Saturday, December 28, 2013

Looking to Europe

Whether we want to admit it or not the religious landscape of North America is changing. Rapidly. Living in the Pacific Northwest, the most unchurched region of the U.S., this is very evident, but it is a much more widespread reality. Unfortunately, however, many Christians do not know how to handle the shifting scenes, and common reactions are denial or entrenchment.

Certainly within my own district we are attempting new approaches to respond to these changes, and my current doctoral work is exploring missional communities, one of the emerging fresh expressions of the church in response. Much of my inspiration comes from watching what is happening in the Church of God in Europe through the Three Worlds missions effort. I've had an opportunity to see some of this first-hand during a visit there, and I continue to observe how the various efforts of 3W unfold in a number of countries.

Patrick and Jamie Nachtigall lead the 3W team, as Regional Coordinators in Europe/Middle East for Global Missions of the Church of God. In a recent blog post, "COG Europe:  'The Silicon Valley of the Church of God'", Patrick points out that the vision for 3W is to be "a hub of innovation and experimentation for the Church of God," much like the technology center located in the south Bay Area of northern California.

I am convinced that there are many lessons we can learn from Europe, both in terms of cultural trends that seem to be inevitably making their way to North America, and in how the Church of God is responding with a spirit of risk for the sake of expanding God's Kingdom.

This is an important article to read: LINK.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

General Director's open letter

Hopefully you've been too preoccupied with Christmas preparations to keep up with everything online. If so you may not have noticed the lengthy open letter that General Director Jim Lyon posted to Facebook yesterday. In many ways this is his year-end message to the Church, and it he talks about his first 140 days in the job, and specifically more reflections on the recent announcements pertaining to the 2014 Convention and the new logo, both of which have generated considerable attention across our movement in North America.

Jim points out that "the Church of God as we know it is near death", and that visionary leadership and action are required for us to enter a new day. For those wanting to preserve status quo or some idealistic notion of our past changes are threatening, as they are for a growing number of American Christians who feel our religious foundation shifting under our feet. It's much easier to get all worked up over the Duck Dynasty controversy than to commit ourselves to being part of Jesus' mission in the world.

I appreciate Jim's open and direct communication, and look forward to 2014 as the Church of God boldly moves forward.

And, by the way, Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

More on the Logo

According to a news release put out by Church of God Ministries today the new logo revealed without much fanfare Monday is only something they are "experimenting" with. They are seeking feedback on the new design.

Also included in the release are some explanations for the design elements of the logo. It helps explain what went into it, but it fails to tell a compelling story. That is disappointing. I believe that there is much more that could be said about the logo as it is.

Apart from these weak launch details, I really do like the logo. The previous logo is over 30 years old, and does not connect with our constituency or the wider world today. Most of the comments I have heard have been positive. Of course there are the naysayers who dislike change or who do not really get the significance of a logo and the identity and symbolism it provides for us.

With all the talk about "Be Bold" the last few days I do not understand the timidity with which this logo is being presented. We will never get consensus on a new logo, and if anything waffling will only cause confusion. The homework has been done. Let's move forward with this new identity. At minimum it expresses that a new day has dawned.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Time to Be Bold

Today Church of God Ministries is announcing one of the biggest changes in the history of the North American region of our movement. This is a developing story that will see more details emerge in the coming weeks and is only part of what should be a fresh new direction for the Church of God.

This is not surprising. Our new General Director, Jim Lyon, is prepared to lead and there is always a certain amount of latitude given to a leader at the beginning of his/her to make big changes. He has been hinting for several weeks on his Twitter feed that changes would be announced this month, utilizing hashtags like #StayTuned, #WorthWaitingFor and #JesusIsTheSubject.

The most obvious change concerns the 2014 Convention, something we've known for awhile would be coming. But, now we have the details. The theme will be "Be Bold" and is appropriate considering the magnitude of the shifts being planned. Here are the key points so far:

1. It will now be referred to as the "Church of God Convention". Website: www.chogconvention.org

2. The event will be shorter, running Monday through Thursday, June 23-26.

3. Convention location is Oklahoma City at Crossings Church. Services will be simulcast back to Anderson.

4. The convention will consist only of plenary sessions. No conferences. No childrens and youth programs, etc.

5. The General Assembly will take place at various times throughout the convention.

6. A wide range of significant speakers and musicians have been announced (e.g. Anne Graham Lotz and Sandi Patty) and some others will be revealed at a later date.

These are more than tweaks. This is a complete reset of what our annual gathering will be. And, I am impressed as I believe that it offers an opportunity for the convention to take on new meaning that is relevant and practical for our time.

Another significant change unveiled today (albeit without fanfare or explanation) is a new Church of God logo. The old flames logo was so dated and in need of a major refresh. The new convention website as well as the beta version of the new Church of God Ministries site (www.jesusisthesubject.org) feature the new logo. It looks real good as a dignified and contemporary representation, and should help reinforce our strengthening identity and direction. Hopefully they will soon provide us the story of the logo.

These are exciting times.

It's time to Be Bold!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

2013 General Assembly

Last week I provided some reflections from this year's successful Global Gathering in Anderson. Now that I'm home, and over all the travel hassles I faced, I want to share my observations on the General Assembly which immediately followed the big event, on Wednesday.

The Global Gathering impacted how the GA was conducted this year. The normal procedure is to have the annual business meeting spread over two days during the North American Convention. This year, however, in keeping with the global nature of the event, our own continent's business was set aside for its own day. And, that was a positive move.

There is no reason for the General Assembly to be long and drawn out, and hopefully this year's format change will reveal that it is possible to get it in done in 5-6 hours. In fact, it may be possible to shrink it even further if we can have reports available ahead of time so that they do not have to be laboriously read to us, and if we curtail all the "advertising" spots that are given to various national ministries. 

GA attendance was definitely up this year, and reversed the downward slide we've been seeing over the years. Of course, the Global Gathering was part of the reason, but an even bigger one is that this was the meeting at which the new General Director would be ratified. Many came recognizing the significance of the decision we would be making. 

Certainly a key theme to this year's General Assembly was the transition from Ronald Duncan to Jim Lyon. Ron's service to the church was appropriately celebrated, and was capped off by a reception just prior to lunch. 

By the time we returned from lunch ballot results were already in, and it was announced that Jim Lyon had been "overwhelmingly" ratified (although an exact percentage was not provided). Jim was formally introduced and he gave a compelling speech, delivered in his rich, narrative style, declaring that we are a "masterpiece". 

The delegates gathered for this momentous General Assembly seemed to be encouraged and hopeful for the Church of God. With all that had just happened over the past week there appeared to be new vitality and purpose for this movement. We were ready to leave Anderson to begin a new day.

And, then things almost began to unravel. Pastors' Fellowship introduced a resolution that caused some rankle and almost pushed us back into some of our less glorious days of the past. But, that's another topic, and I'll pick up on it in my next post.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Global Gathering reflections


After a very full week in Anderson I, like a few thousand others, are returning home. The long-anticipated 2013 Global Gathering is over and the over-whelming feedback has been very positive.

The Global Gathering can be deemed a success for several reasons. First, it was extremely good for the Church of God from around the world to gather together again. It’s been well over a decade, and long overdue. Our movement needs these opportunities for exchange and celebration.

Adding to the success is that this was a well-planned and executed event. Participants were able to benefit from a wide range of excellent preaching and worship experiences, as well as smaller connectors and an interesting expo. The cumulative result is that we left Anderson strengthened, invigorated, and hopeful for the Church of God.

The Global Gathering was also significant because it was one of the most impressive events we’ve had in quite some time. With the continuing demise of the North American Convention this was a welcome change. Of course, next year may be a different story, although though no word has been given yet on what the NAC format will be. It is obviously cost prohibitive to hold a Global Gathering more than once or twice per decade, but l trust this year’s achievements will prompt organizers to begin planning the next one.

Two further comments. First, the incorporation of a special project offering, devoted to world hunger and drinking water, was innovative and positive. Sadly, however, I heard from several missionaries who were somewhat frustrated by how this was implemented and communicated.

Second, a major overtone to the entire week was felt, and that related to the upcoming transition in the General Director’s position. I will have more to say on this in a separate post related to the General Assembly, but it is worth noting that this event provided a tremendous finale to Ron Duncan’s tenure.

There is so much more that could be said about the 2013 Global Gathering, especially as each individual had unique experiences and encounters. But, in short it will probably go down as one of the greatest Church of God gatherings ever. And, it could very well be the last of the great events we see in Anderson for quite some time.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Global Gathering

It’s that time of year again. Hundreds of us are making the trek to Anderson for “Campmeeting”. Except this year it is not the North American Convention, but the Global Gathering, our first world conference in well over one decade.

Unlike what has become the trend, there has been much anticipation across the movement for this event. Of course, bringing together church leaders from around the world is exciting. There will be many opportunities for exchange and fellowship, and we will be able to celebrate what God is doing in other countries.

There are other reasons that this event will be significant. First, we are in the midst of change as a body and this will be especially evident this year as we vote to affirm a new General Director. While we cannot pin our future on one person we also cannot underestimate how critical this leadership transition will be.

Second, the special nature of this year’s event provides a break from the steady attendance decline in the North American Convention. This could be especially important considering the proposed changes coming next year. Will this be the last of the grand events as we have known them?

I am already in Anderson and ready for a full week concluding with General Assembly on Wednesday. Throughout l will be tweeting (@chogblog), and l look forward to following the larger conversation using the official hashtag, #StandingTogether.

Let’s be praying for a week of invigoration and blessings.