True confession: Driving up Interstate 94 on June 8, I was having second thoughts, or at least a powerful sense of “non-excitement.” As a veteran of nearly thirty Church of the Lutheran Brethren Annual (and now Biennial) Conventions, I wondered whether this was really necessary. Delegates drive or fly great distances to attend. They sacrifice five or six precious days of their summer. For what, exactly?
After all, we only meet every two years now, and the Council of Directors represents our CLB churches with all the business concerns and decision-making between conventions. Would it matter whether we attended or not?
True repentance: “How quickly we forget!” My blasé attitude was cured quickly as the convention began. I remembered exactly why we do this… Every convention has its own circumstances and specific theme, so the specific benefits and blessings of each convention will vary somewhat, but they will always be similar to these highlights from BC18.
Fellowship: There were many friends, new and old, just getting acquainted or catching up on the changes of recent years or months. And you never know who you will talk to, or when a casual conversation will turn deep. For me, there were a couple of unexpected but very encouraging conversations with retired pastors. The whole experience embodied koinonia, the biblical term for the connection people share through our common friend, Jesus.
Encouragement: Who doesn’t need this? Some of the encouragement comes through equipping. There were four workshop tracks for CLB delegates. I was encouraged specifically by Dr. Eugene Boe’s four sessions on “preaching to the heart,” while one of my church’s delegates greatly appreciated the discipleship track. The convention business sessions became less about “business” and more about reviewing what God has been doing recently through each of the synod ministry departments, being reminded of who serves God on our behalf, and gaining insight into where and how they serve. The overall impact was a sense of how great is our God, to use us in significant ways to advance his kingdom.
Submission: This is not something that usually draws us to a convention. But think about it—if this is not key in our experience, we have probably missed the point. This convention’s theme was simply “King me.” That carries some intentional ambiguity. The convention speakers—in plenary and worship sessions—worked out this theme using Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13. In briefest summary, “King me” implies that we have a King, that we own him personally as our gracious King, submitting to him with joy. Then, the obvious checkerboard analogy reminds us that, like a “kinged” piece, we are now wonderfully commissioned and empowered by our God for his service in mission.
Resolve: We concluded, appropriately, at the foot of the cross, sharing Communion together before hitting the road. Delegates were convinced of our calling and mission, as a Church. We returned home to communicate all this to our churches.
On the last morning, I asked one of my church’s delegates, a first-time attendee, what they thought of it. “It was wonderful!”
How could I ever have doubted it?
Rev. Brent Juliot serves as editor of Faith & Fellowship magazine and as pastor of Oak Ridge Lutheran Brethren Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin.