By Dave Stone
The North American Christian Convention has arrived. Ready or not, it’s here! Thanks for making the investment of time, energy, and money to be a part of what will be a memory-making week. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?
Finding the Setting
Four years ago I was both surprised and honored when I received a call asking me to serve as the 2016 President of the North American Christian Convention. I felt honored since both my father and brother were former presidents of the NACC. (To be honest, I was starting to feel like the Jeb Bush of the family!) But the caller continued: “What do you think about having the conference in southern California, where it hasn’t been for 24 years?” Those two questions deserved prayer and conversations with California leaders before I could give an answer.
Over the next few months I spoke with preachers, Christian college presidents, and leaders all along the West Coast. With each conversation my heart beat faster. It became obvious that we had to bring the NACC to southern California. When asked what the Lord was doing, West Coast leaders and influencers shared story after story of God moving in huge ways in California:
• Church plants are popping up throughout the state.
• Churches big and small are experiencing major growth.
• Established churches are being infused with new life.
• Churches are making huge strides in ethnic diversity.
• Powerful ministries are seeing college students coming to know Christ.
Anaheim is a unique cosmopolitan location. You can make friends with people from all over the world. In this region the churches of our fellowship are plentiful and flourishing. Back over two decades ago, when the NACC was last in California, there were only four Christian churches that averaged over 1,000 people. Today in California there are 12 churches in that category. Anaheim is the only place in the world where you are within 70 miles of five churches in our fellowship that average over 5,000 people.
With every story I became more convinced to accept the role as President of the NACC and also to bring the convention back to Anaheim. In light of those stories, it seemed fitting for our conference theme to be . . . A Better Story.
Crafting the Script
This week we’re digging into the gospel of John to see a variety of people who had encounters with Jesus. In each instance Jesus had a better story for them. A Better Story doesn’t just apply to what we hear from the stage at the convention but also to the better stories you’re hearing from those sitting in the seats all around you. This week is a great opportunity for California Christians and churches of all sizes to be introduced to this conference which we pray inspires, encourages, and refreshes you as you lead for Christ. This convention gives us the chance to bring A Better Story to the city that tells so many stories.
We wanted to make this year different than any other NACC in the past. We’re excited to have Christ In Youth partnering with us and putting on a CIY MOVE event for all the youth attending the NACC. This has given the opportunity for entire families to come to the NACC and be both spiritually fed and have fun hearing some of the best storytellers in the world share their story, as well as the story of Christ.
Those of you attending the conference are being challenged by an impressive list of storytellers who will help you in the next chapter of your own story of growth, service, and ministry—people like Tim Tebow, Bob Goff, Christine Caine, Albert Tate, Naomi Zachairias, and for King & Country, just to name a few. The ministers and teachers within our own brotherhood are outstanding, including Dudley Rutherford, Gene Appel, Rick Rusaw, and Jeff Vines.
Changing the Plot
But there’s a story that is much more important than what will take place in an arena in Anaheim, and that is your story. As you reflect on your own testimony, you’ll think of mentors, relatives, and friends whose influence has marked your story in a positive way. The ripples of impact on your life have changed the plotline and perhaps even the ending of your story.
I think of Wayne Smith, former minister of the Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky. When I attended the NACC in the summer of 1981, on the first day of the convention he handed me $100 of his own money and told me to buy some books that would be helpful to me in ministry.
. . . What an unselfish gesture!
I think of my mom who recently went to be with the Lord. On countless nights when I was a child she would pray beside my bed. Oftentimes she would say, “Dear Lord, I can’t wait to see how you are going to use Dave for your glory.” As a result of those prayers, I would fall asleep, not wondering if God could use me, but instead wondering how he might use me.
. . . What a legacy!
I think of David Roadcup, a Bible college professor who took the time to pour into a group of students every Wednesday night. His purpose was to instill some spiritual disciplines in our lives that could help us for the long haul.
. . . What a visionary investment!
When you cross paths with people who are generous, encouraging, and spiritually passionate, it has a way of affecting your story and making it better.
In all honesty, my challenge is that I want to craft my own story and weave the tapestry and write the script. But Scripture tells me that there is One who perceives my thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:2). There is One who knows the number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:30). And there is One who knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).
In light of those realities, if I truly want a better story then I need to trust that he will lead me on the right path which will result in the very best story. Who better to write your story than the powerful and personal God of the universe who knows you inside and out? The challenge is to accept his script and not attempt to alter it with our own selfish plotlines and desires.
In the big scheme of things, rather than questioning every twist and turn, every trial and trouble, we need to trust. God knows what he’s writing and unfolding. After all, Hebrews 12:2 refers to the Lord as the author and perfecter of our faith (New King James Version). May we remember that since we know the end of the story, then we need not become overly concerned with the details and the development of the plot. In the end, those who have followed Christ win. Not because of what we have done but because of what he has done. God can write a better story for each of us, if we’re willing to give him the pen.
Dave Stone is the minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and President of the 2016 North American Christian Convention.