COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Nearly 200 leaders and members of the Churches of Christ gathered at the University of Maryland College Park to share ideas about growing congregations in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic.
Attendees represented 23 congregations spanning from Virginia to Connecticut and New York. The recent event, “Leadership In Perilous Times: Let Us Wake Up and Strengthen What Remains!” was organized by ministers from Maryland and several mid-Atlantic states and led by Tony Roach, evangelist of the Minda Street Christ Church in Abilene, Texas.
Willie Hubbard, Minister of District Heights Christ Church in Maryland, said, “The purpose of the Mid-Atlantic Leadership Conference is to be refreshed, rekindled and restored so that we can strengthen what remains.”
Hubbard said everyone has been negatively affected during the pandemic, leaving many church leaders hurt and ministries interrupted or abandoned. He said leaders were wondering, “How do we do it? And where do we go from here?”
“God always raises up men in perilous times to lead his people,” Hubbard said. “We are dealing with a counterculture right now, and the world is calling on the church to stand up. But the church cannot do what it is supposed to do until its leaders turn to God.
The nine-hour event on October 29 began with a breakfast debate moderated by Roach. The panel included ministers from three Maryland congregations: Ed Maxwell of the Clinton Church of Christ, Willie Rupert of Central Church of Christ in Baltimore and Kevin Bethea from East Baltimore Christ Church.
Maxwell told the audience that COVID-19 was bringing a challenge to faith in churches, and Bethea said, “COVID opened our eyes to the fragility that existed in the church.”
Rupert accepted. “It challenged our values and our beliefs,” the central congregation minister said. “For those who were strong in faith, COVID has made them stronger. And for those who are weak in faith, COVID has made them weaker.
Church leaders and spouses then divided into groups. During one session, Bruce McClure, Certified Counselor and Minister of Prince George’s Christ Church in Landover, Md., said many church leaders have been injured or burned after years of ministry.
“The challenges we have faced over the past two years have put great stress on church leaders and their ministries,” McClure said. “Each leader has personally faced the challenges of their spiritual and physical health as well as their mental health, the safety of their family and church family, personal finances and the question of what and whom to believe. ?
“We weren’t prepared for a lot of these hardships,” he added, “and because of these challenges, we all lost something. These experiences hurt us with the symptoms of grief – grief, distress and anxiety.
Roach, author of “God’s Love Bank,” also preached on Saturday and Sunday and led a workshop on Monday for ministers: “The Biblical Pattern of Local Congregational Government, Organization, and Development.”
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“God’s love bank is a framework of thought. It’s a life program and a teaching program,” Roach told the the Chronicle. “It helped people understand that the body is a triple spiritual being that functions as God’s love bank.
“It breaks down the barriers of racism, the racial divide and it allows us to shed our old selves and put on our new selves as Paul commands in Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:9-10 and to Romans where the Bible says that Jesus crucified the old man on the cross and made us accessible.
HAMIL R HARRIS is a Christian Chronicle correspondent and veteran journalist who spent two decades with the Washington Post. He preaches regularly for the Glenarden Church of Christ in Maryland.