“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” – Eph 4:1b-3; NIV 2011

On April 1-4, the ICOC 2019 Spring Meeting was convened in San Antonio with Regional Family Chairmen, Regional Family Women’s Chairs/Coordinators, the Catalyst Team (CT), Elders Service Team, Teachers Service Team, Women’s Service Team, as well as representation from other Global Service Teams (i.e., Communications, Youth & Family, Singles, Campus, HOPEww, and Administration). In preparation for the event, the Catalyst Team met together on Sunday evening (March 31) and all-day Monday until 5 pm. After a time of prayer and a contemplative sharing exercise reflecting on 2 Cor 4:1-12, the CT reviewed the planned schedule for the Spring Meeting and the list of “affirmations” that the new Task Forces would be tendering as well as some practical discussion points regarding future Delegates Meetings and Spring Meetings. It was also decided that Andy Fleming would provide the Regional Family Chairmen and WomenChairs/Coordinators with an executive summary of all the Catalyst Team conversations and meetings.

Monday Evening, April 1

After sharing a fellowship dinner together, AT and Marci Arneson welcomed those present to the 2019 ICOC Spring Meeting and led the assembly in prayer. Andy Fleming then gave a short overview of the development of the ICOC2.1 proposal and its affirmation at the 2018 ICOC Delegates Meeting in Panama. (Please refer to the ICOC Catalyst Team Update – March 31, 2019 for more details.) In 2017, the discussion for a possible organizational restructuring began with an emphasis on the establishment of a global executive team. The ensuing discussion at the 2017 Delegates Meeting in Chicago produced an alternative proposal to give greater attention to the collaboration of the Regional Family Chairmen and the formation of a Catalyst Team made up of six Regional Family Chairmen and two elders, one teacher, two women’s representatives and a representative from the Global Missions Task Force. The choosing of this alternative proposal in Panama resonated with the direction taken with other proposal for greater regionalization and development while maintaining global connection. Therefore, the present direction of the ICOC is to develop Regional (or Continental) Service Teams with the intention of involving many more voices and people from within our fellowship – this has now become one of the mandates of the current Global Service Teams. This overview was followed by a lesson by AT Arneson taking from the book of Philippians entitled “To Live is Christ.” By referencing the example of Paul, AT pointed out the privilege of serving Christians in any capacity, and the added blessing of “working together.” More than an organization plan, we need a “relational” plan that builds each other up and resolves conflicts quickly. At the same time, we need to appreciate our diversity and increase our openness to being influenced and guided by each other. AT called the group to genuine partnership in the “attitude of Christ.”

Tuesday, April 2

This day began with a time of worship led by some of the young intern ministers in the San Antonio Church—a talented and spiritual team who had served the evening before and continued to serve throughout the remainder of the Spring Meeting. Harliem Salim then taught a lesson entitled “Worthy of Christ” and really brought Paul’s emphasis on Christ’s heart and mind in the book of Philippians. Rather than give in to any form of self-interest, we need to be mindful of the mission and purpose of God—to reflect his love back towards him and towards each other. True maturity in Christ is demonstrated by our level of love and service.

At mid-morning the Catalyst Team sat before the assembly as a panel and led the group in a presentation with “questions and feedback” format. When appropriate, after some discussion the Regional Family Chairs were asked to vote in either “affirmation” or “negation.” As a result, some designations for new roles were affirmed (i.e., Regional Women’s Chair / Coordinator, Regional Communications Director, Regional Peacemaker (in charge of conflict resolution team), and a Continental Liaison to work together with the Catalyst Team. Mike Taliaferro presented and clarified the ongoing Proposal process for making global decisions and Todd Asaad was affirmed in his role as coordinator for the 2020 ILC in Orlando. Some directives were also given for the Continental Group meetings to be held on Wednesday evening and some of the outstanding decisions to be made from the 2018 Panama Meeting (i.e., affirmation of regional bank accounts, selection of Next Generation delegates and Women delegates, selection of Regional Communications Director, etc.). There was also some discussion in retiring the ICOC 2.1 designation and possibly coming up with another name for this new organizational format. It was also affirmed that the ongoing discussion regarding non-affirming congregations to the Cooperation proposal be continued to be addressed at the regional level—unless outside help is requested. There was also some discussion regarding the appeal for the African American voice to be heard (especially in the North American continental group), and possibly lessons that could be shared globally through the North American Diversity Task Force.

After a short break, the group was thinned to just the Regional Family Chairs and Women’s Coordinators and a few more topics received attention and discussion. First, the vision for Disciples Today was discussed followed by Roger Lamb’s pending retirement and the need for replacing his leadership. Andy Fleming then made a short presentation about our current statistical gathering and emphasized that the worldwide stats are “our” stats and any form of competitiveness or pride is inappropriate and disunifying. A very healthy discussion ensued that covered the themes of the need for even fuller annual reporting (i.e., mission move-outs, transfers, etc.), better management and pastoral care of the transfer process between congregations, more useful analysis and observation, and also the highlighting of effective ministry practices from throughout our fellowship. Thirdly, the Catalyst Team was given approval to solicit possibilities regarding the timing of our annual meetings (i.e., currently spring and fall) with the intention of finding the best scheduling for the majority of international participants. After a lunch break, the six Task Forces met to develop plans, goals, and vision statements, with the possibility of formulating proposals for the ICOC Delegates. The evening was left free for fellowship or for further discussion among the Task Forces.

Wednesday, April 3

This day began with a heart-stirring devotional led by Robert Carrillo, the CEO of HOPE worldwide. Robert reminded us that “serving the poor” is central to the Christian life and needs to be concern of every congregation. The church is the effective body of Jesus on earth and we need to follow his example and give ourselves in service. The rest of Wednesday morning and afternoon were spent in hearing updates and reports from the Task Forces and Service Teams.

Church Health and Growth

  • Affirmed church health and numerical growth go hand in hand (Acts 2:42, 46-47)
  • Important components of health include well-trained, godly leadership; everyone’s devotion to God and discipleship to Jesus
  • Two areas of focus: 1) Develop and provide self-assessment tools and 2) Evaluate and recommend other resources
  • Shared Best Practices examples from SEA Region
  • Asked for any tools which have been developed to be sent to the task force

Communication Task Force

  • Affirmed it is impossible to maintain a community without communication
  • Affirmed the need for a broader, more comprehensive approach to our communication, acknowledging the need to better address and accommodate vastly different communication styles of Older Christians, Younger Christians, Older Non-Christians, and Younger Non-Christians.
  • Discussed what we are doing well (1000 articles/yr on Disciples Today; 35 videos/yr on ICOC Hot News) and what we can do better: Outreach; Global Communications Conference; Improve next-generation style communication within and between churches; Reputation Management; Improving our outward-faced portal; Organization and finances; Survey the fellowship.
  • Announced new KIDOGO (Swahili for “a little”) YouTube channel: short videos on doctrine and teaching

Unity Task Force

  • Primary focus on helping the 32 regional families of churches with training of conflict resolution teams
  • In case of ongoing unresolvable conflict: notify Catalyst Team, Elders Service Team will help
  • Committed to building strong curriculum, developing process, learning from mistakes; tap into resources outside ICOC; involve mental health professionals where needed

Global Missions Task Force and Mission Society Development Team

  • Composed of one representative from each Mission Society and Next Gen members born on mission field
  • Committed to Development of Mission Societies in the areas of structure and execution; best practices; engaging all churches in a mission society; functionality and exchange between mission societies
  • Committed to Special Missions: keeping the spirit of sacrifice; keeping special missions “special;” every church giving to missions; strong connection to mission field; training in fund-raising
  • Share church planting best practices; templates and tools for taking churches from 0-100; Ideas like Caleb’s Corps: mobilizing empty-nesters

Women’s Ministry Task Force

  • Replaces the body formerly known as the Women’s Service Team
  • Mission Statement: to inspire and train women servant leaders around the globe to grow spiritually, to connect, and to advance the gospel in a powerful way.
  • Coordinating annual women’s day of prayer, fasting, and action around March 8; Providing and distributing leadership training resources; creating new web-based resources; inspiring, raising up, and connecting next-generation young women leaders; aids in planning women’s programming portion of our global conferences
  • Will begin a survey of the regional families of churches to learn the specific questions currently being asked about the women’s public role in ministry, under the oversight of the Teachers Service Team

Next Generation Task Force

  • To support and inspire the training of next-generation leaders
  • Actively promote the growth of the next generation
  • Taking a survey of regional families of churches, to learn where there are ongoing, successful, well-rounded Ministry Training programs for young people
  • Will work to enable more next-generation leaders outside the US to be able to afford to attend the Orlando 2020 Summit

Elders Service Team

  • 12 couples, four international; three in an emeritus role
  • Six sub-committees, such as elder appointment; conflict resolution
  • Recently published collaborative book Church-Building Elderships

Teachers Service Team

  • Goal of regionalization: a Teachers Service Team in every regional family of churches; helping with appointing teachers around the world, and training those with the gift of teaching.
  • Standardization ofMission Training Academies
  • Innovative Hackathon-style conferences: diving into deep issues with more participation
  • Conferences for Teachers
  • Currently making progress on collaborative paper on Women’s Role, expected in 2020. Published statement on social media and Disciples Today on April 2

Youth and Family Service Team

  • Strength of our youth and families is of crucial importance for the future of our churches – our work will be tested in five – 10 years; Many current ministry leaders now are kingdom kids
  • Youth Ministers’ Conference: Equip; Helping them stay connected
  • Comprehensive project curriculum: “Infancy to Independence”

Singles Service Team

  • “Inspire” conference in 2018 attended by participants from 40 nations
  • Planning 2022singles conference venue
  • Developing singles service teams in regional families of churches
  • Challenges in age diversity

Administration Service Team

  • Goal: effective administration in every church. Many small churches and international churches lack good administration
  • Increasing and developing resources
  • Minimize risk, maximize goals: Provide library of compensation; recruiting and training of administrators
  • Recently created document of sabbatical guidelines, provided and available now to churches

The Regional Family Chairmen were asked to affirm the direction and vision of these groups, and approval given to the possibility of formulating global proposals for the fall ICOC Delegates Meeting— and in every case affirmation was given. It was also suggested that from this point forward, some of the administrative proposals be re-examined on a periodic basis so that there would not be a build-up of organizational decisions. Throughout these presentations a common theme was heard time and time again, the key to successful expansion and world evangelism is healthy, vibrant congregations who are growing in godliness and spirituality, widening their ministries (both internally and externally), improving all training components and celebrating the diversity with which God has blessed our fellowship.

On Wednesday evening, the Regional Family Chairmen met together in their Continental groups for a great time of planning and discussion. Some of these groups have already been collaborating and cooperating on a regular basis, and for others this marks a new era of discussion and development.

Thursday, April 4

Our final day began with a time of worship and prayer with Chris and Rolayo Ogbonnaya leading our thoughts and hearts in a devotional from Phil 4:4-9 about “how we think.” This was followed by a time of prayer in continental groups. After reassembling, Marshall Mead then made an exciting presentation about the 2020 Global Summit in Orlando including some very encouraging highlights: (1) more than 8,300 participants are registered with 15 more months to go; (2) a financial fund has been set up from registration fees to help partially support attendees from low income countries and will be administered by the Mission Societies. Then, there was another block of open discussion regarding the delegate selection process and also the content and schedule of the Fall Delegates Meeting. The Regional Family Chairmen would like one full day for discussion and training as a group, and the general format of the conference would be that of a “Church Builders Workshop.” The conference will seek to maximize delegate participation and provide a lot of opportunities for prayer and discussion. Mike Taliaferro then closed out the Spring Meeting with a great lesson coming out of Psalm 78 and focusing the fate of Ephraim among the tribes of Israel. Unfortunately, the Ephraimites became self-absorbed and failed to work together with the other tribes in the moment of Israel’s need. Mike’s application was simply: although unity requires effort, it is both vital for survival and pleasing to God.

Finally, the Catalyst Team met together for a short meeting and were in agreement that God had truly blessed the gathering. The involvement in the Task Forces was productive and there were a strong feeling of faith and hope throughout the conference. Thanks to everyone who have prayed diligently for this next phase in our cooperation. We appreciate the many hours spent in conference calls and emails, and the willingness of so many brothers and sisters around the world to serve. Let us always bear in mind, that the very best we can do is to prayerfully commit to God our plans as the Proverbs tell us: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (16:9) and “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed” (16:3). Ultimately, our goal is please God and by better understanding his will, better serve him and bring him glory.