Thousands have converged in San Diego for the self-claimed single largest gathering focused solely on outreach and featuring much of today's most innovative and fastest growing churches in the country.
The National Outreach Convention (NOC), presented by Outreach magazine, opened Wednesday at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center. Convention attendees opened the four-day event paying tribute to the local churches and taking an offering to help fire victims and churches that experienced losses in the California wildfires disaster.
Earlier announcements informed participants that despite the current state of emergency in many areas of San Diego due to the wildfires, the convention venue has not been affected.
This year's convention, under the theme "Converge: Where Mission Meets Innovation," aims at energizing and refocusing outreach efforts to help churches reach their surrounding communities for Christ.
New to the annual event is the "Idea Tour" where participants can take a self-guided tour of exhibits showcasing proven ministry ideas such as creating blogs, AIDS action, and using film for outreach. Also, a grand exhibit hall will give attendees the chance to browse through and meet with more than 125 exhibitors about unique outreach tools that can be used in their own churches.
Leading the general sessions are former NFL player Miles McPherson, futurist Leonard Sweet, and emerging church leader Dan Kimball. The latter two will talk about the "landscape" of faith, culture and psychographics in the world and help church leaders navigate a course to reach the unchurched in their local communities.
LifeChurch.tv's Craig Groeschel, who pastors one of the fastest growing churches in the country, will present both the opportunities and obstacles to ministry innovation. LifeChurch was named the most innovative church in the country by Outreach magazine.
"Both regionally and nationally, many of our participating churches host conferences of their own," said Lynne Marian, publisher of Outreach magazine, in a statement. "The NOC offers a rare opportunity to meet and learn from these ministries in a single event."
But before local church pastors and other leaders jump on the bandwagon for innovative outreach methods, a panel discussion on Friday will address some of the dangers and the temptation of going from one new ministry trend to the next. The panel, led by moderator Ed Stetzer – director of research and missiologist at LifeWay – will provide "an honest deconstruction of the potential tyranny, superficiality and idolatry of ministry innovation in search of its true missional core."
Other features at the National Outreach Convention include 60 workshops and the popular Night of Comedy which can also be used as an outreach tool. The convention concludes Nov. 10.