by Thomas F. Jones Jr.
See Steve Reeves’s assessment of the 2009 NACC
See D. Clay Perkins’s assessment of the 2009 NACC
My hometown is Follansbee, West Virginia. It is located in the northern panhandle of the state about 20 miles north of Wheeling and 40 miles west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s a steel mill town located on the Ohio River and has fewer than 3,000 residents. I don’t go there often these days but when I do, everything seems to fall into place.
Going to the North American Christian Convention is like going home once a year. This year was no different for me from the past 29 years. The main sessions were inspirational and over-the-top good. The workshops were well done. Jeff Stone and his team did a great job.
The Best Part
However, for me, the best part of the convention is always the sense of home I feel while I’m there. People know me and I know them. This year I connected with people I knew from various seasons of my life. I ran into fellow campers from Elkhorn Valley Christian Service Camp where I attended as a kid.
Every year I look forward to seeing Orrin and Nancy Bushnell from First Church of Christ in Painesville, Ohio. My wife, Debbie, and I know our convention is on the right track when we connect with Orrin and Nancy. I had my first ministry out of seminary at the Painesville church. In fact, George and Louise Hobbs from Painesville took my wife and me to our first NACC. It was 1981 in Louisville.
I also saw classmates from Milligan College and Emmanuel School of Religion. It’s the only time I run into these good friends.
I saw my good friend Don Hamilton. Don and I became friends when I started the Princeton (New Jersey) Community Church. Don is senior minister at a church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Ministers and their families in the Northeast tend to know one another and are interested in each other’s families and ministries.
Debbie and I attended the Orchard Group luncheon. We started a church for Orchard Group in 1992 and so it is good to catch up. Their get-together honored Paul Williams for 30 years of service and introduced Brent Storms as the new president. Paul will continue to serve as chairman of the board and CEO. I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t gone to the luncheon.
We Are Family
I am a professor at Emmanuel School of Religion. The NACC is a great place for me to catch up with former students, to celebrate how God is working in their ministries, and counsel with those who are struggling. The Emmanuel breakfast is always a highlight. It is a time when Emmanuel family members from all over the world reconnect and catch up. I think this must be true of all the events sponsored by our colleges and seminaries.
In addition to being a professor, I also direct the eastern region of Stadia: New Church Strategies, a national church planting organization. At the NACC I am able to connect with other church planting leaders within our movement. The convention provides me with the opportunity to cast vision for what I believe God is calling us to do in church planting. I meet with donors, partner churches, church planting networks, students interested in church planting, young pastors who have caught the church planting bug, and seasoned ministers who are looking for a new challenge.
It’s nice to go home once in a while. It connects you to your roots. People know you there and you know them. That’s how I feel about the NACC. I love our faith family, tribe, tradition, movement, nondenominational denomination, or whatever you choose to call us. Like all traditions, we have our issues, but we are family.
Tom Jones serves as the Russell F. and Marian J. Blowers Professor of Christian Ministries at Emmanuel School of Religion, Johnson City, Tennessee. He also serves as director for the eastern region of Stadia: New Church Strategies.