Exponential East + Converge Pre-Con: Taking Risks

by Allison Hurtado, staff writer
Exponential East + Converge Pre-Con

Exponential 2017 + Converge Pre-Con kicked off last Monday afternoon in Orlando, Florida, with three Converge speakers. George Bedlion III, pastor of Whitewater Church, Puyallup, Washington, planted with Converge in 2012. George told the group of over 140 why it is important to reach out to non-believers. Living in one of the most unchurched regions of the United States pushed George outside the comforts of the “Christian world” and into places most people wouldn’t go, or even remember to go, such as a neighbor’s front door.

“The longer someone is a Christian, the fewer non-Christian friends they have,” George said. “Unintentionally, churches create programs and busyness for Christians and it sucks them out of the culture we are supposed to be reaching.”

George’s church began missionally and admittedly, a little unorganized, but he created leadership and teams to go along with the block parties, PTA meetings and other outreach events his church created. The four words he stressed: believe, bring, belong and bless. Blessing people is their first step at Whitewater, then people feel that they belong. They bring their friends to a place they belong, and then they believe.

“We have to make a journey back out to culture, which is scary for a lot of churches,” George said. “We can move believe out to the edge. People don’t have to believe or belong before they are blessed.”

Executive director of Converge Church Planting Lee Stephenson interviewed John Baxter, Converge director of Global Diaspora Initiatives. John touched on the migrant populations moving into U.S. cities and suburbs, and what the church can do to reach them. There are currently 240 million people living outside their country of birth, and 1 billion people are constantly on the move.

“One of the most hesitant groups about immigrants is the white evangelical church,” John said. “Our first step is to conquer fear. Don’t be afraid of those who are different. Pastors need to preach, teach and model by starting relationships with people from other churches. No one is born naturally cross-cultural, it’s something we need to learn how to do.”

Dr. Randy Deal, associate pastor, North Valley Community Church, Phoenix, Arizona, led the last conversation of the day speaking about guest services. If a person has a wonderful experience at a restaurant, research shows they will tell seven people. If it’s terrible, they tell upwards of 50. Randy stressed the need to create core values for guest services, using examples from other churches such as, “You matter to us before you matter to God,” “Everyone is a VIP,” “No one opens their own door here.”

Randy said he finds many churches say they are always expecting company, but he and his wife attend secretly and find churches aren’t as welcoming as they think. He encouraged pastors to make sure visitors are greeted five times before they sit down for service. 

“Your first greeter is your website and social media presence,” he said. “Second greeter is your parking team, and as they head inside into the lobby, there should be a team there.”

The second day featured Converge church planter/pastor Stanley Patton, who spoke on the topic of The Big Risk. Stanley and his wife, Melissa, were at an established church before starting their own–which they did through a sports program called Victory Sports.

“God disrupted your life and called you into ministry. Exponential is disruptive,” Stanley said. “You can’t come here and not feel inspired when you go back home. You are part of the greatest missionary effort in human history, so whatever you do, do it big." 

Stanley did it big with Victory Sports. He felt called to reach the next generation, so he wanted to reach kids through sports. The Pattons went to their local school system and asked them to hire them: and they did.

“People said we were crazy. We left one of the biggest churches in our area to start a sports league. Why?” Stanley said. “Because I want to reach kids. I quit my job; all we had was faith. All you need is faith. What if we allowed God to work through us, we could do something amazing.” 

Lee Stephenson, executive director of Converge Church Planting, concluded the morning with four church planting trends. He identified that: church planting is becoming more strategic, we are becoming more urban, churches are becoming more modular and there is a rise in the prevalence of bi-vocational pastors. The pastors talked through the trends in small groups, and Lee led the discussion on what it means to Converge as we continue to start and strengthen churches.

If you missed Exponential East, but still want to be part of the largest gathering of church planters on the planet, Converge will host sessions at Exponential West this October. New topics and new speakers. Register now before rates increase. We are excited to do it all again on the West Coast! Don’t miss it.  

    Point - September 2018

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