Imagery of Regent people and campus

Regent Hosts Church Health Event

By Brett Wilson | June 2, 2014

Pastor Ray Johnston.

While Regent University continues to pursue its mission to mesh faith and reason, its Office of Church Relations is also working to strengthen the university's ties to the local church to support spiritual growth within the community. On Thursday, May 22, Regent hosted the second Church Health Check-Up event where ministerial leaders from the Hampton Roads, Va., area congregated for a morning of encouragement.

"My hope is that this will strengthen the bond between the church and the academy; I want the church and Regent to have a strong relationship, and one way that we build that partnership is by providing relevant ministry events," said David Kleffman, director of the Office of Church Relations. "One of the greatest things about my job is that I can bless pastors and ministry leaders."

The health check-up event featured ministry leader break-out sessions on topics such as: urban ministry, led by Dr. Antipas Harris, assistant professor and director of Regent's Youth and Urban Renewal Center; world missions led by Eric Ferguson '98 (School of Psychology & Counseling); marketplace ministry led by Pastor Eric Majette, senior pastor of Guiding Light Church International in Virginia Beach, Va; and women in ministry led by Rev. Ella Thompson, director of enrollment services for Regent.

The event also featured a worship leader question-and-answer session with Rick Heil, Regent's artist-in-residence, and David Glenn, Christian recording artist.

Kleffman explained that he sees the local church as the hope of the world, as it strives to fulfill its mission: to bring people to Christ. However, when a church is unhealthy, particularly its leaders, Kleffman believes its ability to transform lives is jeopardized.

"The consequences of an unhealthy church are obvious; they're like any organization that's unhealthy, it's dysfunctional," said Kleffman. "And any organization that's dysfunctional is not going to be effective in fulfilling its mission—so the healthier the church, the greater the outreach will be."

According to Ray Johnston, keynote speaker and founding pastor of Bayside Church in Sacramento, Calif., the greatest way for churches to stay healthy is to make sure church leaders stay encouraged.

"Discouragement precedes destruction," said Johnston. "No one ever says 'I'm so encouraged about my marriage, I'm going to get a divorce,' or 'I'm so excited about the future of our church, I'm going to leave.'"

Johnston, in his presentation on the "seven best decisions" churches will ever make, stressed the importance of hope in leading a ministry. This spurred research for his latest book, The Hope Quotient, for what he claims is even more vital to success than a high intelligence quotient.

"There are a lot of really smart people who aren't doing very well, said Johnston. "But if I get hope, anything is possible—it all starts with hope."

Another "best decision" Johnston encouraged his listeners to make is to become "future-focused with a fresh vision."

"It's staggering how many churches are past-focused," said Johnson. "It's time for us to 'sing a new song.'"

Johnston said that the best way to no longer settle for the revivals and spiritual movements of the past is to take God-honoring risks. He explained that if ministry leaders are not careful, they may fall prey to worshiping the idol of safety.

"Peter never would have gotten out of the boat if he was raised in the American church," said Johnston.

A way to avoid falling into this pattern of remaining comfortable, according to Johnston, is to develop apassion for lost people, and also develop ministries focused on reaching kids and teenagers.

"Whoever wins the kids, wins the community," said Johnston. "We have to prioritize them because the church is one generation away from extinction."

Finally, Johnston said the last "best decision" a church could make was to believe that ministry leaders are "giving their lives to the most important thing."

Johnston, who grew up in an atheist home and never witnessed a successful marriage that lasted, understands full-well how important leaders are in the church. He and his wife have been married for 30 years—breaking a 150-year pattern in his family's lineage. This, he explained, is a direct result of strong church leadership.

"I have no idea what my marriage, my children or what I would be without the church," said Johnston. "Thank you for what you do."

Learn more about the Office of Church Relations.

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Mindy Hughes, Public Relations

Phone: 757.352.4095 Fax: 757.352.4888

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