Chicago CRC gathers 125

OAKBROOK, Ill.--More than 100 Church of God people met here at the end of July for what one COG member called "interaction and loving fellowship."

The Church of God Downers Grove (Ill.), the Active Church of God (Chicago) and the Church of God Bloomington (Ill.) were playing host to the Christian Renewal Conference (CRC) here in the Chicago area July 28-29.

The annual CRC brought together 125 people from several COG groups. People had traveled from Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana to spend a weekend together for worship, fellowship and food.

The guest speakers this year for the two-day event were Ronald L. Dart of Whitehouse, Texas, founder of Christian Educational Ministries (CEM), and Dave Havir, pastor of the Church of God Big Sandy (Texas).

Each session featured congregational singing, special music and presentations by the speakers.

The conference began at 10 a.m. with Mr. Havir giving a 45-minute sermon discussing 2 Timothy 2:19. After a break he led the group in an hour-long interactive discussion on the same topic.

The three host congregations provided a lunch for the conference delegates.

To begin the afternoon session, the choir sang several selections.

The speaker for the afternoon was Mr. Dart, who is featured locally and nationally on the Born to Win radio program.

CEM originated Christian Renewal Conferences several years ago. Whenever Mr. Dart is invited to a CRC, CEM jointly sponsors it by paying for Mr. Dart's expenses and advertising his appearance in the local area to CEM's mailing list.

The local congregations paid for Mr. Havir's expenses.

Mr. Dart gave a sermon about sonship vs. adoption: Jesus' firstborn status in the God family rather than our sharing a lesser relationship with God. After his sermon Mr. Dart answered questions from the audience.

Shortly after the afternoon session Mr. Havir baptized Katie Durham of Greencastle, Ind.

Backyard barbecue

Continuing the tradition of the yearly Chicago CRC, Ken and Trish Svehla invited the audience to their home for a barbecue. (Mr. Svehla pastors the Church of God Downers Grove.) The Svehlas served plenty of food to many people. Many stayed for hours to fellowship in the backyard.

Mr. Havir began the Sunday session at 9:30 a.m. with a statement about the purpose of prophecy: to draw people closer to God.

Then he moderated a 45-minute interactive Bible study about Matthew 24-25. During that time the audience made comments about specific verses in the two chapters.

At 10:30 Mr. Dart gave a presentation about the value of the independent evangelist. He contrasted the effectiveness of the establishment evangelist who seeks to strengthen the group he represents and the independent evangelist who oftentimes feels freer to speak his convictions.

He also mentioned how damaging it is to try to control people and that "keeping people penned up causes a church to become weaker."

In his presentation Mr. Dart also revealed that he views the prophet Nehemiah as his biblical role model and mentor who keeps him from being distracted from his purpose.

After his presentation Mr. Dart again allowed time for questions.

"The singing, both congregational and special music, was some of the most heartfelt I have participated in and heard in a long time," said Jim Ross of Dallas, Texas, who was attending his first CRC. The CRC "was so much more than just sitting to hear some pundit pontificate."

In fact, he said, "I didn't hear a single pundit or pontificator all weekend. What I heard was some sincere, wise and helpful talk from both the presenters and all of the other attendees during the interactive parts."

Carrie O'Rourke of Arrowsmith, Ill., said she came to be uplifted and encouraged, to hear excellent speakers and to fellowship with friends.

"Ron Dart and Dave Havir speak with soundness and a gentleness that I greatly appreciate," Mrs. O'Rourke said.

David Harrell of Chicago mentioned the value of meeting people.

"In addition to the great teaching and discussion, which is a given, the event provided a great opportunity to see people we hadn't seen in a long time and to finally meet cyberfriends in the flesh."

Mr. Harrell was referring to the opportunity for people who participate in CEM's Internet forum. For many this was the first time they had met each other.

Some of the forum participants in attendance were Ray Curtis of Oak Lawn, Ill.; Mr. Dart; John Davis of Warsaw, Ind.; George and Pam Dewey of Allegan, Mich.; Larry Evans of Bloomington; Ernie Hagenow of Rolling Meadows, Ill.; Mr. Harrell of Flossmoor, Ill.; Mike Linacre (pastor of the Active Church of God); Mrs. O'Rourke; Jeff Osborn of Fillmore, Ind.; Alan Ruth of Farmington Hills, Mich.; Mr. Ross; and Leah Schmidgall of Normal, Ill.

"We have found the CRC to be of value to our family," said Mr. Osborn, who with his wife, Joan, have attended the conference for several years. "Both of our teenagers are enthusiastic about the CRC, enough so that we fit the trip in at a very inconvenient time for us this year."

Mr. Osborn said he thinks the messages were "wonderful," and he mentioned another benefit.

"The interaction and loving fellowship across Church of God boundaries were truly inspirational," he said. "A major component of the Christian renewal that takes place at these conferences is love. Over the last four years we have attended five CRCs, and the love of God's people has been conspicuously evident at all of them."

Mrs. Osborn said the CRC is "like a minifeast. It is very special because the emphasis is on renewal."

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