By Gene Appel
I want to invite you to join me in one of America’s greatest cities for my favorite conference on the planet, the North American Christian Convention, June 27–29 in Kansas City, Missouri.
I especially want to invite you if you’ve never been to this special gathering, or if you haven’t been able to make it for a few years. After a fantastic convention in Anaheim, California, in 2016, we have great momentum building for Kansas City, and I hope you’ll jump on board. Let me share why.
First, we have an urgent theme: “This is for EVERYONE.”
God’s dream for his church has always been that it would be an EVERYONE kind of place. No matter who you are, where you’re from, what you’ve done, or the color of your skin, God is for you and Jesus loves you.
Peter stood up on the Day of Pentecost before thousands of people and announced, “EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). Paul declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to EVERYONE who believes” (Romans 1:16). Second Peter 3:9 reminds us that the Lord is patient with us and wants “EVERYONE to come to repentance.”
But to be honest with you, sometimes I don’t live as if the gospel is for everyone. I can be one of those people Jesus talked about who love to judge and see the speck in another’s eye, while I have a plank in my own eye. I possess this dark, depraved, instinctive nature to take the plank in my eye and use it to build a wall between those who are different from me, rather than bridges. Maybe you struggle with this too.
For some, it’s the wall we build between people of different ethnicities, whether they are black or white or Asian or Arab or Jew. For some it’s political liberals we can’t stand, and for others it’s political conservatives who make our blood boil. For some it’s the body-pierced, tattoo-covered individual whose appearance is so different from ours, or maybe it’s the party person at work who lives a lifestyle so opposite ours. For some it’s the follower of Islam, Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, atheism, Judaism, or New Age kinds of beliefs. For some it’s members of the LGBTQ community or those who are infected with HIV.
Jesus always approached people right in the middle of their mess. Jesus said he was going to become like us so we can get to know God. Jesus wasn’t afraid of messy people, and we can’t be afraid of messy people either. I serve a church in Southern California. The only kind of people in California are messy people. I know, because I’m one of them!
You see, a gospel that isn’t for everyone everywhere isn’t a gospel for anyone anywhere. That doesn’t mean you can’t have sincere disagreements, and it doesn’t give you permission to compromise truth, because we are to speak the truth in love. But it does mean we don’t attack and make demeaning comments about others, because when we demean another human being, we are demeaning the very God in whose image they are made, and that’s sin.
So this June in Kansas City, we are going to reenvision God’s church and unleash his people to courageously and lovingly proclaim God’s heart and God’s house is for EVERYONE.
Second, we’re a part of a special family.
A phrase that’s near and dear to many of us is, “We are not the only Christians, but Christians only.” There are many great Christian tribes throughout the world. Over the years, I have often spoken to and served in other tribes, and I have learned much from them, but I sure love and am thankful for our tribe.
I attended my first North American Christian Convention when I was 4 years old. I have a deep love for our movement that offers a simple plea to be “Christians only” and strives to restore the practices, beliefs, unity, and love of the New Testament church. I’m personally so grateful for this convention, because through it I’ve been loved, mentored, challenged, inspired, encouraged, and equipped throughout my lifetime.
Our children’s and student programs are going to be top-notch. Our Bible Bowlers will be with us. And I look forward to embracing a whole new generation of church leaders who need to know they don’t have to do ministry alone.
We are a family. In fact, I’ve invited 40 pastors of some of our most dynamic churches and their spouses to be available throughout the convention to encourage, inspire, mentor, and just lovingly bless emerging generations who will discover what a special family this is.
Third, we’ve added some compelling new features to the convention this year.
• For one, we’re kicking off the convention on Tuesday afternoon with a session on church leadership led by Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of Life Church, the largest church in America with 25 sites in seven states.
• And this year we’re wrapping up the conference on Thursday night with an enormously fun After-Party for everyone. Make sure you check out more of the details in the accompanying article in this section.
• There are a couple of other new features I’m really excited about. Six “Super Sessions” Wednesday afternoon will be offered twice with contributors like Dave Stone on preaching, Derwin Gray on building a multiethnic church, Haydn Shaw on bridging generational divides, Brad Lomenick of Catalyst on leadership, John Ortberg on the heart of the leader, plus one more to be announced.
• On Thursday morning we will be introducing “7 for 7.” Seven dynamic speakers will preach for seven minutes each. Ben Cachiaras of Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland, will host. In addition to Reggie Epps, who leads one of our great churches in the Kansas City area, we’ll hear from dynamic pastors who have planted churches in Harlem, New York; Salt Lake City, Utah; and the heart of Los Angeles, California. We’ll be inspired by a 20-year-old college student and activist and hear the dream of a church planting leader who will not rest till every child has a church.
Fourth, we’re going to hear from some great preachers and Bible teachers.
I have the privilege of joining with Craig Groeschel at our main session on Tuesday evening.
Wednesday morning we’ll hear from one of the young emerging voices in our movement, Trevor DeVage, lead pastor of Christ’s Church in Mason, Ohio, and former NACC president Cam Huxford, who leads Compassion Christian Church with seven campuses in Georgia.
Wednesday night, Tim Liston of New Hope Church in Houston, Texas, will be preaching. More than 8,000 people worship at New Hope weekly, but when Tim planted the church, in the first five years, it never grew more than 80 people. But he was faithful and didn’t give up. Derwin Gray, former NFL football player and pastor of a great multiethnic church in Charlotte, North Carolina, will also preach on Wednesday night. Derwin has a passion for building multiethnic churches.
Thursday morning will be our “7 for 7.” Thursday night I’ve asked the speaker of our woman’s banquet, Charlotte Gambill, to join my good friend Mike Breaux to wrap things up before the new After-Party.
Charlotte is a dynamic communicator who, along with her husband, serves Life Church in the United Kingdom.
Mike and I have had the privilege of serving together in Las Vegas, Chicago, and now in Southern California, and he’s one of my favorite preachers on the planet.
On Wednesday and Thursday mornings you can choose between one of three Bible studies with Bible expositor Rick Atchley, New Testament scholar Scot McKnight, and the one and only Liz Curtis Higgs.
Fifth, you’re going to love Kansas City.
If you haven’t been to Kansas City in a while, you’re going to be impressed with the history, sports, music, food (the barbeque is amazing), entertainment, shopping, water parks, and electric-train transportation. It truly is one of America’s greatest cities.
My prayer is that you will not only attend and bring a whole gang of other people with you, but that you will leave Kansas City inspired, encouraged, equipped, and reenvisioned to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to EVERYONE. The hope of the world is not an economic, political, or educational solution; it’s a gospel solution.
So join us in Kansas City, June 27–29, as we worship and proclaim from the rooftops that this gospel, this Savior, this amazing grace, and the church of Jesus Christ is for EVERYONE.
Gene Appel, senior pastor of Eastside Christian Church, Anaheim, California, is serving as president of the 2017 North American Christian Convention.
It’s Starting Tuesday Afternoon!
This year’s NACC has a brand-new feature and start time focused specifically on kingdom leadership. We’re kicking things off on Tuesday afternoon with a couple of can’t-miss sessions for every pastor, elder, church volunteer, church leader, and kingdom-minded worker.
It all begins at 2:00 p.m. with Part 1. Part 2 follows at 3:30 p.m.
Joining us will be Craig Groeschel, senior pastor of Life Church, the largest church in America with 25 sites in seven states. More than 100,000 attended Life Church Christmas services this past year. Craig’s passion and commitment to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus is legendary. Through his monthly leadership podcast, books, and speaking, he is inspiring and equipping kingdom workers to dream greater dreams and advance the most important work in the world.