Last week; twelve staff, elders, and deacons from St. Andrew’s joined over 1,200 other church leaders for our denomination’s (ECO) 3rd National Gathering at the First Presbyterian Church of Greenville, South Carolina. Amid joyful worship and dynamic addresses, the conference theme, “Entrusted,” focused on the church’s call to disciple and empower leaders for the sake of bearing faithful witness to the gospel.
Keynote speaker, Jo Sexton, encouraged a packed sanctuary to consider “what will we give away so the gospel can flourish?” She concluded by challenging us to “get past our own culture, our own preferences, our own plans…to open our hearts to people we may not like” so that our churches will stand as signposts of the kingdom in a culture that is divided. James Choung spoke to the paradigm shift churches will need to undergo as they seek to engage younger generations. He encouraged the faithful to listen to the questions younger generations are asking rather than presuming to answer questions in which they have no interest.
Together, these sessions hit upon two major themes that St. Andrew’s leadership has been wrestling with: the necessity of developing a robust leadership pathway, and moving from a multi-generational to an inter-generational congregation. In addition to the large group gatherings, several breakout sessions were scattered throughout the three days which allowed us to launch dialogues on church planting, growing younger, and leadership development, engaging our Muslim neighbors and fostering multi-ethnic congregations. With a dizzying array of topics to discuss, the evenings were filled with rich fellowship and conversation as we sought to tease out the implications of what we were hearing and learning.
For many of our elders, a highlight of the week was the time spent engaging with leaders and staff from our partner churches at Highland Park in Dallas and Christ Presbyterian Church near Minneapolis. Together we shared best practices and discussed the challenges and opportunities we’ve faced in the trenches of ministry. We left our time in South Carolina with a deep sense of gratitude for the ministry with which we’ve been entrusted and a keen appreciation for ECO’s emphasis on the connectional nature of our fellowship.