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Conference to focus on disciple-making mission

Conference to focus on disciple-making mission

“It seems as if we have woken up to find ourselves in contact with a strange and unexpected reality that seems to defy our usual ways of dealing with issues of the church and its mission. All this amounts to a kind of ecclesial future shock, where we are left wandering in a world we can’t recognize anymore. In the struggle to grasp our new reality, churches and church leaders have become painfully aware that our inherited concepts, our language, and indeed our whole way of thinking are inadequate to describe what is going on both in and around us.”
-    Alan Hirsch, “The Forgotten Ways”

Banner with cameos of Al and Deb Hirsch
Registration is open for Missio Ecclesia, a gathering set for Feb. 17-19 in Cape Coral, with keynote speakers Alan and Deb Hirsch of Forge Mission Training Network.

Church leaders who identify with those words from respected missional leader Alan Hirsch will be interested in a three-day conference being planned at Grace Church, Cape Coral.

Hirsch and his wife, Deb, will be the keynote speakers at the Florida Conference’s first Missio Ecclesia gathering, set for Feb. 17-19. Registration is open; click here for information.

Alan Hirsch is considered to be a thought leader and key mission strategist for churches across the Western world, while Deb Hirsch is a speaker and writer who has led churches in both Australia and Los Angeles. As founders of the Forge Mission Training Network, the couple are known for innovative approaches to missional work – particularly in the heart of Los Angeles, where they live and work with disadvantaged and broken communities. 

“Al and Deb are well-respected leaders in the missional church, and a lot of people will come because they have heard them speak or have read their books,” said Rev. Jorge Acevedo, Grace Church lead pastor, who is helping to coordinate Missio Ecclesia and also will speak at the event.

Earlier this year, Florida Bishop Ken Carter asked Acevedo if he would host an event at Grace Church featuring the Hirsches. Carter also is among the featured speakers.

Missio Ecclesia – Latin for “mission of the church” – will target church and lay leaders from all denominations who are looking for ways to make their flocks more missional. Acevedo said the conference will be a way to “think, dream, pray and strategize” about how the church can once again claim its apostolic mission in the world. 

“It’s no secret that the church in North America is waning,” Acevedo said. “Eighty-five percent of our churches are declining and not fruitful. We are not making disciples for Jesus.”

Missio Ecclesia will go beyond sharing concerns about cultural shifts and encourage participants to embrace cultural change in their disciple-making strategies. 

Jorge Acevedo headshot
Rev. Jorge Acevedo

“This conference is designed to inspire, motivate and equip us to lead Jesus’ mission in the world,” Acevedo said. “It’s going to be significantly more than just conversation.” 

An early registrant for the conference is Rev. Jay Therrell, pastor at First UMC, Cape Coral, who believes it is critical for the church to embrace the idea of going out to where the people are. 

“The days when people come to us are rapidly coming to an end,” Therrell said. “I hope this conference will sharpen the church’s skills at meeting people at their point of need and offering them Christ.” 

Therrell hopes that the Fresh Expressions movement has awakened clergy to the idea of being a mission-shaped church. He believes the church’s hope for the future is reclaiming its Wesleyan roots and taking the Word out to the people.

“The people in the community are, at best, skeptical of the church,” Therrell explained. “When they see church coming to them and offering them grace and Jesus, it relieves some of the anxiety they have about coming to church.” 

Florida Bishop Ken Carter headshot
Bishop Ken Carter

Acevedo has also been instrumental in coordinating the annual Real Ideas conference at Van Dyke Church near Tampa since its founding 10 years ago. Real Ideas will be held March 2-4, 2016, and Acevedo sees the two gatherings as complementary.

“Al and Deb will challenge us to think deeper and contextually,” Acevedo said. “Real Ideas is about how those ideas can get lived out. Both conferences are helping the church do a better job at being a church. I think of them as being on a continuum.”

Acevedo described the Hirsches as “amazing leaders” who are living their mission by helping people connect to the church in fresh and new ways.

“I hope to see church leaders [at this event] inspired and informed about why and how they can join Jesus in His mission in our world,” Acevedo said.

“A lot of churches are caught up in benevolent Christianity, but that is not what is going to change our world. It’s going to be the movement of Jesus in every area of our lives, not just in the sanctuary.”  

For more information about Missio Ecclesia, visit Early registration before Jan. 5 is $65 per person; standard registration until Feb. 2 is $75; and late or on-site registration is $85 per person. 

– Mary Ann DeSantis is a freelance writer based in Lady Lake.