By Dan Hamilton
They were bone tired. For weeks now the team had been pressing on without relief. Obstacles were many. Daily provisions and the spirit of the group were at an all-time low. Curious bystanders watched every move carefully to see if the members would give up.
The weary group had started strong with high hopes and an unstoppable spirit. They looked much different now. Things had changed. Discouragement, fatigue, and depression were now evident. If something or someone didn’t come soon with some sort of sustenance, the team was doomed. Without encouragement from the right source, they might not finish well—if they finished at all.
These words could describe any number of explorers and adventurers throughout history: Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay climbing Mt. Everest, Amelia Earhart crossing the Atlantic, or Megellan and his crew circumnavigating the world. Instead, we are talking about a team of Christians—a congregation—in sore need of relief and encouragement.
WHY I GO
Sometimes dedicated followers of Jesus Christ need a spiritual boost. The need comes about for a variety of reasons. Weary souls who seem ready to give up need encouragement. Effective servants of Christ active in kingdom work often need a break from their labors and a season of refreshment. The North American Christian Convention is a most effective tool in giving relief and encouragement to disciples of Jesus.
In our 34 years of ministry, the NACC has truly been a blessing to our family and to the congregations we have served. We have been encouraged, fed, stretched, and energized by being a part of this vital gathering. At the start of our journey to the convention, our car always has plenty of trunk space. Only luggage resides in the back of our vehicle. By the time the week is over and we are returning home, the trunk contents are overflowing into the back seat like the discarded equipment of an Everest expedition: books, literature, packets of material, and Christian greeting cards fill the empty spaces. Our minds are also overflowing with new ideas for our congregation.
For nearly all of our married life, my wife, Karen, and I have kept a daily journal, recounting each day’s events and our reactions to those events. Looking through the month of July each year brings us joy as we remember the years we have attended the NACC. Comments recorded in those diaries express well our total enjoyment of the event. “We’re thankful for the time we could spend getting spiritually fed” and “We’re praying to use what we’ve learned in the kingdom” follow nearly every year’s convention.
We have wonderful memories of travelling to the convention in a few different states. Vacations were sometimes planned before or after the event. Nearly 10 years ago we planned a mission trip to Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Virginia, and ended that trip with the North American Christian Convention.
WHAT I GAIN
If you were to ask me about the value of the NACC in my personal life, in our family life, and in ministry, I would gladly share with you the following benefits:
• Spiritual Nourishment
Just as any adventurer needs sustenance on their journey, so do Christians need to be fed. Spiritual nourishment at the NACC comes in the form of main gatherings, workshops, and Bible studies.
Exceptional preachers and speakers have highlighted each year’s NACC with some much-needed teaching. Without exception the event has always offered practical training which can be applied to personal life and also to the life of a congregation. Even those church members who did not attend the convention noticed new vision and power after we arrived back home and involved ourselves in new aspects of ministry.
Bible studies meeting in the earlier morning hours have regularly been challenging and thought provoking. I’ve been amazed that the NACC team continues to find exceptional Bible scholars who can challenge and inspire. A variety of daily workshops offer encouragement and useful tools for those involved in ministry—in the pulpit and beyond.
I don’t suppose it is possible for me to be able to select a favorite preacher, teacher, or workshop leader through the years. Somehow the Lord seems to know exactly what is needed for the season or the set of circumstances through which we’re going.
A highlight for me was the 2006 convention in Louisville, Kentucky. David Faust was the president that year, and a serious goal was to have reunion and reconnection with the non-instrumental Church of Christ congregations. Because of that convention, I was introduced to new and exciting preachers who differed slightly in their philosophies, but were extremely challenging. Our brotherhood made some serious strides to unite because of the prayerful efforts of the NACC team and those attending.
• Reunion with Brothers and Sisters in the Lord
The success or failure of many expeditions has hinged on the team an explorer assembles. In his infinite wisdom, the Lord always knows what person to put in our pathway at just the right time.
My wife and I always have great anticipation in getting together with former college classmates, former partners in ministry, and friends from other locations. Whenever possible, reunions at Skyline Chili are always a blast.
One of our journal entries from the convention in Lexington, Kentucky, in 2000 stressed the hospitality of the Southeast congregation. Although we didn’t personally know these Christians who were diligently serving to make us feel at home, we felt like we did. Dick Alexander spoke at one of the main sessions, which also included a great communion service. We had an unplanned surprise when we ran into Bethel Wesner, a sweet Christian saint who taught me in Sunday school as a teenager.
Members from our congregation who have attended the convention with us have always benefited from going. It seems to be one of the highlights of their year as well. In 2004 we journeyed with good friends from our church to Arizona. Our mode of transportation for most of the trip across the country was on Amtrak. Although the trip took place years ago, we still talk of our encounter with four Amish brothers—they were witnessing to a young man who was travelling to California to enter the field of pornography.
Something very spiritual takes place when we’re able to spend some one-on-one time with fellow Christians. It’s valuable to be able to connect with friends and to share some very personal joys and sorrows.
• Sincere and Effective Worship
My earliest memory of the convention was in 1972 in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was a teenager. As I recall, that was the year that our youth group was thrilled to be a part of a gigantic teen choir featured during a main session. The young people in our small congregation arrived at the huge stage and had an amazing realization—there existed a very large number of Christian teens in the world! Some of those songs of praise and worship from John W. Peterson still pop into my head and bring back more than just memories.
Because of the prayers and efforts of so many, the Lord continues to bless the North American Christian Convention. Weary Christians receive nourishment. Those in places of leadership receive new vision and enthusiasm. Let’s pray that the Lord continues to bless this gathering as a mighty tool to help Christians on life’s great adventure.
Dan Hamilton is a minister in Croton, Ohio.
By Tim Harlow, NACC 2014 President
It’s time for a renewed sense of purpose and urgency, compelled by Christ’s love, to bring God’s message of hope to the people in our own backyards . . . or die trying.
This mission is the theme of the North American Christian Convention this summer. We will be “re-missioning” our churches to align with the instructions Jesus gave us. It is my hope and prayer that we will all leave better equipped to be churches full of ministers—people who share the love of Jesus everywhere we go, who disciple the young Christians around us, and who pray earnestly for our neighbors and coworkers.
We’ll be hearing from Rick and Kay Warren, Vince Antonucci, Liz Curtis Higgs, Cal Jernigan, Daryl Reed, Lee Strobel, David Kinnaman, Kevin Holland, Ben Merold, Craig Groeschel, and a host of other gifted teachers and speakers. It’s going to be a powerful week, and I hope that you’ll consider joining us. We would definitely appreciate your prayers.