By Walter Evans (Elders Service Team), Ed Anton (Teachers Service Team) and Doug Arthur (Evangelists Service Team)
As recorded in Acts 15, a historic meeting took place in the early church to consider some very difficult questions that has arisen in the brotherhood of believers. As it states in vs.6 “the apostles and elders met to consider the question” where “much discussion” took place and to be sure persuasive messages and impassioned pleas were offered regarding the topics at hand. We can most likely know that many ideas were exchanged and strong statements were made along the way. In the end we see a unified front, and a clear way for the church of the first century to move forward.
We as a family of churches are now days away from our ICOC yearly delegates meeting, “Forward by Faith”. As we gather this year in Chicago we can take encouragement that we are following similar patterns as our brothers and sisters of long ago. Unlike our previous yearly meetings which were supportive, safe, and some would say stale, this year there has been a bold attempt offered up by the service team chairmen to start a discussion and make some progress on some issues that many consider crucial to our future as a movement.
There has been an effort like never before to be collaborative and transparent in this gathering of information. After our elders, evangelist, and teachers service team meeting in Dallas last April, the leadership group decided it would be best to take the same questions that were discussed in Dallas and send them to the 34 Regional Family of churches and gather their results. For the first time in many years, extensive efforts have been made to not only hear from our brothers and sisters in the US, but from all corners of our international fellowship so that everyone would be on equal footing.
As reports came in from 2500 leaders from all of our families of churches, five primary areas for discussion were the obvious focus of our 3.0 discussions – Missions, Structure, Communication, Finance, and Unity. We will meet in Chicago to hear from various regions around the world, have presentations and options offered up on these five topics, have groups for prayer and discussion, and have Town Hall Meetings hosted by the Task Forces to drill deeper into these important areas. On the last day of our meeting, the delegates will have the opportunity to vote. The vote will be used to narrow the focus of each of the five Task Forces as they continue to develop and refine their final proposals for 2018. Click here to see the Delegates Meeting Program.
And yet, unlike the Acts 15 example given above, we have not had the apostolic advantage – mistakes have been made. This attempt to “start a conversation” in our brotherhood has been received by many with positive support, and for that we are grateful. At the same time, we now realize that the process was moving too fast for such a complex topic that needed global inclusion. Thank you to the many who spoke up, and in particular the Elders Service Committee who stressed that we needed to slow down. As a result we’ve amended the schedule to add all of 2018 for the task forces to listen, gather information, petition experts in the field, collaborate, and complete the process while at the same time making sure that we stay within the proper protocols that we’ve established among our family of churches.
Although the mistake of our pace has been corrected, the more egregious violation that has been made in this process has been the hurt that has been inflicted on respected brothers who have felt marginalized and disregarded as the 3.0 process moved along. The chairmen of the Elders, Evangelists, and Teachers Service Committees sincerely apologize to those who have felt left out as things have proceeded. This was never our intent, but we hear you and we are sorry. As we finish with phase 1 in Chicago, we will double our efforts to make sure that everyone who wants to have a voice in the process can collaborate with the task forces as they formulate their proposals for 2018.
The Great Commission
Our process, certainly, has been less than perfect. Collaboration on a global scale is challenging. The good news is that God specialized in taking the imperfect and doing amazing things! As we approach Chicago, let us all be glad that the conversations have started regarding topics that are important not only to here and now, but to future generations and the salvation of souls all around the world. Let us all continue to seek God’s guidance and move “Forward by Faith” together as we strive to keep the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.
IMPORTANT: Please click here for 2017 DELEGATES MEETING – BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER