One of the aims of Sojourn Network is to provide high-quality events & conferences for pastors and ministry leaders to learn, celebrate, sing, and pray forward our mission to help pastors plant, grow, and multiply healthy churches that last. We see events and conferences as a tremendous way to train and care for pastors and their teams, provide venues for relational connections to start and grow, and to gather together as a network of pastors to be encouraged by what God has done and continues to do.
In late 2012, our church began to pray the building we were interested in purchasing might be used mightily by God.
We, like all of you reading, know "the church" isn’t a building, but the building is a tool for the church that occupies it. We saw that church buildings could often be under- or over-utilized in unhelpful ways so our prayer was: “God, please give us this building so it might be a place where the saints are equipped for the work of gospel ministry.”
Since the time we prayed that prayer, our church endured many storms and trials — there were even times when we weren’t sure if we were going to continue. But God remained faithful; he gave us what we needed when we needed it. Whether it was finances at just the right time, friends to serve us, convictions to stay when everyone seemed to be leaving — God provided our daily bread and we pressed on.
This last weekend, the signs of health we experienced over the last year bore fruit. God answered our four-and-a-half-year-old prayer and we hosted our first conference. "The Gospel-Shaped Parent Conference" was attended by saints from many different congregations in our region and attendees were equipped for gospel ministry in their own homes.
In conjunction with Sound City Bible Church, our friends and neighbors to the south, Sojourn Network, and through the generosity of Four Oaks Community Church and service of Pastor Paul Gilbert and his wife Susan, more than 110 adults were trained, encouraged, and equipped in parenting their children in the gospel.
To put the need for parenting training in perspective, approximately one third of our total attendance on any given Sunday are children under 11 years of age. Our friends at Sound City have a similar situation on their hands.
Paul and Susan blessed us by putting aside the technique-driven model of parenting and reminded us of the hope we have in Jesus; how when we find our identities in him, our marriages in him, and delve into his gospel and all that it means for us, then and only then can we truly lead our children in a gospel-centered way.
Men and women broke for separate sessions after lunch and were specifically encouraged. The fathers were exhorted to a rugged love for their families, not in the spectacularly heroic, but in the mundane and often boring rhythms of life. And the mothers were engaged in a conversation-style teaching of reflections Susan had on mothering for the past 18 years.
Our final session led us to the hope that, while parents are responsible for scattering God’s truth in the lives of their children, they are ultimately reliant on God to save their children -- what a relief!
I left the conference encouraged, convicted, freed, and thankful; all of the emotions you're left feeling after a day of pressing into the study of the gospel.
God was at work. I look forward to seeing the fruit of his work progressively in the next couple of decades as the children of those in attendance grow up in the instruction of the Lord, pointed relentlessly to the gospel, and changed by our faithful God.