The Access2017 audience was encouraged by several the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Church speakers last evening as a full day drew to an end. Keith Minier, lead pastor of Grace Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio, welcomed representatives from new churches recommended for addition to the fellowship. Among them were representatives from Main Street Church Chelsea, Mich.; Layland Church, Layland Ohio; Lexington Fox Hollow in Greenwich, Ohio; and Ashland Village, Ashland, Ohio.
Jennifer Avey, church planter and director of leadership development at Women of Grace USA, took the stage to encourage listeners to pursue candor and honesty in relationships. She reminded the audience that, as a Fellowship, there is a unique bond that many church planters and ministry leaders do not have.
“We are not on our own,” she stressed. “What we have is to be esteemed and held in high regard.”
“We’re being challenged to lean into greater levels of intentionality. Wherever you lead or serve, honesty and candor are pillars to health and growth,” she said.
“I propose to you that the kind of health in relationships is an honestly that offers something of ourselves… Honest engagement is at its core a vulnerable one…The relationships that we value most can be the ones that hurt the most. But we love and serve a Savior who also experienced betrayal.”
Next, Nick Cleveland, senior pastor at Grace Church, Wooster, Ohio, took the stage, sharing memories of growing up at Grace Community Church in Fremont, Ohio, practicing ministry surrounded by mentors and teachers who pointed him to Christ.
“Here’s something I’m still learning” Cleveland said. “It’s not about me. I think that is the essence of ministry. At some point in the journey, if we’re not careful, we could quickly turn this thing called ministry into something that is about us… trying to get something from ministry that we were meant to get from God. How do we avoid the drift? How do we make it all about Jesus and his ministry?”
His answer came from a passage in 2 Corinthians 3, which spoke of boldness that grows out of hope. Cleveland stressed verse 18, spending time fleshing out the meaning of the verse, which reads, “…with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory.”
“To resemble and reflect the glory of God in the essence of what we do,” he reminded the audience, breaking down the meaning of “contemplate” into two parts. “When you behold the glory of the Lord, you see Jesus. In Jesus we behold the wisdom and power of God.”
Echoing Avey, Cleveland stressed that true ministry with the aim to resemble and reflect the glory of God, takes vulnerability and also comes with pain. But, he noted, the pain is something God will use to bring the believer closer to Himself. Cleveland shared a personal story of losing his home to a fire and how God used the pain to help him become a better reflection of Jesus.
“I knew this was an opportunity for us to be more like Jesus and reflect his glory…I had to be willing to let him chisel some stuff in my heart. To resemble Jesus, it is probably going to hurt. It’s part of how God shapes you.”
He ended the evening asking the audience, “Is your church distracted from the mission? You want to have a church on mission? You have to model it: Leaders go first.”
Access 2017, the national conference of the FGBC which is being held at Grace Community Church, Fremont, Ohio (Kevin Pinkerton, pastor).