By Charles W. Short

elevate1Churches run on patterns. A Bible study on this night, a prayer meeting on that morning, put the offering at this point in the service and plan the Christmas program in the fall. If you run the same pattern for very long, it becomes a rut.

On Aug. 20, just over 100 faithful servant-leaders from Arizona Southern Baptist churches gathered in Phoenix to be shaken out of their ruts. Instead of the Mathetes conference this year, the Arizona Southern Baptist Church Life Team and facilitators Eddy Pearson and Keith Henry brought us the Elevate Summit. They invited David Cooper of Invictus Global to probe the sore spots of today’s churches.

David Johnson opened the meeting by saying, “You are going to be stretched today.” That might have been superfluous for those who had already been impressed by a loud, “rockin'” TobyMac remix and a video prelude of base jumpers and flying suits.

Shortly thereafter, David Cooper themed the day by saying, “In order to gain God’s perspective we have to surrender our perspective.” Perhaps the words our perspective were polite words for ruts.

Cooper started the pursuit of that theme by discussing vision. But before teaching the discovery and implementation of vision, he pointed out that vision has been misused in the church by the rampant and lazy practice of refitting the vision statements of others. Instead of hearing from God how to direct an individual congregation forward, we have too often given a new coat of paint to a vision that worked somewhere else, he said.

Next up, Peter Haas, lead pastor of Substance Church in metropolitan Minneapolis, described his own vision for the church where God has placed him. This congregation successfully reaches artsy millennials, including those in the LGBTQIA community.

With humor and common sense, Haas also pointed out a number of hot potato topics churches may struggle with, including the topics of sex and sexuality. The church must engage these issues in order to reach an entire generation who have been raised with false information on these subjects, creating the sacred cows of our culture, he said.

Following that, we were given a primer on two aspects of technology. Sound, lighting and projection for use in worship was first. The second was social media.

Communication is no longer just the task of mastering the English language, but now we must also creatively connect with our congregations through social media and its associated technologies, the speakers said. It is true that millennials are more interested in relationships and less interested in spectacular presentations, but they still have a baseline expectation that social media and technology will be used to enhance, maintain and expand those relationships.

Keith Henry explained why this was not another Bible conference. “This is a conference for reaching the next generation,” he said.

Eddy Pearson went a little further by saying this was “a topic which affects all congregations — rural, river and urban.”

Elevate successfully helped us embrace the culture and face the future, without compromising the gospel.