By Jerry Harris
Some of us have heard a massive shift is coming to the North American Christian Convention that will make it unrecognizable compared to gatherings of years past. While the 2019 convention will see some changes, in many ways it will focus on the fundamentals upon which the NACC was founded.
I was at a meeting to help plan the NACC’s 92nd-year gathering. I was surrounded by committed leaders of our movement from churches, organizations, and missions. What I heard renewed my excitement for a great future. The mission of the NACC is “. . . to encourage and equip leaders who inspire a movement of healthy growing churches.” Thatstatement captures what the NACC has sought to be from its first gathering October 12-16, 1927, in Indianapolis.
As Christian Standard’s publisher, I have access to an archive of every issue since the magazine’s inception in 1866, so I looked up the issue that recounted that first meeting at Indianapolis’s Cadle Tabernacle. P.H. Welshimer, the chairman the first year, described it as “a preaching meeting. An old fashioned county meeting on a national scale to sound forth the fundamentals of our faith and to give us new courage and aggressiveness.”Between 3,500 and 5,000 people from all over the country attended. Just imagine the transportation challenges of the day . . . but the people came!
Why? It was a defining time for the movement. Many churches had left sound doctrinal teaching for highly liberal theology; many were questioning the authority of Scripture, salvation through Christ alone, and the lordship of Christ. Churches were practicing open membership, not requiring any doctrinal adherences. Christian colleges and universities of the day were churning out leaders who were continuing down that dark path and leading churches with them.
Christian Standard that year recounted strong messages on the deity and authority of Christ, New Testament baptism, the centrality of the Lord’s Supper, what we must do to be saved, standing for the truth of God’s Word, evangelism, the work of the Holy Spirit, social justice, and a clarion call to recruit and train up leaders with the proper ideals for ministry. It was a resounding success.
Victor Knowles has written that in 1927 there were 5 colleges in our movement. In the years following that convention, 35 more were established, 17 in the 1940s alone. These colleges brought young leaders back to the Bible, to the centrality and lordship of Jesus, and to a movement that was founded in the principles of the New Testament church. Through the NACC, the Restoration Movement found its footing again.
Over the years, the NACC has been the gathering designed to build health into our movement by inspiring, encouraging, and equipping its leaders. The meeting I attended affirmed our need to pull together our tribe, to reaffirm its stand on God’s Word and biblical truth, to stay focused on evangelism and discipleship, and to promote Christian unity realizing that our mission flows from that unity.
In recent years, the NACC has been “the connecting place” for our movement, and while our times may not seem so dire as the years preceding 1927, we must be vigilant to build leaders who can stand up against the growing opposition of our culture. We must invest in a future of biblically strong churches that take ground, enlarge territory, and bring in a human harvest for God’s great kingdom. It is not a time to be distracted by tradition or past programming; instead, we must be laser focused on the mission before us and the plea we carry.
I want to encourage you to make every effort for your leaders to attend the 2019 NACC in Orlando, Florida,. I will be there with mine.