By Jerry Harris
Three words describe the core of the mission of the North American Christian Convention: identity, inspiration, and ideas. The convention has been crucial to the unity and vibrancy of the independent Christian church since its inception in 1927.
The 2017 NACC in Kansas City, Missouri, June 27-29, was the first time I was tasked with setting up and manning a booth instead of just attending the NACC as a pastor of a local church. Even before the convention started, I was surrounded by many people critical to our fellowship.
As my wife and I checked in to our hotel, we were greeted by Don Wilson, Dave Stone, and Gene Appel. Don and Dave lead the two largest churches among Christian churches/churches of Christ, and Gene has led the third largest, Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Since 2008, Gene has been senior pastor with Eastside Christian Church in Fullerton, California, and this year he served as convention president. While all that may sound impressive, at this gathering we are simply colaborers in a great kingdom.
It was a privilege to speak with Ben Merold, Sam Stone, E. Richard Crabtree, Gareth Reese, Marshall Hayden, Victor Knowles, Glen Liston, and so many others who have held the reins of shaping who we are today. I also saw many of my contemporaries, which served to remind me of how far we have all come from our early days in college and ministry.
So many people stopped by to thank us for the continued ministry of Christian Standard and The Lookout, and they represented churches large and small from all over the country. Connecting and sharing a few priceless conversations would have been a good enough reason to be there—but the NACC had more in store for us.
Speakers and session leaders sought to inspire, and I appreciated their preparation and the way God used them, but the greatest encouragement often is found in unlikely places. For me, that moment came the first evening, when a massive number of millennials came forward and allowed us to pray for them. It reminded me that today’s leaders are simply links in a chain forged by God over time and space to move the gospel forward.
Another favorite moment was the quiet lunch I had with my Bible college president, Ken Idleman, while our wives attended the women’s luncheon. And I was inspired by the two-hour conversation I had with David Johnson, the man on the cover of this magazine, who is serving the Lord in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Where else could all those opportunities be compressed into one place?
The convention center was thick with great ideas for ministry. I heard about a new discipleship initiative called “Rooted” developed in Africa, that many of my friends were enthusiastic about. I was excited for the magazine to partner with e2: effective elders to bring a new monthly column to our readers. I think elders in our churches will benefit from that.
Christian Standard Media brought ideas too. Our Facebook Live interviews started catching on at other booths, using social media to communicate a timeless message. There’s no shortage of talented people that God is using to spread his gospel in incredibly creative ways.
This convention, like the others before it, will be remembered for many things, including the main session speakers and the music. But for me, the greatness of the NACC is in the diverse collection of leaders God puts together. These Spirit-empowered leaders, all gathered under one roof for a few days, remind us we are truly world changers linked together in a chain to break all other chains.
Jerry Harris is publisher of Christian Standard Media and senior pastor at The Crossing, a multisite church located in three states across the Midwest.