Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Recharging in Monterey, Day 1

Being married to a preacher, I’ve discovered, means attending his “business trips.” Yesterday, we spent a few hours on the U.S. Highway 101 with my in-laws and attended a Tuesday night devotional at the Spanish-language Church of Christ on Curtis St. in Salinas. That night we made it to foggy Monterey. Today was the first day of the 2013 Recharge: Excellence in Ministry conference, hosted by Ripon Church of Christ at the Best Western Plus Monterey Beach Resort. I’ve attended a number of academic conferences, gospel meetings, and Bible lectureships, but this event is really unique in that it focuses exclusively on the practical side of ministry (i.e., the “how to” rather than theological or doctrinal content).

This morning I attended the first two sessions of a thorough exegesis of the Epistle to Titus, taught by Denny Petrillo, President of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. Today he introduced the book and covered chapter one, focusing on qualifications for elders. I didn’t find his notes on the authorship, date, and other details about the book helpful, but his Greek word studies are giving me a whole new appreciation for the book’s content. So many details are easily overlooked when one reads an English translation. For example, he showed how churches often trivialize elder qualifications, checking off “married” and “children are baptized” when the text suggests “not a womanizer” and “children must be dependable,” obviously more stringent conditions. I’m looking forward to hearing what more Petrillo has to say this week.

While Dale Jenkins, evangelist and pulpit minister of Spring Meadows Church of Christ (Spring Hill, TN), spoke on “Leading with Vision” and Zinnie Sabroe of West Visalia Church of Christ spoke on “Enhancing Your Prayer Life,” I attended the first part of “Exegesis for Everyone,” taught by Dan Owen, minister at Broadway Church of Christ (Paducah, KY) and instructor at Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. Owen talked about how to study the Bible, using the Books of 1 and 2 Kings as examples. Two serious problems that he warned against were treating the books as comprehensive histories of the Israel and Judah rather than a theological story with one main point (i.e., the decline and fall of the kingdoms due to wicked rulers) and searching for applications unconnected with that main point that the author had no intention of transmitting to his audience. Owen emphasized the need to always consider the overall context of the book – that is, where the story is headed – before actually delving into its study so that we don’t get caught up in irrelevant details.

The last session of the morning featured Mark Johnson, preacher at Olympia Church of Christ (Olympia, WA), on “Forming Congregational Identity,” and Wayne Roberts, minister of Parker Church of Christ (Parker, CO) on how to be “Spiritually Fit” (as opposed to “spiritually fat”). I sat in “Help! I’ve Been Asked to Teach a Class” with Kathy Petrillo, who teaches public speaking at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. Mrs. Petrillo looked at what tools it takes for lessons to make a bigger impact. Topics included the importance of refining topics, outlining, and meeting the needs of audiences with difference “learning styles.” The talk was all about what it takes to create a successful lesson, but not so much on how to do it. I really wish that this had been made into a two-parter, lecture and workshop, so that we could put Mrs. Petrillo’s suggestions in action.

After a lunch break, spent at Pico de Gallo, a Mexican restaurant with merely “okay” food, we returned for “Idea Swap,” a mini-program of five-Minute PowerPoint presentations on a variety of topics. Kevin Bearly, former Evangelist at Newland Street Church of Christ (Garden Grove, CA) talked about the evangelistic success with men interested in firearms in his overview of the Brothers In Arms ministry. Travis Roberson, evangelist at Columbine Church of Christ (Littleton, CA) talked about the importance of young adult ministries, including guys’ and girls’ nights out for parents. (I liked the pottery workshop idea!). In “‘Little Fish, Big Pond’: A Small Church Adventure,” Wayne Roberts, minister of Parker Church of Christ (Parker, CO), gave advice on how small churches can utilize their advantages rather than always equating “big” with “success.” And finally, Brandon Evans, minister of Delano Church of Christ talked about “Reaching the Lost Through Little League” in a community where a Roman Catholic majority and multiple language barriers make evangelism difficult.

The afternoon session included Keith Hinds, minister of Palomar Church of Christ (San Marcos, CA), on “Being Leaders Like Paul,” and Brandon Evans, minister of Delano Church of Christ, on “Interactive Teaching.” In “Unintentional Evangelism Done Intentionally,” Cliff Sabroe, evangelist at West Visalia Church of Christ, talked about what Christians can do to make the most of everyday encounters with non-Christians, as Jesus had with the Samaritan woman. He stressed the importance of people recognizing us as “Christians” rather than people who were “just friendly.” He also encouraged his audience to venture outside their “comfort zones,” himself speaking on his experience interacting with Nazis, cage fighters, transsexuals, and the homeless, to name a few.

The final session of the day was a Q&A addressing questions on technology issues churches have. The keynote panel members were the hosts of the MinistryGeek podcast (part of The Equip Network): Dale Jenkins, evangelist and pulpit minister of Spring Meadows Church of Christ (Spring Hill, TN), Mike Hite, Vice President of Operations at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, and Caleb O’Hara, minister with Ripon Church of Christ. They answered questions about light pollution, Bible phone applications, live streaming video to reach elderly shut-ins, and the impact of social media and websites. I was disappointed that they only saw Yelp was a ranking site rather than useful directory people actually can use to find churches. Churches might be losing potential visitors if they don’t make an effort to correct and expand the information that their automatically-generated Yelp pages give out.

In the evening, we joined many other conference attendees at the Pacific Grove Church of Christ’s Wednesday night Bible class. Tomorrow, they’re hosting a singing. Then we ate at a nice, quiet, little Afghan restaurant called Amir’s Grill and Bar. I really recommend it. The beef kabobs are great!