By Mark A. Taylor
Actually what we do at the North American Christian Convention is not dramatic.
We talk. We eat. We laugh.
We sing. We pray. We listen to sermons, some of them excellent.
Some of us go to meetings. Often we encounter people with names we recognize, but we’ve never actually met them before. How could we, when we live across the country from each other and they’re busy with their ministries while we’re occupied with our own?
This is how it has been through the decades. The beauty of the NACC is its simplicity, its predictability, its opportunity to connect folks who need each other’s encouragement but have few other opportunities to experience it.
Allan Dunbar, who was a part of the NACC long before he became its executive director, told about the first convention he attended; it was 1965 in Oklahoma City.
“I sat on a stool at a coffee counter for breakfast. A man sat beside me I didn’t know, but I’d just read a book he’d written, published by Standard Publishing, Christians Only.
“I talked with James DeForest Murch for two hours, right through the morning session. He wanted to know what was happening among the churches in Canada. He encouraged me in my ministry.
“The NACC has facilitated meetings like that through the years.”
Forty-four years later, NACC attendees continue to tell how the convention has given them courage to carry on.
Two ministers whose names I didn’t catch were talking at a minister’s mentorship breakfast. One of them has been preaching 16 years at the same congregation in America’s heartland. He started there while still a Bible college student.
“I thought about leaving in 1997, but I came to the NACC that year. I heard Allan Dunbar and Russ Blowers speak about the value of a long-term ministry.
“I brought their manuscript home and taped it inside my Bible. I’m still there at that church.”
The preacher sitting beside him smiled. “I thought I was the only one who taped NACC manuscripts inside his Bible,” he chuckled.
Only God knows how many NACC workshops and sermons and “chance” encounters have sparked new hope and commitment. This is why the NACC matters. It gives us the chance to reconsider our ministries and to decide they’re worth the price we’re paying to perform them.
This may not be true for everyone who has attended the convention. It certainly is not true for those who have stopped attending. We needn’t spend much energy wooing or worrying about them. Instead we can celebrate what the NACC continues to accomplish: it reminds us we’re not alone in our quest to be simply Christians in an increasingly complicated world.
And that’s enough.