December 2016 -January 2017
Beyond the Walls
Generations: 2016 D6 Conference
By Eric K. Thomsen
With a gentle hug, she reaches around her granddaughter, worn heart cookie cutter in hand. “Here, Sweetie. Let me help you.”
Patient hands untangle fishing line from a branch for the tenth line. “Okay, Bud, let me show you again.”
He kneels in the clay with a smile. “Here, son, move your hands up the bat just a little bit. That’s it…now, lift your elbow a little and swing level. And don’t forget to keep your eye on the ball.”
He lifts his daughter to sit beside him on the old stone wall, and together they watch the bright leaves twist slowly to the ground, carried on a gentle breeze. After a few moments of thought, he answers the latest of her endless questions: “Yes, Honey, God does make the leaves change color. It happens every fall, and it’s just one of the ways He lets us know He is still watching over us…”
From generation to generation, knowledge is shared, passed down from grandparents and parents—guiding, showing, and instructing children and grandchildren. From baking cookies and baiting hooks to the deeper questions of life, questions about God, truth, and eternity, this is generational discipleship.
The 2016 D6 Conference reminded parents and church leaders that D6 is more than another passing fad in church ministry. It is a principle—God’s principle—for passing faith to coming generations. “Your being here today reveals your heart for what’s next,” Ron Hunter, Randall House director (pictured below, left) said to attendees as he welcomed them to the conference. “What could be if we take seriously our roles as parents and influencers of the next generation.”
He summed up the goals of this conference: “We’re here for the thousands of children yet to be born in your town and church. We’re here to ensure parents and grandparents understand their God-given responsibility to raise children who know God, love God, and keep His commandments.”
1546 attendees from 35 states made their way to Louisville, Kentucky, September 21-23, for the eighth annual D6 Conference. In addition, attendees traveled from 8 countries, including Canada, India, Kenya, Korea, Malaysia, Norway, Puerto Rico, and the United States. For three days, more than 50 speakers tackled the challenge of passing faith from generation to generation.
The conference offered 72 breakout sessions led by presenters such as Richard Ross, founder of True Love Waits; Matt Guevara, executive director of International Network of Children’s Ministry; Timothy Paul Jones, professor and associate vice president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; and Steve Greenwood, kids pastor at The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee.
During the first general session Ron Hunter used the classic toy, the Slinky Dog™, to remind leaders that getting too far in front of a church or ministry can cause irreparable harm. Instead, he urged, leaders must take the congregation with them and shared eight simple keys for implementing changes in church or ministry.
Robby Gallaty, senior pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, pointed to an errant comma in some translations of Ephesians 4:12 that seems to indicate pastors are responsible for ministry rather than the congregation. “There are no commas in the Greek language,” he noted, “and this is a mistake that has stymied discipleship for 400 years. He reminded listeners that the success of the local church is not gauged by how large it grows, but how mature it is, reminding them that a church grows through making disciples.”
High-energy youth culture translators AXIS gave listeners insight into the fast changing world of today’s youth, from the choices today’s students face and the immediacy of the culture around them to the evolution of social media and its impact on the next generation’s view of God. In light of the changes, the group challenged listeners to adopt a 500-year plan for ministry, “whispering into the ear” of the next generation as long as God allows.
Lisa Harper, author of ten books and frequent speaker on the Women of Faith tour challenged listeners to embrace their “second half,” based on Jesus’ healing of Blind Bartamaeus in Mark 10. With a blend of humor and vulnerability, Lisa encouraged attendees to let God turn their most difficult seasons in life into new vision and direction for their future.
Brian and Angela Haynes, authors of Relentless Parenting challenged listeners to make deliberate heart connections with their children based on love and trust, especially during teen years when tension is natural. These connections will determine to whom children turn to during highs and lows. This “relentless pursuit of a child’s heart” requires patience, grace, trust, and forgiveness.
Based on 1 Corinthians 15, Yancey Arrington, teaching pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in Houston, Texas, urged listeners to make sure they get the gospel right when passing faith to the next generation. “The gospel message is about who Jesus is, and about what he did through His life, death, and resurrection—God doing for us in Jesus what we cannot do for ourselves.” It is not something they can do, he continued, not religion or moral living but God’s redeeming all things through the person and work of Jesus. He warned parents against making “little legalists” who view themselves as the heroes of the Bible rather than Jesus. “When we view the Bible as a bunch of rules to follow, we put the souls of our kids at risk.”
Christian psychologist and author, Dr. David E. Clarke, reassured listeners that God wants marriage to succeed. With this in mind, he shared four suggestions for wives to help their husbands pursue (rather than avoid) intimacy in marriage. He urged women to communicate their needs specifically and completely in a letter that will become her husband’s “roadmap” to her heart.
Pat Cimo, author and director of marriage and family life at Willow Creek Church in Barrington, Illinois, challenged attendees to be the solution to making champions of the next generation. She suggested three steps to help implement needed change: 1) consider what you are inviting others into; align on a single vision and find others (through volunteer development and collaboration) who can help fulfill that vision; 2) pay attention to influence, being careful not to misuse it and to maximize its effectiveness; and 3) live out your unique leadership voice.
Reggie McNeal, missional leadership specialist for Leadership Network of Dallas, Texas, challenged attendees to make church a verb, not a place, shifting from church-centric to Kingdom-centric narrative. He reminded the audience that God created every person for a purpose—discipleship—and if that purpose goes unfulfilled, it leaves a hole in the Kingdom.
Jim Burns, president of HomeWord, asked listeners to answer a single question: “What does a healthy relationship look like?” It’s hard to know, he added, because every relationship has problems. Based on Matthew 19:4-6, Burns shared three simple (but not easy) suggestions to help couples move toward a healthy relationship: 1) have serious fun to create family bonds and offset the pain of life; 2) make communication key; and 3) get serious about spiritual growth.
Minis & More
For the fourth year, D6 Minis gave several main stage speakers an opportunity to deliver short, powerful messages addressing a single point.
Megan Marshman, director of women’s ministries at Hume Lake Christian Camps and associate dean of YouthMin Academy, challenged listeners not to miss out on divine encounters because they are consumed with ministry. She reminded them, “Ministry doesn’t just happen in one place. It happens on the way. Don’t miss out on His plans because you are consumed with yours,” noting, “His plans are always better.”
Terry Williams, specialist in children’s ministry at Scripture Union in Queensland, Australia, reminded listeners that just as the purpose of an apple tree is to make more apple trees, the purpose of Christians is to make more Christians. Because this is a day when young people are leaving the Faith in record numbers, he shared a simple strategy for discipleship: 1) involve them in mission; 2) give them an opportunity for divine encounters; 3) create memorable experiences; and 4) find life encouragers to join you in speaking into their lives.
Jeff Wallace, executive pastor at Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia, and founder of FrontLine Urban Resources asked, “What does it take to have the heart of a champion?” He shared six principles from the Sermon on the Mount to develop the heart of a champion: 1) have godly character in good and bad times; 2) develop influence as salt and light; 3) build godly relationships that will be assets, not liabilities; 4) pursue discipline, good use of time and talents; 5) respect the Lordship of God, seeking the Kingdom of God first; and 6) learn discernment. He reminded the audience, “We teach what we know, but we reproduce what we are.”
Josh Mulvihill, pastor to children and families at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, reminded listeners that grandparents are the second most powerful influence on children. He challenged listeners to follow the instruction of Deuteronomy 6:2, where God instructed Israel to let discipleship continue beyond children to grandchildren.
Eddie Moody, pastor, professor, counselor, and psychologist participated in a parenting panel discussing the content of his book Surviving Culture.
D6 always delivers much more than seminars and main-stage speakers. During breaks, attendees explored exhibits filled with the latest in Christian resources and renewed friendships, discussing common challenges, swapping solutions, and praying together over ministry burdens.
On Wednesday and Thursday, they sang along with Meredith Andrews, Christian music artist, songwriter, and worship leader at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. On Friday, they enjoyed praise times led by Michael Boggs, worship minister at Kairos Church in Brentwood, Tennessee. Boggs traveled with the Christian band FFH for eight years, and received the Dove Award for Songwriter of the Year in 2012.
Perennial D6 favorites Tommy Woodard and Eddie James, better known as The Skit Guys, returned to D6 in 2016, delivering sidesplitting humor coupled with serious sketches that encouraged and challenged attendees. Jon Forrest, youth pastor at Bethel FWB Church in Ashland City, Tennessee, brought his witty, goofy, crazy, “biggest kid in the room” style of humor to the conference, with man-on-the-street videos, off the wall interviews, and more.
Conference emcees Tommy Swindol, lead pastor at The Donelson Fellowship, Nashville, Tennessee, and Ted Cunningham, pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri, kept the conference fast-paced and energetic with crowd breakers, crazy games, and pointed interviews with conference speakers.
In a powerful moment, Ron Hunter shared the global expansion of D6, with conferences in Norway, France, and Singapore. He shared the stage with leaders from other countries, who described the impact D6 is having around the world. He announced a D6 Conference in Malaysia in 2018, as well as the dates for the 2017 U.S. conference to be held in Dallas, Texas, September 20-22.
As the conference drew to a close, Ron Hunter challenged listeners to take home the “seeds of discipleship” and plant them. “When you plant seeds,” he noted, “you get your hands dirty, but later you reap the benefits.” Ted Cunningham warned against planting an “acre” garden, but encouraged attendees to identify specific seeds to plant and focus on nurturing those things in the coming year.
The conference closed with prayer and worship, and the ballroom echoed with the powerful lyrics, “Lord, I need you; Lord, I need You; every hour I need You; my one defense, my righteousness—Oh, Lord, how I need you.”
About the Writer: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine.