More than 600 clergy and laity from across South Georgia gathered Feb. 24-25 in Macon for the second annual Disciple Covenant Conference.
Held at the Macon Centreplex, the event was designed to help individuals and teams develop plans for disciple formation.
The purpose of this annual event, according to Bishop King, is to “create the environment for you to focus on developing your disciple plan by providing information, inspiration and participation.” Development of discipleship plans should happen when attendees return home, he said.
“Your presence here reflects the power of God in your life, your team and your congregation,” said Bishop King. “Your participation is another sign of your willingness to be open to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
“We have come to this conference with many degrees of experiences in visioning and living into the mission of the church,” said Bishop King. “Regardless of where you are now, may you be more when you leave and even more as you cultivate the plans God has placed on your heart.”
Bishop King opened the conference with an overview of the importance of forming a disciple plan and the importance of the 10 timeless values of the Christian faith: baptism, scripture, fellowship, prayer, the Lord’s Supper, Sabbath, fasting, stewardship, witness, and justice ministries.
Bishop King also challenged each church to be a CLU – Christlike Love Unit.
“Christlike love is experienced through small group fellowship,” said Bishop King. “If you have a guaranteed love experience and you invite people into that, they will experience the love of Christ.”
If congregations strive for one CLU at a time, it makes the vision more manageable, according to Bishop King.
Three of the event’s speakers, Rev. Jay Hanson, Rev. Jim Cowart, and Jennifer Cowart, spoke about one of the 10 timeless values. Rev. Tim Stevens tied it all together with a focus on making disciples. After each presentation, attendees were given time for personal reflection, team discussion and disciple plan formation.
Preaching on the importance of Communion, Rev. Hanson, senior pastor at The Chapel in Brunswick, posed an essential question to participants, “What needs to happen in order for people to change and how can we help this occur?”
“We can call it missions, making disciples, sanctification, transformation or spiritual growth,” he said. “But what it really boils down to is changing lives.
“The sacrament of Holy Communion is quite literally a sacred moment of holy union with God and each other,” said Rev. Hanson. “And our union with each other and God is our greatest evangelistic tool.”
Friday evening’s events closed with a healing service.
On Saturday, Rev. Jim and Jennifer Cowart, from Harvest Church in Byron, talked about actions and attitudes around witness and evangelism.
“If it’s not working, stop doing it and try something else,” said Jennifer Cowart. “People aren’t coming because they really don’t know if they are welcome.”
The Cowarts talked about the natural life cycle of churches – the dreaming stage, the doing stage, the doldrums stage and the cocooning stage.
“Sometimes we’re not passionate about evangelism because we are in the doldrums,” said Rev. Cowart. “Get out of the doldrums by doing something different. Don’t wait until it’s too late to cocoon. God has built in Sabbath – refresh and dream again, South Georgia!”
Rev. Tim Stevens, teaching pastor at Granger Community in Granger, Ind. and the final speaker for the event, challenged participants to be leaders worth following, extend simple invites, remember simple affirmations, commit to simple honesty, and recognize a new reality.
“Everything is changing; the church landscape is changing,” said Rev. Stevens. “Our thinking in the church is ‘you come to us,’ but church is not a what or where. It’s a who. Church is on the move – a move of God among us.”
Rev. Stevens encouraged participants to “struggle with your team about how you will impact the community.”
Worship music for the weekend was provided by Robert McMichael and Jarvis Wilson, both from Atlanta.
Bishop King closed the conference with an exhortation to focus on disciple-making efforts.
“Once you commit to the plan God has laid on your heart – persist,” said Bishop King. “You will not fail because you will not quit. Do not grow weary. Commit to grow.
“It doesn’t matter how long this takes, let us be committed to pleasing God by loving Jesus and making disciples of Jesus Christ.”