2004 INTERNATIONAL LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
Douglas Jacoby (Athens, Georgia)
I've just returned from the 2004 International Leadership Conference in Chicago. Since the decentralization of the International Churches of Christ in 2002, every conference I have attended has had a different feel'a better feel. Chicago was no exception. This was a very positive time for many, and certainly for me!
Developments since Dallas
Last year I had the privilege of attending the International Leadership Conference in Dallas, which featured fine fellowship and a sense of togetherness in a 'post-traumatic stress' situation. The 500 or so participants included staff and non-staff, men and women, North Americans and those from overseas. There was less of a demarcation between full-time staff and other Christians'to the joy of many. The Chicago I.L.C., meeting nearly a year after Dallas, benefited from 12 extra months of reflection and experimentation in a new era. As a result, the classes, forums, and messages addressed felt and actual needs even better. The overall feel of the seminar was different. 600 plus brothers and sisters converged from countless nations. For many, this conference afforded a much-needed time of refreshment'and for some, the kiss of life.
Worthy is the Lamb
The International Leadership Conference took place 23-25 September, and the theme was Worthy is the Lamb. Seminar speeches were delivered by Mike Taliaferro (San Antonio), John Louis (Singapore), Steve Staten and Tony Singh (Chicago), Wyndham Shaw (Boston), and Scott Green (Seattle). In addition, there were 19 classes and forums. For more information, see www.chicagochurch.org.
Worthy is the LambA movement, though not an organization
For its affiliate congregations, the ICOC is no longer a corporate entity. No headquarters, structure, or hierarchy, internationally speaking. No single church is set up to be 'over' any other church. (This was constantly affirmed in public and private meetings of the ILC.) Everyone is in agreement that we need one another's influence and support
isolation is not healthy. Churches everywhere are learning to stand on their own feet, and establishing local leadership is a top priority. Yet even though we're not a worldwide organization, we are more than just an association of churches. We're a brotherhood'and yet more than just a brotherhood. What some 500-600 churches have in common is a strong commitment to the Bible, one-another relationships, and world evangelism. That makes us a true movement. Again, as was emphasized, not the movement of God, but definitely a movement of God. I agree with this assessment.
Perhaps we need to rethink the concept of 'movement,' and particularly how a movement is different than an organization. Yet the fact remains that disciples of Jesus Christ are still outnumbered in this world by those who purport to be believers but have bought into the notions and theologies of the world. Christians connected to one another, going forward with common goals and convictions, collaborating internationally are by definition an international movement. This in my opinion is healthy, and must be preserved'not legislated, of course, but still the object of our passion and prayers.
As an international movement, we are aware that most of the nations on the planet lie in the developing world. Speeches, discussions, and private conversations often centered around the obligation we have to missions. As one of the brothers put it, 'We sent them out, we funded them
let's not drop them.' This concern for foreign churches, especially in the Third World, was highly emphasized during the Chicago seminar. And rightly so.
Structure of this report
This conference report consists of three sections:
I. Information: Updates on the state of the churches (a sort of 'World Report')
II. Connection: Updates on Discipleship Publications International and Disciples Today
III. Collaboration: Summary of the 'Unity Discussion' (Who we are and what we agree on)
INFORMATION: World Report
In these days of reevaluation, recalibration, and recommitment, we want information. We want to know how other churches are doing. We want accurate real-time news about the state of the world. At the ILC we head a good deal of such news. During several periods of missions and church updates, facts, figures, perspectives, and hopes were expressed. All expressed gratitude to sponsoring congregations and missionary societies in North America.
I've arranged the updates, which were delivered intermittently throughout the conference, by the five continents represented at the ILC. Note: the bullet points below represent what the presenters said
these are not my words, but my rendering of their words. I have striven to portray accurately the things I heard
wherever I have made an error, I would appreciate your alerting me to any shortcoming. Please pardon the terse nature of the bullet points
conciseness was the goal in mind.
' Mexico'4000 members in Mexico City church, and 30 other congregations in Mexico and Central America. 8 new churches have been planted in the past 2 years. Next month Mexico City celebrates its 17th anniversary, and will be sending out 4 more churches. The Bible School in Mexico City is flourishing
over 100 students have been graduated already.
' The Atlanta church has gone from 3800 to 2400 members (including the separation of the Athens group of some 400 members in May 2003). Atlanta is currently in a time of rebuilding, and the elders are very optimistic about future prospects.
' New York'In the words of one of the elders, 'What happened there? We messed up... It's a little more difficult when you mess up with 6000 people than with 600 people' Many young men and women who were overwhelmed are just trying to save their own faith.' NYC attendance has dropped from over 6000 to around 4000, while staffing has gone from 105 to 33 persons. There are 4 elders, working together with the evangelists. NYC church is still meeting 80% of the needs of the African churches, and also the Caribbean.
' Kingston, Jamaica will be hosting a Caribbean conference in October (with Sam and Geri Laing). The hurricanes have hit the Caribbean hard
your practical help and prayers are appreciated.
' Chicago hosted the I.L.C., and Tony Singh (evangelist) and Steve Staten (evangelist, elder, teacher) did a masterful job arranging the conference (and also speaking--see for example Link).
' All 10 New England churches remain unified. $750,000 in special missions contribution was raised for Europe and New England. In Boston, everyone is learning to be real, being honest about the good news and the bad news, working together.
' Colombia was hit very hard in 2003. 'This has been a time of great sadness. There is no excuse for many of things that have happened.' There is no full time staff in Bogot