Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Converge MidAtlantic – Our Vision for the Future!

Intro Thoughts

I want to share some random thoughts about our vision as a movement for the coming years – some of the things that I know will define and continue to be a part of this region’s ministry well into the future!

It’s been an amazing privilege to serve Jesus here as Executive Minister for Converge MidAtlantic.  I’ve said many times that the Pastors, and Leaders, and Churches in this family of churches are THE BEST I’ve ever seen!

TRANSITION into Our Vision and My Story

Some of you know my story! I grew up in a church planter’s home in that State up North as folk in OH say! Mom and Dad and our family of 5 kids traveled around the State of MI and planted about 15 churches over a 20 plus year period of time.  We all helped dad  set up the schools and meeting places for worship.  We handed out bulletins, we did the music,  we took up the offering, and we all saw these little church plants reach and disciple people and grow to be strong churches for the Gospel.  While I didn’t realize it at the time, I later came to see first hand that planting of new churches is a huge part of God’s plan to reach people for Christ; that starting up Gospel lighthouses, is what the Apostle Paul did, and what Jesus has called us to continue.  From my early days,  I grew to have a deep love for the church, and came to see the local church as the only hope for our world.  

These early life experiences shaped who I am and have shaped what we’ve done together here in our movement; starting and multiplying churches.  I know the vision for future of Converge MidAtlantic will be about local churches. It will be about a movement of multiplication, of planting more and more and more new Christ centered congregations across our region.  And I want to challenge us all to dream and dream big for God!  I want to challenge us to be players in the multiplication of churches and congregations – to constantly look outward – to think Kingdom of God, rather than our kingdom, to grow an orchard of trees, not just one big fruit tree. 
I think our 100 congregations here in the MidAtlantic can do more to multiply, to reproduce new congregations. One of our church plants has recently adopted a dream to birth 1100 new congregations over the next 25 years.  Another is visualizing a network of 10,000 worshipers across their area through multiple congregations.  I can see hundreds, if not thousands of Converge type congregations planted all across our region through this movement in the coming years.  I want to challenge us to embrace this dream together!

I had the opportunity to study at Bethel College and Bethel Seminary, along with my brothers Dave and Doug, and sisters Deb and Dee.  In fact, mom and dad had the unenviable privilege of helping to send 5 kids through Bethel University, and then one way or the other, helping send each of them or their spouses through Bethel Seminary as well.  There at Bethel I came to see the message of the Gospel for what it is – the Good News about Jesus, about his mission to bring the reign of God here to planet earth, about his death on the cross, his powerful resurrection, and the hope of heaven He came to offer.  Over the years, I’ve tried in my preaching and leadership to keep the main thing the main thing – the keep the message of the Good News at the core of what Converge and Converge churches teach and preach, so that while we may disagree on some of the minors, and have differing convictions about certain understandings of Bible, it’s the mission and message of Jesus, crucified, buried, risen, and coming again, that unites us together.  

I’m confident this message will be central to our vision and ministry as a movement of churches for years to come. And I do want to challenge each pastor to keep the main thing the main thing. Focus on the Good News of Jesus.  Invite people to enter into a relationship with the living Christ, and to grow in their love and obedience to Jesus.  In your preaching, ensure that text of Scripture is your authority.  Let’s all make sure we live under the authority of Christ and His Word.   My vision for our future is that the message and story of Jesus will be what fuels our movement; that our love for Christ will run deep in us and through us as leaders and as churches.

I had the wonderful privilege of planting my first church at age 25 out in Portland, OR.  Then, 8 years later, our family moved to Houston, TX where we planted 2 more churches for the BGC/Converge.  Those 9 years in TX were really difficult.  In some ways, that was my desert experience. We were outside of any Converge District Conference.  My wife, Lynnea, who grew up in a dairy farm in southern MN, struggled in the 4th largest city of the U.S.  I learned that I would rarely if ever recommend pioneer church planting to any of my friends.  It was really a tough time of ministry.  But through that desert experience, God shaped by heart in a big way!  He brought another leader into my life, an African American church planter, who the BGC had sent to Houston to also plant a church. Junnus Clay and I literally became soul brothers.  We spent a lot of time together.  We learnied about each other’s stories. We helped each other out in each other’s ministries.   We became a salt and pepper team as it were.  We beat each other up every week on the racket ball court.  Later on, God sent a Latino leader to join our TX team.  And through that 9 years of desert experience, God gave me a big heart for diversity – for reaching and working together with the mosaic of people who are a part of the cities and towns all across our country.  

And while Converge MidAtlantic is currently about 33% non Anglo, I know that the future vision for our regional movement will be increasingly diverse.  The picture in my mind is of a growing movement that becomes even more diverse, that reaches into more and more and more of the cultures and ethnic groups across our region, that models unity in the midst of diversity, that breaks down racial divides that hinder the church’s witness to the world. You all, we can do this.  We can lead the way in biblical diversity for the whole Converge movement.
For 23 years, God blessed me with a beautiful and talented ministry partner. She’s the mother of a wonderful daughter, Anne Marie.  She was a servant, and had a pure heart for God.  When the Lord took her home to heaven in 1998, the loss and sadness was crazy tough. But as Reggie McNeal says in his book, A Work of Heart, God does some of his best heart shaping out of loss.  It was out of that loss and pain, that God taught me reliance on him and on others.  As a struggling widower, one day we received 5 huge boxes of packaged meals from Calvary Church in State College – meals that would last our struggling family for about month.  Pastor TL Rogers came up to me one day, and said, Brother Dan you need a makeover.  Let’s go shopping for some new clothes.  After a full afternoon of shopping in the men’s stores out in MD, I came home with 3 or 4 new suits, shirts, ties, all at Pastor Rogers expense.  I learned the power of community.  During this time, God also widened my bandwidth for ministry as my story connected with so many others who were or are experiencing pain and loss. 

It was out of this horrible loss that I discovered the beauty and wonder of God’s grace, as He brought another fantastic life partner into my life. She was a Christ follower who had also lost her sweetheart spouse, an awesome lady who had learned to trust God as a widow, while having the responsibility of caring for a handicapped daughter.  Sandi and I will celebrate 17 years of marriage this summer. 

I’m convinced that my story of loss and pain and of God’s goodness shapes who Converge is at its core.  We value people.  We value personal and emotional health.  We value healthy marriages in ministry. We’re family.  We minister together.  We work as a team. We’re better together.  So I do want to challenge every Converge MidAtlantic member church to value their part and to take responsibility for their part!  We need the engagement of every leader and of every church!  I’ve been challenging our churches to move toward the 3% level in their giving to our District ministry!  I’m telling you, if every church would partner at this level, the vision of Converge MidAtlantic could move to a whole new level of impact across our region.  It’s a team effort.  We all need to be players in the ministry of this movement!   Many are moving forward on that journey, and I am very grateful for that! 

I want to challenge every member Converge church to actually consider Converge first!  Consider supporting Converge missionaries and mission projects first!  We have one of the finest global mission organizations that is making a huge kingdom impact.  Consider Converge Conferences and training opportunities first when you plan your calendar of conferences.  Consider the Converge network of Pastors/your LEAD Team brothers first. Not that we’re exclusive. No, we’re Kingdom minded, but we are engaged meaningfully with Our Tribe, with our Family. I want to challenge every one of us to be a player in this movement.  We are better together!   

3) Closing Comments - With Gratitude and Thanks

Thanks to our Converge MidAtlantic office team for their support and leadership in so many ways.  This includes Anna Rolland, Executive Assistant, Liz Heavener our Bookkeeper, Steve Lowe, our Event and Marketing Coordinator, Bethany Paterson, our Social Media Coordinator, and Dave Scull, Director of Camp Burton.   Thanks to our Strategic Multiplication Leadership Team including Pastor Rod Hairston, Pastor Dan Nold, Pastor Derek Sanford, Pastor Rob Paterson, and Pastor Jeremy Copeland who have been a great resource this past year. Thanks to the Board of Overseers, for their leadership and support as well. 

I want to also take this opportunity to thank my dear wife Sandi for her fantastic support and encouragement over the past 17 years as we have served the Lord together in this role.  She has been an absolutely fantastic ministry partner.  She has traveled with me to Ukraine 6 times, serving in orphanages and women’s institutions, and ministering to the poor and needy in amazing ways.  She has connected up with many of our pastors’ wives over the years through LeadNet Teams, through our Impact Pastors and spouses events, and she has had a personal ministry of prayer and encouragement to many of them.  She has traveled with me across the 8 state MidAtlantic region on many weekends as we have preached, celebrated special occasions, and served our churches in various ways together.  She has been vitally involved in the Converge District Executive Ministers’ and wives network, traveling with other Converge leaders to locations all across the U.S. and around the world.  This has included ministry in Thailand,  Mexico, Honduras, and in organizing at least 3 major Converge Leadership Team retreats in locations in our MidAtlantic District.  Probably most challenging has been her patience and perseverance in putting up with me, and the ups and downs of leading a regional movement, of major travel demands, and the overall concern for the churches of our region.   She has stood with me and partnered with me, while all the time, overseeing the care and support services of our daughter Monica, who requires 24/7 care.  She has been and continues to be an amazing life and ministry partner, and I am deeply indebted to her and grateful to God for her and what she means to me.

We both want to say Thanks to you all, and Thanks to God for the privilege of serving Jesus here in the MidAtlantic.  It is a real privilege for which we are very grateful.

Action/response – Becoming movement players!

I will PRAY faithfully _____/week for our Converge MidAtlantic multiplication movement.
I will engage in Developing _____ new leaders that can be sent out into the harvest over the next 10 years
I will play a part in helping to Multiply _____ new congregations that are expanding the impact of the Gospel in our region over the next 10 years
I will seek to lead our church to move toward giving 3% of our annual offering income to the Converge MidAtlantic movement to help fuel this movement over the next 10 years.
I will pray and lead our church to be involved in compassion and global mission engagement over the next 10 years, by _____ (identify your next action steps).