Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The NACC and Me

The North American Christian Convention bills itself as "the connecting place." I plan to attend this summer's convention in Cincinnati.

I've had an "on-again, off-again" relationship with the NACC since 1966 when my wife and I attended the NACC in Cincinnati. We camped at Rabbit Hatch, KY, and drove in each day for the convention. We wore suits to the conventon in those days and it was hot in Cincinnati. After that, I attended the convention a time or two then quit going. I got rather disgusted with what I noted was the political atmosphere of the convention.

I started going to the conventions again when I was at Westwood-Cheviot Church of Christ in Cincinnati. I attended conventions in Indianapolis, Anaheim, Tulsa, Kansas City, Phoenix, and Louisville (not necessarily in that order). While serving at Westwood-Cheviot I ministered to the Convention Director and his wife as well as the coordinator of the Bible Bowl and Teen Conventions. These were great people who wanted the convention to minister to the whole family.

I quit going on a regular basis when the Convention raised their registration prices through the roof. Most of the cost increase, in my opinion -- and I could be wrong, came about because the convention leadership foolishly purchased an expensive Cincinnati property for their offices and got into terrible debt. Not long after that, the convention leadership began encouraging sponsorships of various events at the conventions and began refocusing the convention away from families to church leaders. The last convention I attended was at Corona, one of the venues of a divided convention.

Convention leaders continue to raise prices and raise funds for events through sponsorships. Some of those sponsors are from groups, businesses, and ministries with no direct Restoraion Movement tie or relationship. Various conservative leaders within the Restoration Movement have raised questions about the wisdom of such sponsorships realizing that whoever provides the funds calls the tune. Convention leaders may protest that this has not happened, but those charged with having their hands in the cookie jar can often make the excuses and it is difficult to gain evidence that sponsors have indeed shaped the message and the convention. Those who raise such questions are accused of being out of touch, old fashioned, and just plain suspicous!

In addition to all this, the convention leadership continually brings speakers to the platform who represent theological positions at odds with sound doctrine. Sometimes the messages they bring are helpful, sometimes they are not. A few years ago Edwin McManus, minister of Mosaic Church, preached a typical Baptist "faith only" message. Robert Webber spoke emphasizing the "ancient future" church and spoke glibly of the Acts 2 church. Any references Webber made to the early churh did not reflect an Acts 2 church. Rather, he talked about the church of the second and third centuries. Someone not versed in Church History may not have picked that up, but I did. The only question I have is why are we letting leaders from outside the Restoration Movement set the pattern for the church? Why has Bill Hybels become the guru fr growth rather than men from our own movement? Don't we have successful leaders and growing churches that haven't imbibed the spirit of compromise from Hybels and othres?

You may be wondering, if you see all of this why do you intend to attend the convention? There are a couple of reasons:
  1. I have friends across the broad spectrum of the Restoration Movement. I have always enjoyed the convention as a "connecting place" with friends from across the country. When I attend conventions I spend most of my time wandering the displays looking for friends with whom to visit. I attend the main preaching sessions sitting as far away from the raucous music as I can. Furthermore, I always vote "no" for the slate of officers even though my voice is never heard when the vote is taken.
  2. I don't want to lose what little influence I have. I am under no illustion that my being there will create much of a ripple. But as I visit with a friend or two, it might ... it just might! More and more are abandoning the convention (attendances show that) and some absolutely refuse to attend because of the convention's policies. I would hate to see a repeat of the 1927-29 general conventions that resulted in the formation of the NACC. Maybe I'm too late! The Hillsboro Family Camp may already have done that.
  3. When I do go to the conventions I usually room with my good friend Jon Stedman. Jon and I are best of friends dating back to grad school. We have seen and supported each other through some major crises in our lives. We look forward to just bein together and having fun. We share the expense of the room and take in only what we think might be worthwhile.

I'll bring you a report after this year's convention giving you my insights and evaluations.

Its Been Awhile!

As the title indicates, it's been awhile since I last posted. There are some good reasons for that. Let me explain:
  1. I took a two week mission trip to Thailand in March. I worked with my friends Bob and Peggy Kuest of New Mission Systems and Ahtapa Sinlee, a national worker and good friend. I spent the first week in Mai Sai one of the chief cities in the Golden Triangle. There were nearly 120 workers from Tibet, Myanmar, Laos, China, Vietnam, and Thailand. One of the most exciting part of that particular segment was meeting two Lisu workers from Tibet who reported the starting of 62 churches without any help from westerners. The second week, I was in a Hmong village near Mai Sot. We taught about 50 Hmong Christian tribal leaders. Those trips are beginning to leave me exhausted when I arrive home.
  2. My teaching load this spring was particularly heavy. I started the semester with 54 Consortium students (about 40 completed). I also designed and taught a course in American Christianity for Dallas Christian College and a Restoration History course for Manhattan Christian College.
  3. I continue to minister with the Camelback Christian Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. Along with the elders, we are working through some strategic planning that I hope will result in growth for that faithful congregation.

Looking to the future, there are other service opportunities on the horizon. Lee Mason, editor of Restoration Herald invited me to write a regular column for the paper. I am currently writing articles for that and publication should begin in a few months. In the column I am focusing on the lessons we can learn from church history. I hope to take events and individuals from the past and put a face on them to help Christians see what we can learn from them. I expect to get in trouble a few times, but that's part of the picture.

I am currently teaching a summer session for the Consortium, 3 students in a Restoration History course through Manhattan, and World Civilizations II for Dallas Christian College. I hope to get more regular with the blog but my wife and I are planning a trip to the North American Christian Convention and some vacationing to see friends in Canton as well as our daughter in Nashville. I also plan to do some videoing at Restoration sites in West Virginia and Kentucky so I can produce some video for my online courses.