Six of us attended the 2017 ECO National Gathering in Greenville, South Carolina. This year’s theme centered on 2 Timothy 2:2 “What you have heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will be able to teach others as well.” The organizers wrote: “God not only deeply cares for us, but entrusts us with furthering His Kingdom here on hearth! Each of us has the privilege of being called by God to serve Him, love Him, and invest further in developing leaders among faithful followers of Christ.”

ECO’s mission statement — to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ — was evident throughout the conference. The speakers and breakout sessions focused on encouragement and support as we labor together to grow the Kingdom of God. They generated conversation on a wide range of topics, including church planting, creating disciple-making cultures, leadership development, and missional strategies.

Beautiful times of worship underscored the spirit of unity and excitement of the conference. The 1,200 seat sanctuary of First Presbyterian in Greenville (South Carolina) swelled with praise in all styles of music. The pipe organ, orchestra, and choir led worship one evening, a talented bluegrass band the next day, and a contemporary praise band on other occasions. We celebrated communion as one family of faith to conclude the conference.

Pastor Rob especially appreciated the comments of plenary speaker Dr. Paul Borden. He highlighted two specific values of ECO that differentiate them from other denominations: Missional Centrality and Leadership Velocity. “For if a local church was going to be healthy and thrive it needed to evolve from being pastoral centric to having an unleashed laity.”

Director of Children’s Ministry Hilary Kinitz shared: “Most of the breakouts I attended had to do with reaching the next generation and they were jam packed. It was exciting to see such a wide span of ages and generations, all eager to digest information and ideas on how to connect with kids, youth and young families to grow the Kingdom of God. My favorite moment was during our evening worship, with every nook and cranny of the sanctuary filled with God’s family. Along with the adult choir and full orchestra, the children and youth choirs joined in an incredible hymn. Honestly, I can’t remember which one it was… but I know that I knew it by heart from signing it so many times throughout my life. I watched the faces of the children in the choir as they soaked in power of the worship! They had never seen or felt anything like it and you could see that it was an eye opening moment as they witnessed the presence of the Holy Spirit. To witness their spiritual growth in that moment was a precious gift.”

Director of Missions Sharon Hoover shared: “I was deeply touched by Jo Saxton’s message. She noted that we are in a moment as a church: a problem or an opportunity. What is happening on our watch? In our schools, in our communities? We are on the cusp of a new day, and the Lord will test the limits of our compassion. We can expect to feel the shards of brokenness, hear the shrill cry of grief and pain. What are the limits of your companion? Where have you run out of grace? It is here that we’re required to walk in the shadow of his grace.

ECO posted videos of the keynote speakers, including John Ortberg, Jo Saxton, James Choung, Jim Singleton, Paul Borden, and Dana Allin. When you have time, click through and hear their words of wisdom and encouragement.