.

Workshops were led by Church of the Brethren planters and leaders, focusing on everything from holistic health for planters, to practical steps for beginning a plant, to the district’s role in supporting new plants. Thirty workshops were offered, including a complete track of workshops in Spanish. Translation was provided throughout the conference.

Worship and prayer rooted the conference. Preaching to begin the event was Belita Mitchell, a former Annual Conference moderator and current pastor of First Church of the Brethren in Harrisburg, Pa. Church planter Lidia Gonzalez provided the encouragement and challenge for the close of the conference. Worship was coordinated by Bethany professor Tara Hornbacker.

Two evening sessions were open to the public, the second of which drew an overall attendance of 180 people to hear two atheists talk about their experiences visiting local Church of the Brethren congregations. The interview with Willis and Shane was conducted by Jim Henderson and was alternately uncomfortable, enlightening, and motivating.

A photo album of the conference is online at For more information about new church development in the Church of the Brethren contact or Jonathan Shively at 800-323-8039.

-- Jonathan Shively is executive director of Congregational Life Ministries.

Source: 6/17/2010 Newsline

No comments: