Saturday, February 04, 2006

Breakforth 2006

One week has passed since we left the beautiful city of Calgary to head up north to the cold, desolate capital of Alberta. I remember leaving on a sunny afternoon with temperatures of around +5 and arriving in overcast conditions of around -5 to -10. Let's just say there was a rekindling of my appreciation for chinooks.

Tonight I was involved in a mini-service with the youth group at my church. The idea was brought forward by our youth pastor, who phoned us just as we were leaving. He said that their ski trip to Fortress was cancelled due to marginal conditions and that he would really like it if some of us were to share a bit about our conference experience with the junior and senior high school fellowship group. It was made clear that he didn't want to put any pressure on us or anything. Just that it might be something to keep in mind over the weekend.

We ended up putting together some songs, including a new song that we learned at the conference written by Paul Baloche and Graham Kendrick. Graham was the worship leader for the very first assembly/service on Friday night. It's called "What Can I Do". The song's main theme is that when we look upon God's marvelous creation, think of His never-ending love and realize just how much Christ gave up for our sins, we can't help but sing "Hallelujah" and give our lives, our praise, our everything to Jesus.

After some singing, we played some group games that got everyone involved. The main theme was spontaneity and thinking about the present without planning for what happens next. One important point that we need to remember is that we must be living each moment of each day as if it were our last. We need to be a constant light for Christ and take every opportunity we have to share the gospel and to live according His good purpose. Too often we get preoccupied with planning for the future. Worrying about work, retirement...things that would become meaningless if God were to claim our lives right this moment. Often we are so caught up with the things of thiw world that we don't take into account things of eternal significance. Not that it is bad to be prepared and to make plans...however, we must be careful not to put all our hopes and faith into these human plans that are susceptible to failure.

Then came the sharing part that was essentially the "message" portion of our service. I said it before to many people and I'll say it again. No message is as powerful as a testimony. Not just a testimony of how a person came to know and believe in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection for the atonement of sin, but also any personal experience with God. All of the speakers at the conference - Ken Harris, Dr. Bruce Wilkinson, Dr. K.P. Yohannan and Bill Hybels - gave excellent messages that captivated our attention. What made them so good? I think it's the fact that all of them used their own lives as a testimony for how God wants us to live.

When Ken Harris wanted to get his point across about love, what did he do? After he had loosened us all up with some great comedy, he shared how he felt when he and his wife had their first child. He described the emotions and the joy of hearing that first cry that was never heard on earth before. That's something that any mother or father can relate to. And to make us laugh, he talked about the all too common family fights that happen on Sunday morning on the way to church. "Mommy, he's looking at me!" Trying to smack the mouthy kid in the back seat while driving.

Dr. Wilkinson's message on Saturday morning was definitely unconventional and unexpected. I was anticipating this feel good motivational speech but instead I was taken on a steep guilt trip as Dr. Wilkinson condemned those of us who were living the hypocritical Christian life - merely pretending to be a follower of Christ as we do little to nothing that Christ commanded us to do. He stated that there is a distinct difference between being a believer of Christ and a disciple of Christ. All disciples are believers but not all believers are disciples. He used many illustrations of what it cost to be a disciple: selling all we possess, hating our family and losing our own life. Not until we are willing to give it all up for Christ can we truly become disciples. He also shared how his family has given up all they possess now 4 times! Their car, house, life savings, clothes...everything. And God has provided for them every single time when they trusted in Him to provide their daily bread.

The third speaker of the weekend was Dr. K.P. Yohannan. I had never heard of him before the conference but apparently he is a well accomplished author of over 200 books. I can't imagine writing one book with 200 pages nevermind 200 books! He is the founder and president of Gospel for Asia and has a tremendous heart for missions work in India. His message was tied heavily into his passion for missions. Basically, he just pushed forward how critical it is that we treat our everyday environments as mission fields. He said that every time we fail to share the love of Jesus with someone, we are essentially allowing them to spend eternity away from God; an eternal separation and suffering in hell. That hit me really hard because there are a lot of people that I see on almost a daily basis at school who I've known for years and yet I have done little to nothing to try to lead them to the truth about Jesus Christ. To make matters worse, I often find myself conforming to the ways of the world and even being like them rather than salt and light of this world. Tied in with what I've been getting out of Paul's letter to the Philippians, I really need to find the joy in school. I go about it complaining and grumbling as if I have nothing better to live for. I need to refocus myself on God and maybe I can reflect the image of Christ in a more effective manner.

The last speaker was Bill Hybels from Willow Creek church near Chicago. He was there along with Nancy Beach who oversees the creative arts at Willow Creek. His theme was church leadership. What I found the best about Hybels was much his message was from the heart and from his own personal experience. When I listened to him share about his dad and his own struggle with leadership, it really hit home. He wasn't as funny as Ken Harris or as charismatic as Dr. Wilkinson. But it was equally as effective. If he was on his deathbed and he had to name 4 things that were absolutely critical for church leadership, they would be:


1. Keep the Vision clear
- In order to get the people to follow, we need to be able to clearly express the vision that God has given us. He encouraged us to lead with diligence and not give up the vision. (Romans 12:8)

2. Get your people Engaged
- Hybels spoke about his deceased father and how he was never involved in the church. He told how his father had a lot to offer the church and how we, as leaders, could get a person like his father involved.

* Be a totally committed leader.
* Dream Big.
* You Have to Ask (Don’t wait for them to volunteer, because they never will.).
* Give Expectations.
* Give Feedback.
* Encouragement.

3. Make your meetings Memorable
- Whatever is it that you do, make sure that it is memorable. Go out of your way… because this may be the only opportunity you have to present Jesus to someone. One example that Nancy Beach gave was how they did a service on patience. Instead of the usual sermon, they videotaped numerous interviews with many women in the church on their experiences with losing patience with their family. They kept their identities a secret by having them sit in the dark. Afterward, many people came up to her and said "I thought I was the only one". People really connected with the fresh idea of having other brothers and sisters in Christ share about their struggles.

4. Pace yourself so that you can finish strong
- Being called to ministry is not a sprint. It’s like running a marathon. You need to pace yourself, so that you can finish the race. Hybels shared his personal story on how he had to take a break after 15 years of ministry and almost didn't finish the race himself.

NOTE: I actually borrowed most of these notes from another person's blog because I left my notepad in the car for this assembly.

I think my church could definitely benefit from some of these key points.

So what did I personally get out of this?

- Discipleship. Huge point and probably the biggest for me. I really want to make that transition from being just a believer to being a disciple. This is going to mean a lot of sacrifices but I really want to answer "Yes Lord" to whatever He asks of me. This may make some people upset and may alienate me from friends and family, but I must obey God rather than men.
- Missions. I need to get over my fear of having my sharing of the gospel rejected and to just trust in God to lead me. I need to take more opportunities to share Jesus with those around me and I need to live for Christ all day, everyday so that I can be a better witness.

I will have to share what I learned in the various workshops at a later time as this entry has already gotten pretty long...



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