Ben Sternke is a pastor in Fort Wayne, IN at Christ Church.
Since the inception of our church plant, we have been part of a remarkable group of people and churches called The Ecclesia Network. This year our national gathering will be held March 5-7, 2012 near Washington, D.C. The focus this time is on how our churches can function as centers of reconciliation, where we learn through the power of the Spirit to live as one reconciled family of God across racial, economic, and generational lines. John Perkins, Ivy Beckwith, AJ Swoboda and others will join us for three days of conversation, learning, discussion, and prayer.
I’ll be attending the gathering again this year (with my 14-year-old son!), but not out of a sense of obligation because we belong to a network. I’ll be going because this isn’t like other conferences I’ve been to. There is a passionate desire among the organizers and attendees to simply equip people to join God in what he’s doing in their respective local contexts, and that comes through every single year.
You can read my reflections from the gatherings in 2010 and 2011 to get a feel for what they’ve been like in the past, but here are a few reasons I’ll be attending again this year:
- There really are no superstars (even when Dallas Willard was there). There is a remarkable lack of insecure posturing on the part of the leaders who attend, and the special speakers we invite in are always very accessible for conversations (which is part of the reason we cap gathering attendance). It always feels like an extended conversation with friends and allies in kingdom mission.
- I always learn something. We’re not simply gathering to affirm what all of us already know. There is in the atmosphere of the gathering a genuine desire to grow and learn.
- It always kind of feels like a family reunion. It’s a relationalnetwork, and this shines through at the national gathering.
- Robust missional ecclesiology is combined with rooted incarnational expression in a way I’ve not seen before. As my friendJR Rozko said, “I’ve never experienced an event or a group of people that is so capable of engaging in serious theological discourse without losing sight of its irrelevance apart from incarnational expression.”
- The value of men and women co-laboring in all aspects of ministry is expressed concretely and consistently. This is one of the things I love most about the Ecclesia Network generally.
- There is a precious openness to the activity of the Holy Spiritthat is starting to bear very good fruit in the network.
So that’s why I’ll be there. Maybe you want to come too! You can register here, and if you plan to come, let me know so I can meet you while we’re there together.