2011 Black Church Convocation was a R.E.A.L. inspiration

Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis, Director of the Black Church Center for Clergy Excellence, holds an altar call at the end of the 2011 Black Church Convocation. -Photo by J.A. Buchholz

FRUITLAND PARK – It just keeps getting bigger and better.

The 2011 Black Church Convocation was held Dec. 9 and 10 at the Life Enrichment Center here in Fruitland Park.

The theme of “Real Church: Reaching People in a Real World for a Real God!” was a hit with clergy and laity who attended the weekend event.

The morning of Dec. 10, the rousing singing of the praise team from Mount Zion-Reddick United Methodist Church wouldn’t allow anyone to remain seated. Their passionate songs had participants’ hands waving in the air and their feet dancing in the aisles.

Following the music, the Rev. Dr. Harold D. Lewis Sr., director of the Florida Annual Conference Black Church Center for Clergy Excellence, kept the crowd fired up by passionately introducing his friend, the Rev. Dr. Joe Daniels.

Daniels is the senior pastor at Emory United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., which is a 400 member multi-ethnic congregation. He has written two books, “Begging for Real Church” and “The Power of Real.”

Daniels began his time at the podium by taking the crowd back in time to his first encounter with the church he now leads.He said that when the district superintendent asked him to become the pastor at the church, he couldn’t locate it. He drove up and down the street for an hour before he noticed a faint sign from the distance. Once he saw it, he had to climb 50 steps on an overgrown hill where the grass had not been cut in six years.

Daniels recounted how once on the property, each step he took landed on used syringes, broken beer and alcohol bottles and other signs of abuse and addiction. Once inside the church, Daniels dodged falling paint chips and was amazed to find that only four keys on a 100-year-old piano were in working condition.

Daniels was not optimistic about the appointment and said there was a pit in his stomach about taking on such a neglected church and community but his wife and his mother both encouraged him saying, “It has your name written all over it.”

Now, years after that first experience on the property, Daniels said God has moved within the church and transformed it for His glory. He said the key to transformation was, and is, having a Pentecost moment.

“All we have to do is ask for it,” Daniels said. “Ask and it will be given. God wants to use you, just surrender yourself to God.”

Keeping with the Pentecost theme, Daniels said Peter and John weren’t the same after Pentecost.

“Before, Peter talked a good game but walked a sorry game,” Daniels said. “After Pentecost, Peter was bold, Peter stood up. He proclaimed the gospel with power.”

Just as Peter and John were transformed, individuals today can experience personal transformation, Daniels said.  He said that transformation can result in a calling for individuals to use their gifts and talents for the kingdom.

Urging those in attendance to read Exodus 3 and 4, Daniels said the story of Moses’ call is important and can clarify God’s call to individuals.

Daniels encouraged those assembled to visit family, friends and previous teachers to get an idea of what they were initially called by God to do and what may have been ignored or suppressed. In addition to rekindling lost or forgotten passions, Daniels suggested the daily practice of worshipping, scripture reading, having a Sabbath, mindful eating and spending---all key components that help point the way toward transformation.

According to Daniels, people searching for transformation are seeking a church experience that is R.E.A.L. He said the  “R” refers to relevant. A relevant church is one in which the church doesn’t hide from tough issues and speaks to the human condition. The “E” is enthusiasm that inspires others for Jesus Christ.

While excitedly leading the crowd along the transformation path, Daniels had to pause for the lunch break. Without losing one ounce of energy, he resumed after lunch with the “A” for authenticity which translates into Christians being able to share where they have been on their Christian journey and ended with “L” for loving and desiring the best for others.

Bringing his time to an end, Daniels implored people to return to their home churches and be “R.E.A.L.”

The day ended with more soul-stirring music from Mount Zion-Reddick United Methodist Church and a lasting impression delivered by the Rev. Dr. Vance P. Ross.

Ross is the senior pastor at Gordon Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville where more than 500 people worship each Sunday morning. He is also the former Deputy General Secretary of the General Board of Discipleship in Nashville.

Ross picked up on Daniels’ theme of knowing who you are in the body of Christ. Using John 1:6-8 as his text, he said spies interrogated John and attempted to make him out to be who they wanted him to be.

“Don’t you know people will make you who they want you to be?” Ross stated. “Do you know who you are? Do you know what the call on your life is? Do not allow yourself to be defined by somebody else. We have got to know ourselves.
God is looking for disciples of Jesus for a church who know themselves.”

With his voice sometimes barely above a whisper and at other times thundering, Ross fired up those in attendance to return to their home churches and operate out of their call and God-giftedness.

Ross suggested that each person spend time reading the bible to discover their “call text” or scripture that specifically speaks to them as an individual.

“I ask that you know yourself in Jesus,” Ross said in closing.

Rev. Lewis speaking during the 2011 Black Church Convocation at the Life Enrichment Center. -Photo by J.A. Buccholz

Drawing closer to the end of the powerful weekend, there was a time for questions and answers and more music for the journey home.

Lewis ended the weekend by having an altar call with many people teary-eyed about the spiritually moving weekend.

After the event, Merrill Tunsil said he was impressed by the weekend.

“The holy spirit blessed us,” said Tunsil, who served on the strategic planning team for the event. “I think this weekend will continue to get better and better if we just stay the course. It’s so important for us to get together and have passionate worship and draw closer to our brothers and sisters.”

Ross said he was pleased to be part of the event and especially happy to be part of such a positive and uplifting experience.

“There was a sense of hope and encouragement here,” Ross said after the event.

Lewis was also delighted with the weekend.

“I want this weekend to continue to be successful,” Lewis said. “The spirit was definitely moving and there is a hunger for that.”


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