Four new congregations joined the Charis Fellowship during national conference in August. They include: Grace Church, Lancaster, Pa. (Scott Becker, senior pastor); Grace Church, Bellefontaine, Ohio (Daniel O’Kane, senior pastor); Imagio Dei Communities, Telford, Pa. (Daryl Swartley, pastor); and Gospel Community Church, Troy, Ohio (Jason Bradshaw, pastor).
The conference was held at Grace Community Church, Auburn, Calif. (Phil Sparling, senior pastor), beginning Tuesday, July 24, and concluding with lunch and a business session on Thursday, July 26.
The Auburn church rolled out the red carpet to host the meetings in their recently-renovated worship center. Fellowship spilled onto the outdoor courtyard, where breakfast meetings were held, after-session treats were available, and national and cooperating ministries in the Fellowship hosted displays. Offsite meals were held at the nearby Ridge Golf Club. Many families in the church housed conference attendees, while others stayed in area hotels.
Speakers from various Charis Fellowship congregations around North America encouraged the conference to work together to further the gospel.
“The objective as a pastor or ministry leader is to equip everyone to get out [and share the gospel],” said Jason Brown, senior pastor at Suntree Grace Church in Melbourne, Fla. “We have to change our measure of success. We have to make it about His Word.”
Jeff Bogue, senior pastor at Grace Church, Bath Campus, in Akron, Ohio, called participants to take a stand for strong doctrine and doing what is right.
“We are people of faith, and the people of faith that God gave us to teach us with skin on did ridiculously hard things,” he said. “They did things that nobody wanted to do.”
Others touted the importance of developing relationships within the Fellowship, mentoring future leaders, and standing for truth, even when facing opposition. Speakers included Jeremy Wike, senior pastor of Community of Hope Church, Columbia City, Ind.; Isaac Whiting, pastor of Community of Hope Church, Surrey, British Columbia; Daniel O’Kane, pastor of Bellefontaine Grace Church, Bellefontaine, Ohio; Mike Sciarra, pastor of Grace Church, Orange, Calif.; Bob Wriedt, pastor of Grace Community Church, Seal Beach, Calif.; Timothy Clothier, pastor of Boro Grace Church, Waynesboro, Pa.; and Jordan Bakker, pastor of Grace Church, Simi Valley, Calif.
Phil Sparling, incoming executive director of the Charis Fellowship and pastor of the host church, closed the final celebration on Thursday morning with a challenge to learn a new dance.
He told the story of the three charises, or graces, in Greek culture that pictured three ladies, holding hands, connected, but not looking at each other.
“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ of whom we have obtained the introduction faith in this charis (grace) which we stand,” he said. “He’s going to give us charis and do it through the mediator, Jesus Christ.”
He stressed that as believers, we do the dance of charis. “In the context of New Testament charis, God has given me something to share with someone else,” he added. (See related story, page 10.)
Worship throughout the week was led by Jeremy Bury, who serves on staff at Marysville Grace Church, Marysville, Ohio.
Various national ministries sponsored subsidized meals where they shared updates on their ministries and conducted corporation meetings.
Inspire, Charis Pastors Network, recognized three pastors: Mike Jentes, Faithful Encourager; Nathan Bryant, Faithful Servant; and Jason Brown, Faithful Equipper. Kevin Stoll, Sebring, Fla., and Zach Pinkerton, Fremont, Ohio, are each the recipients of a $1,000 continuing education scholarship.
A ministry for pastors’ wives, Thrive, was introduced by Jen Avey and Lois Shirk, at the Inspire dinner.
Access2020 will be on the campus of Grace College and Seminary, Winona Lake, Ind., July 21-23, 2020.
This article first appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of GraceConnect magazine. Click here for more information.