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Contagious Church Conference offers Christians tools to reach out

Contagious Church Conference offers Christians tools to reach out

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Contagious Church Conference offers Christians tools to reach out

March 29, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
407-897-1184     Orlando  {0271}

n  Tampa church is site for Willow Creek Association conference.

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — Making disciples. It's one of the essential goals of being a Christian and also one of the most elusive.

For church members who find the theories behind making disciples intriguing, but have so far been unable to put them into the practice, the Contagious Church conference, sponsored by the Willow Creek Association, offers answers to help members achieve that mission.

The traveling conference is being held in six regions throughout the country and will arrive at Van Dyke United Methodist Church in Tampa, its southeast location, April 15-16.

The conference is designed to help motivate people to reach out to those who don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ and give them practical ideas on how to do that. It teaches how to communicate faith naturally and effectively and explores the seven essentials that can help churches become more evangelistic, regardless of their size, style or location. The conference also strives to inspire people to catch a vision for purposefully growing a church that reaches friends, neighbors, coworkers and family members.

Jodi Carroll, executive director of communications at Van Dyke United Methodist Church, said it's exciting to have the conference at the church. She said 200 people were registered as of March 21, but 800 are expected.

Carroll said Willow Creek held a leadership summit at the church last fall that was shortened to a half day from two and a half days because it took place around the time that one of the season's three hurricanes hit the state. She said 565 people attended despite harsh weather conditions.

"We think that registration may be slow now because Easter was early this year," Carroll said. "People can register up to the day of the event."

Mark Mittelberg, executive director of evangelism for the Willow Creek Association, is one of the event speakers. He will focus on the "Seven Essentials for Reaching Seekers Through Your Church." He said the conference is an "awesome opportunity" for Christians to regain the vision of reaching people for Jesus Christ.

"We have this lofty goal of sharing Jesus Christ with people, but in reality not enough of that is happening," said Mittelberg, who co-wrote "Becoming a Contagious Christian" and wrote "Building a Contagious Church." "We decided to do something about that by developing the conference."

The conference features outreach comedians, motivational speakers, musicians and teachers. Some of the speakers at the Van Dyke church location include Rickey Bolden, former lineman with the Cleveland Browns who serves as a chaplain for several National Football League teams and is a national trainer of the "Becoming a Contagious Christian" course; Garry Poole, key evangelism leader at Willow Creek Community Church, author of "Seeker Small Groups" and the "Tough Questions" series, and co-author of "Experiencing the Passion of Jesus;" and Bill Hybels, founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and author of "Courageous Leadership" and "The Volunteer Revolution."

Mittelberg said the traveling conference enables many more people to attend because they don't have to worry about the expense of traveling to Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, where conferences are held on an annual basis. He said more than 10,000 people have attended the Contagious Church Conference in the three years it has been offered throughout the country.

"People love these conferences because the vision gets lifted and they are reminded of why they are involved in ministry," he said. "We bring them back to what is central. We give them a sharper focus of the Great Commission. That's also one of the fears, the Great Commission, so many people wrestle with it. What we do is re-clarify hearts and minds so that it's challenging and exciting."

Mittelberg says the conference is more a ministry revolution than a ministry event.

"This is about helping Christians to be bolder and more committed to the faith," he said. "It's not a talking-head seminar. It's about any follower of Christ having their heart warmed and expanded. It's about Christians believing that each one of us has a role of making an eternal difference in someone's life."

The conference is all about equipping Christians to take risks for their faith, Mittelberg said.

"Every time I go, it re-energizes me about God's love and truth," he said. "It can remind you of your central mission."

The cost of the conference for Willow Creek Association members is $109 for 10 or more people and $129 for one to nine people. The cost for non-members is $149 for 10 or more people and $169 for one to nine people. There is also a flat student/faculty rate of $55.

For more information contact Carroll at or 813-963-3983, extension 138, or visit


This article relates to Christian Discipleship.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.