Palm Desert, Calif. Feb. 26 — Leaders in outreach, evangelism, and prayer gathered in Long Beach for "Living the Whole Gospel - 'Only Love Can Do That...' - the Mission America Coalition annual leadership consultation last week for what many described as the "best ever" MAC gathering, according to staff and participants.
"There was a sense of a great movement of God as we met, prayed, and shared together," said Paul Cedar, MAC chairman. "It was perhaps the most significant and impactful meeting we have ever had."
MAC's LOVE2020 initiative was also front and center, with more than 20 of the 30-some affinity spheres holding strategy sessions during the Consultation. The vision of LOVE2020 is that every man, woman, and child in America be authentically loved by at least one committed follower of Jesus Christ by the end of the year 2020.
"The Consultation gave great focus and impetus to the LOVE2020 Initiative," commented Cedar. "This included the launching of Kathy Branzell's ministry with us as the National Coordinator of LOVE2020."
Branzell is a member of the National Prayer Committee and on the board of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. She has a master's degree in Biblical Studies and also serves with FACE for Educators. Her new position with MAC for LOVE2020 was announced at the Consultation.
Branzell gave a strong appeal for collaboration in the church. "We are all puzzle pieces, carved, curved and cut by our Creator. We complete each other. We don't compete, we complete. If you weren't here the puzzle wouldn't be complete." And a strong appeal for love: "We are at war but the beautiful thing is that our weapon is love. We are not out to destroy, but to build up, we do not judge, but are on a journey to rescue the captives out of the hands of the enemy." (Read an interview with Branzell here.)
Cedar affirmed Branzell as a great woman of prayer. "She also has great insights on how to serve and move ahead the large group of conveners and coordinators who are leading some 30 LOVE2020 Affinity Spheres," Cedar said. "LOVE2020 has great potential to become a very large and significant movement of God in this nation, reaching millions of Americans with the love of God in word and deed during the next five years."
Also at the Consultation, MAC honored Luis Palau for his life contribution to the spread of the gospel. Andrew Palau addressed the gathering with a moving personal testimony and received the award on behalf of his father.
Organic Evangelism and the Pray-Care-Share Lifestyle
"One of the delightful and powerful surprises of the Leadership Consultation was that virtually every one of our plenary speakers gave a special emphasis to the great potential of the prayer-care-share lifestyle," Cedar said. "It was an amazing move of the Holy Spirit."
Kevin Harney, author of the series of Organic Outreach books and pastor of Shoreline Church, Monterey, Calif., offered two plenary presentations. "What if every follower of Jesus actually loved people?" he asked. "What if...every life were a place of witness, every home a place of love and witness, every church saw the gospel as core to all they do? What would happen in our nation?"
Harney described that love expressed as a pray-care-share lifestyle is an organic expression of evangelism, much more relevant to our 21st century culture. "If love is there, almost anything we try will work," he said.
The orality movement was also a topic of the plenary presentations. Mark Snowden and Jerry Wiles taught by example in their sessions, showing the value and methods of orality.
"God has wired us for stories!," Snowden said. "It's the best way to share the gospel." The sessions made evident that oral modes of teaching are not only relevant in global missions, but are an important method for sharing in the U.S. as well, where at least half of the population has a literacy level below that of the Bible.
"Only 13% of Americans are proficient at reading," Snowden says. "At least half of everyone in America struggles with continuous paragraphs like we have in the Bible and reading comprehension. Many who are readers only read at work and then don't read at home. Yet our churches continue to largely ignore oral learners and cater to the literate elite. In most communities in the U.S., an estimated 60% to 70% are oral learners."
Ford Taylor addressed workplace evangelism, saying the key was collaboration between workplace ministries, marketplace leaders and the church. He unfolded about a vision to foster a spiritual awakening in our nation by mobilizing workplace leaders to a lifestyle of praying, caring, and sharing the gospel with others, followed by discipling each new believer.
Joni Eareckson Tada shared a very personal testimony in her plenary address advocating a pray-care-share lifestyle. "I can't let fear paralyze me," she said. "Do not let awkwardness keep you from sharing Christ. ...A starving heart can't help but be open to the gospel when it's softened with a lot of prayer and a lot of care."
In all, more than 160 catalytic and convening leaders were gathered from across the country for roundtable-style interaction following each plenary presentation, and "MAC Talk" issue-oriented presentations were offered in the afternoon followed by strategy sessions for practical application.
Younger Leaders Welcomed
MAC made an intentional effort to draw emerging young leaders (YLs) with an at-cost discount and side meet-ups for YLs. "We had a quality group of emerging leaders with us who are already engaged in creative outreach, which laid a foundation for a greater involvement in the years ahead - including greater involvement in the planning process and up-front presence in future Consultations," Cedar said.
Daniel Harrison, Church 212 in Palm Desert, Calif. attended as a YL. "I was just standing by myself and so many of you came up to me and wanted to interact and know me!" he said. "The emphasis you put on caring about the next generation has really meant a lot to me." Harrison attested that he will return next year and bring other YLs with him. He said the messages he heard at the event convicted him to not just care for non-believers in his life and share the gospel with them, but also to pray more for them.
Mark Slaughter, MAC's National Facilitator of Emerging Generations, said many young leaders attending for the first time built many new relationships within and across generations.
Anna Rapa, Grand Rapids, Mich., attended as a YL. As a criminal defense attorney, she said, "Everywhere I look is a sea of darkness, so the reminder to pray not just out of desperation but with a focus on change and seeing God overcome...was a good challenge."
Rapa told Slaughter,"I'm so glad I came. I found my tribe of people who think and work together in this generation. We had tremendous times over coffee or lunch building community, which can be the beginning of long-term collaboration."
Nick Hall, founder of PULSE and the Reset Movement, shared in a plenary address about Together 2016 - a dream to see one million young people stand together for Jesus on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. July 16.
"Young people have fewer barriers between them and God," Hall said. "Life is simple, you can pick up and follow. The older we get the more we insulate from God's voice....Theres a youthful zeal of foolishness that God delights in and wants to use."
Hall shared his own personal testimony about coming to the Lord and the zeal of a new young believer. "I want an invasion of the Spirit of God in the same way [I experienced] when my life was changed. In that moment it felt like God was real and He saw you....I want to see a generation that falls in love with God."
His message on the value of multi-generational partnership called the participants to take a fresh look at the relationship of King Saul and the young, unknown, and untried shepherd boy, David. Saul's affirmation of David was essential to the victory over Goliath and the Philistine armies.
"When you're facing the giant, it is terrifying, but there's something liberating about being part of something where we're doomed except for God," Hall remarked.
Check the menu above for links to videos of the plenary presentations.
For more information about the Mission America Coalition or the prayer-care-share approach to evangelism, see www.missionamerica.org or, to arrange an interview, contact MAC Director of Communications Susan Brill at 816-527-7287 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.