There’s really no way to describe it in 600 words. It’s one of those “you had to be there” things. I will serve up an appetizer in this short space and then tell you how you can get a bigger helping if you want it.
Sixty-five families came from 10 states, from as far away as Texas and Washington. One family from Indianapolis got up at 1 a.m. and started driving to make it here on time. Some stayed in hotels. Two stayed in motor homes. Many of them stayed with families in our church, taking over bedrooms or sprawling on couches or air mattresses. Then, for three days, they gathered with the Antioch family to hear about the family-integrated church. They wanted to know more about what a church looks like when it doesn’t divide the family at the front door. They wanted to hear about how dads are encouraged and taught to follow what is perhaps the most important principle in the whole Bible when it comes to the spiritual health of a family: “Fathers, teach your children.” They wanted to hear a mother’s heart as Cindy shared a message entitled, “Two ways women can serve with grace and creativity.” They wanted to meet others from around the country who have the same vision they do. They wanted to hear about discipling teens, helping them to navigate the dangerous waters in that time of their lives. They wanted to hear about how families can be more effective in evangelism, reaching the lost with one of the most powerful tools we have been given: hospitality. They came to hear about how they can plant a church in their own community. There were 26 families who said they live in an area where there is not a family-integrated church within driving distance. They followed that with, “We are willing, if the Lord leads and brings us other families who have the same vision, to start a church in our community.” The 65 families in attendance came from different denominations, rural and urban neighborhoods, southern, northern and western states, and were young and old, large families and small. They came to explore the theme of the conference, “Training for Faithfulness.”
The weekend was not without its challenges. One Antioch family that was hosting a family of 11 from South Carolina lost their power Friday night for several hours. They managed. We had to ask the people at the conference Saturday to “only flush the toilets if absolutely necessary, and bucket-flush them at that!” as the sheer number of people was putting a strain on the system. We managed … with the help of two hastily ordered Porta Johns. But mostly, the weekend was packed with one opportunity after another to grow in faith, to get to know brothers and sisters in Christ we had never met, to help answer questions, and to simply be the church, embracing and loving those whom God had sent to us.
A good friend and former member of Antioch gave the closing message of the conference, challenging us that training for faithfulness includes taking care of our physical bodies. Jeff Akin said, “Do what you can to live as long as you can,” by taking care of the one body God has given you. As Paul says, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
That’s a sampler. If you want more, keep an eye on the Antioch website (www.antiochchurch.cc) over the next month. All 15 messages from 10 different speakers will be added.
J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man,” his latest book, and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org