In March, Christian Education and Publications and Mission to North America conducted the fifth biennial conference on Mercy Ministries in the PCA. Over 230 participants from twenty-five states gathered for this conference entitled The Church as a Community of Hope: Restoring the Family, Serving the Community at New City Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Because training the church to show mercy is both a privilege and responsibility of discipling people for kingdom service, mercy ministry becomes a tangible way for churches to put hands and feet on the gospel of the kingdom.
The conference had four main objectives:
1. To mobilize compassionate leadership in our churches.
2. To equip congregations to pass on a biblical legacy of leadership characterized by mercy.
3. To understand that justice is a biblical imperative.
4. To develop an integrated approach to ministry so that mercy permeates the entire church.
How successful and effective was the conference in accomplishing those objectives? Curt Moore, Assistant Pastor/Disaster Response Assistant at Lagniappe Presbyterian Church in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi gave the following statement:
“I believe this year was the best Mercy Conference because of the real and practical ways we were encouraged to participate in showing mercy to those in need. It was also an encouragement to hear what God is doing and the diverse ways He is mobilizing His church. With regard to the content, the plenary and break out sessions were led by people who knew what they were talking about and communicated well God’s vision and passion for mercy. Unlike some conferences where you go home and put your notes on the shelf, this conference gave me the encouragement that I could really apply what I learned. What I like best was that it was a very gospel driven, gospel centered conference.”
And others add their comments:
“The plenary speakers were excellent. They were helpful to me personally.”
“An excellent conference with a lot to take back to our church and implement.”
“Definitely one of the high points in my Christian walk.”
“The conferences are impacting my church directly and my community positively.”
“The quality of the speakers and the variety of workshops was just excellent.”
“I wish we could have this kind of mercy ministry conference every year.”
CEP and MNA know this is a crucial time for churches to develop ministries that will be effective during our tough economic times. The 2009 Mercy Ministries Conference offered a program that was pertinent to our current situation. During the plenary sessions, Dr. Bob Burns of Covenant Theological Seminary spoke on Restoring Hope to the Family. Tara Barthel from Rocky Mountain Community Church and Peacemakers Ministry delivered the Friday morning plenary on Living the Gospel in Relationships. Randy Nabors, pastor of New City Presbyterian Church, spoke on The Story of Mercy; and Julian Russell of Park City Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, gave the closing plenary on Kingdom Instructions for Mercy. For a complete list of workshop sessions, check out www.pcacep.org/mercy.
The New City staff, worship team, and members did an outstanding job of hosting and contributing to the overall success of the conference. During the Friday night session, participants also enjoyed a mini concert from James Ward and the New City Church choir.
CEP Coordinator Charles Dunahoo reminded conference attendees that while the church has been losing ground in the past ten years, it has an opportunity to regain some of its ground by demonstrating integrity and seriousness about its challenge to disciple its people with a kingdom perspective that requires mercy and service. Referring to an article in USA Today regarding depression caused by the current economic crisis, Dunahoo expressed that the church as God’s messenger of the good news of the kingdom is the answer; but the world has to see that it is real, and young people have to be serious about making a difference in today’s world.
If you were not able to attend this year’s conference, you can still benefit from the array of pertinent and beneficial speakers. All the plenary sessions and seminars are available on CD from the CEP Bookstore at www.cepbookstore.com.