NEW YORK CITY — For the first time in three years, the Send Network Gathering was able to take place in the Northeast. More than 350 church-planting couples gathered in New York City to learn how to conform to Christ as Christians, couples and churches.
“Being conformed to Christ is God’s grand purpose for your life. It’s the main reason that He built a relationship with you—so that you can be like Him,” said Michael Crawford, author, speaker and veteran church planter, at the start of the gathering’s first session.
He quoted 1 Corinthians 11:1 which says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” and explained, “You only imitate the things you love. You only imitate the things that you really prize.”
Crawford then listed three practical areas Christians can practice becoming Christlike: prayer, endurance and differentiation. Since enduring can often look ugly, many people opt to quit rather than embarrass themselves. However, Crawford said, “To be conformed to Christ means an ugly endurance.”
He closed by exhorting church planters to be different—to reflect Christ.
In the second session, Brooklyn pastor James Roberson taught couples how they can prepare for the unexpected by following the principles laid out in 1 Peter 4:12.
When church-planting couples are hurt by someone they never imagined would betray them, God can use this trail to refine their character.
“The other side of the fire is deliverance and God breaking things that you have been bound by… He’s using it to develop you as a couple, not to crush you,” said Crawford.
Speaking of challenges he and his wife experienced in church planting he said, “I’m better because of it. I’m stronger because of it. I’m wiser through it.”
Vance Pitman, president of Send Network, opened a special session about kingdom multiplication by saying, “Jesus focused more on succession than He did success. Unfortunately, today, we focus exclusively on success and don’t even give an afterthought to succession.”
Because all churches eventually die, Pitman taught that the multiplication of the New Testament local church is the strategy established by Jesus for the expansion of His kingdom.
The senior pastor of Salam Church, John Welborn, then shared how Christ can help planters stay resilient: “We can endure hardship like a good soldier of Jesus Christ, because it’s Him that will accomplish His work through us, as we surrender ourselves to Him.”
Following Welborn, Adam Muhtaseb, the planting pastor of Redemption City Church, challenged pastors to adopt the model of Jesus and Paul and set aside specific time to develop leaders, teach congregants to be contributors and create systems to develop people.
Pittsburgh Send City Missionary and Lead Planting Pastor of Vintage Church, Rob Wilton, closed the session by teaching that the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit is the sweet spot for multiplication.
In the final session of the gathering, Boston church planter Sean Sears encouraged pastors to refocus on Jesus’ command in Matthew 4:19 and cast their nets to those outside of the church. “The result of your discipleship, according to Jesus, is a greater passion for evangelism,” he said.
Sears shared three practical tips for reaching those farthest from Jesus: gain proximity to the lost, posture yourself to be their friend and not just their pastor, and adjust your pattern of speech to reach them.
“We’re in the Northeast,” he said, “No other churches are focused on your friends. Your barber has one shot to get saved—and it’s you.”
Anna Skudarnova writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published September 30, 2022