Greetings from Gatlinburg TN!
This has been a very full but rewarding week. Those of you who have who follow me on Twitter (@brucesofia)and/or Facebook (Joseph Bruce Sofia) have watched this divinely orchestrated week unfold from Philadelphia to Gatlinburg where ECA’s (Evangelical Church Alliance) Annual Conference was held.
I would be remiss if I did not share the highlight of the event – the ordination of 17 ECA graduates (27 with spouses), the majority of Korean decent; there was also a strong delegation of military personnel going into the chaplaincy. I don’t believe there was a person present who did not shed joyful tears at the laying on of hands (commissioning). God’s presence was so “there.”
As a staff we go to large conferences where ministry leaders by the thousands gather – e.g.: Andy Stanley’s Catalyst and Bill Hybels’ Globel. They are inspiring and motivational, however this conference was different, 'deeply' different. Let me explain.
While catching a quick lunch with Dr Rob Schenck, ECA’s Board Chairman, I said, “What this conference did that the ‘big conferences’ do not do is ‘get dirty’.” Here’s what I mean: Ruth Bell Graham shared the pain of two divorces (Down But Not Out); Walter Wally had to leave ministry for 10 years, today he ministers to those broken in or by ministry; Chaplain (Colonel) Dr Elmon Krupnic and his wife addressed how every deployment is a loss both on the home front and again on foreign soil. And the Jamaican, Huntley Brown, featured pianist for the Billy Graham association, blessed us with his incredible gift.
What do I mean by deeply different? Ruth confronted the question: “Where does a person in the ministry go when life isn’t treating him/her to kindly?” Hey, remove the “all is well mask” at your church and in your community, and most likely, in many cases you’re packing bags. Yet, ministers, like all of us, are not absent from the ‘uglies’ of life. The battle is never won alone, that's why God has given us the body of Christ.
Some of the ‘Breakout’ sessions looked at the power of social media (planningcenter.com and zipskinny.com) and its necessity in today’s age, and the need for a biblical understanding of marriage. Powerful stuff! Stuff that dealt with the "nitty-gritty" of life.
Personally I had the privilege of conducting a breakout session on "suicide" and the honor of bringing the keynote address to the Ordination Graduates. For all of you who prayed for me – THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! The (my) address was noticeably bathed by your prayers. Oh, and I left Tennessee having sold every book (Hope Beyond Suicide) shipped.
I’m not sure what God intends to so with the associations made at this conference, but I’m sure none of them were without purpose. Oh, one more delight – just before I spoke I asked Huntley Brown to play (my schedule did not provide me the opportunity to hear him), he said: “Only if I can come to your church?” I told him he had a deal.
Loyalty is a man's best friend. Josh 1:5