US speakers look forward to Special Assembly

21.8.2017 | Moderator, Discipleship, Special Assembly

‘Everyday Disciples’, the 2017 Special Assembly opens tonight at the Ulster University campus Coleraine. The fifth since 1990, it will see over 600 Presbyterians from across Ireland explore what it means to be an ‘everyday disciple’ of Jesus Christ in the 21st Century. The two keynote speakers, who will speak throughout the four-day gathering, are both from the United States of America.

Speaking ahead of the opening, Rev. Randy Pope of Perimeter Church, Atlanta said it was his first visit to Northern Ireland and he was looking forward to the week with ‘great anticipation’. “This will be my first association with this great denomination. I am expecting God to meet us and as a result, to see His Kingdom bear upon the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland in an unusual manner.”

Mature and equipped followers of Christ

During the Special Assembly he said that he would be speaking about ‘bringing discipleship back to the local church’, a subject that he is passionate about. “I plan to share our own experience in Atlanta and how a life-on-life expression of discipleship can result in significant numbers of church members becoming reproducing mature and equipped followers of Christ.

“I truly believe this has become a lost practice in today's churches worldwide. I am also convinced that this is the model Jesus used to impact the twelve disciples.”

Special assemblies are opportunities for church members to come together in a residential setting for a time of fellowship, worship and prayer, to explore and reflect on a particular aspect of church life, faith or discipleship. Presbyterians from local congregations across Ireland and other local experts in their field will also deliver the seminars, with worship being led by New Irish Arts.

Keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Ray Ortlund Jnr. of Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee said that he was ‘glad to be back’, as this was his third time in Northern Ireland. “I expect this week to foster new friendships in the gospel and impart new vision for building churches that embody Jesus in the world today,” he said.

“Discipleship is simply learning what it means to respond today to what Jesus said so long ago: ‘Follow me.’ Every one of us is following something or someone. Why not Jesus?

“My main message is that gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. In other words, the truths of the gospel create a new kind of community unlike anything else in this world. A church renewed as a gospel culture makes it feel as though Jesus Himself has come to town. What could be more wonderful than that?”

Discipleship: An exciting and amazing vocation

Excited about the week, Presbyterian Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Noble McNeely, said, “The daily keynote addresses from our two principal speakers and the range of seminars available will help us to consider seriously the need for daily discipleship.

“As Christians, Jesus calls us to be His disciples in all aspects of our lives. Being an everyday disciple is the theme I intend to develop during my year in office, challenging our Church as to how we can all respond to Luke’s call to ‘deny ourselves and take up the cross daily.’ As I said in my installation address as Moderator in June, I believe to be an everyday disciple is the most exciting and amazing vocation anyone can be engaged in.”

For those attending, Dr. McNeely has produced a 31-day daily devotional for delegates. Thirty-one contributors from Ireland, the UK and further afield have contributed their thoughts for readers to prayerfully reflect on what it actually means to be an everyday disciple.

New Discipleship resource

As part of the Church’s vision to resource whole-life disciples across PCI, a brand new discipleship resource, called 'Essentials', will be unveiled at the Special Assembly. This practical resource aims to help followers of Jesus reflect on and live out the essentials of everyday discipleship.

For updates on Twitter on the Special Assembly, follow @pciassembly #everydaydisciples

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