Proverbs 23:23 counsels us to "Buy the truth, don't sell it". This phrase has long been a principle in our family of churches, reminding us that we don't know everything; we are all learning; and we need to keep finding fresh wisdom for our churches as we seek to bring God's saving message to a fast-changing world. This posture leads us to welcome regular guest speakers, send leaders (staff and volunteers) to external conferences, as well as hosting conferences and training in-house. That's healthy for us.
Another key phrase for us is that "everything healthy is connected to something larger". Just as a cell in an organism, a body-part in a body (1 Corinthians 12 gives us a wonderful image of body parts asking whether they belong!) or an animal or plant in an ecosystem is healthy only inasmuch as it finds its place in the larger whole, so a church (as a community of people) is healthy as it finds its place in a family of churches, as well as alongside the other churches in its locality.
(We often note that buses are often late, and then come in batches. So too with conferences it seems!)
As I write, I'm away with Sanjay Mahtani and Mark Eley (Lifehouse) at the 'Growing the Next Level Learning Community' in Peterborough, with other larger churches in the UK, exploring together how we lead healthy, effective and growing churches. Speakers include well-known worship leader Darlene Zschech (pictured), who has now shifted focus to planting and supporting churches.
Next week a team of OCC leaders (Ruth and I, Steve, Simon and Carol) are visiting Bethel California, to connect, learn and explore together areas of possible collaboration. A team also visited in September 2022 - read the report here or watch here (from 42:21).
We're part of the Salt & Light Advance family of churches, which in turn is part of Salt & Light International, and through these 'family connections' we get to learn richly from leaders in other contexts, including leaders of significant movements in the global south, where Christianity is flourishing more than in the West. In early May, some us from the Advance team (including me and Steve) will be participating in an International Leaders Conference - the first one onsite since the pandemic. The topic for this conference is also about leading healthy, effective and growing churches.
Finally, we love welcoming external guest speakers on Sundays, and we're looking forward to May 2023 when we'll again be joined by Bishop J B Masinde. Watch again the last visit he made with us.
In all of this, do pray for our leaders, that their vision is refreshed and God uses these events to equip them to lead us well!