When you arrive at Inspire 2019, you’ll receive, along with your name badge and detailed schedule, a small container of honey tucked inside a special purple swag bag in which to place your items.
This is just one of the many ways Inspire 2019 has been designed to both represent the broad reach of the many ministries of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and to cater to various needs of the people on the “front lines” of ministry in their local congregations.
In important ways, said Jeff Bolt, advancement director of the CRCNA, the swag bag offers a message about what Inspire is all about.
First, the bag contains many items, each a gift from a CRCNA or related ministry. The honey comes from World Renew. There is also a notebook from the Barnabas Foundation, a pen from The Network, and the bag itself is a gift from Back to God Ministries International.
“The gifts are a reminder from various ministries that their programs were started by the Christian Reformed denomination and wouldn’t exist without the prayers and support of the people in the pews,” said Bolt. “They are also a physical demonstration of the fact that Inspire is intended to be a gift to people in local churches, to renew and inspire them for their own ministry efforts.”
In fact, every detail of Inspire 2019 has been planned to specifically meet the needs of volunteers and leaders of local church ministry. This includes deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and many more.
“There are nearly 80 workshops being offered during Inspire 2019,” said Steven Timmermans, executive director of the CRCNA.
They focus on a wide range of topics, from reviving struggling churches to including persons with disabilities into the life of a congregation, and from a look at several ethnic-minority ministries in the CRC to information on developing youth leadership.
“Christian Reformed people believe there is not a square inch of this world over which God is not sovereign. Inspire is an attempt to equip all of the people who are working for God’s kingdom in all of those square inches,” said Timmermans.
In addition to offering a wide variety of workshops with presenters from across North America, Inspire planners have also been intentional in the way they have designed worship times.
These main-stage sessions will feature such speakers as bestselling writer Ann Voskamp, international church planter Ed Stetzer, theologian and author Soong-Chan Rah, and Calvin College chaplain Mary Hulst.
Leading worship will be a choir directed by Gail De Young, director of the Rehoboth Christian School Choir in Gallup, N.Mex., and Jeremy Simpson, associate pastor of community life and worship at Southridge Church, a Reformed Church in America congregation in Kalamazoo, Mich.
They have created a program to draw participants together by singing songs — both old and new, in English, Spanish, Korean, and Navajo — that glorify God and ask the Holy Spirit to shower blessings on the Lord’s church.
They will be joined by two current members and two alumni from the Rehoboth Christian School Choir, a group that travels extensively to perform.
De Young said she has composed a song for Inspire 2019 that will focus on five key values: Be His, Belong, Be Changed, Be a Bridge, Be Servants.
Large-print booklets, in both English and Korean, and a hearing loop will be available for all of the main-stage worship times to ensure that all attendees can participate.
“Our church is good at making hard decisions at synod and in the Council of Delegates,” said Bolt. “But Inspire is not a time like that. It is a time for us to come together to find out who we are in a spiritual way.”
This is the second denominational Inspire gathering. The first took place in 2017 in downtown Detroit.
Similar to the 2017 event, Inspire 2019 will provide attendees with opportunities for people from different churches to meet and interact together. They can swap stories about what is working well in their local contexts, and they can receive support and encouragement from others who are dealing with similar issues.
“It will be a time to get together and praise God for his good work in the CRC,” Bolt said. “Inspire will give us a chance to learn what our church can do and how we can grow as Christians.”
Inspire 2019 is being held Aug. 1-3 at the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts in Windsor, Ont., across the Detroit River from Detroit.