Developing Next: Speaker Talks About Growing, Changing with God at Granville Hicks Leadership Academy

Feb 19, 2015

Reverand Olu Brown Giving Keynote SpeechRev. Olu Brown says the key to a successful future in ministry and in life is “developing next.”

That was the message the lead pastor of Impact Church in Atlanta, Ga., shared with those gathered for the evening worship service and keynote address at Claflin University’s annual Granville Hicks Leadership Academy for Laity and Clergy.

The theme for this year’s academy – held Feb. 12-13 in the James and Dorothy Z. Elmore Chapel – was “Hurting Communities, Hurting Leaders: Meeting the Next Decade of Challenges in Ministry.” 

Citing Exodus 24:12-14, Brown said, “I promise you there is a next, and I’ll tell you why. The last time I checked, God was not dead.”

“You hit the lottery every single day, even on the worst day of your life. Why? Because God is developing the next in your life.”

Brown said the story of Moses and Joshua ascending God’s mountain to receive the 10 commandments is an illustration of next.

“Joshua represents next. In 2015, what is your Joshua? What is your next?” he said. “But don’t limit Joshuas to people. Sometimes Joshua is an idea, a new opportunity, what God is about to do. In the midst of all that we face, we have a next.”

Brown said next is developed through:

  • Mentors.

“The power of having a mentor is mentors will bring you into your future even if you don’t want your future. If you have people around you, you can’t get stuck,” he said. “Who are your friends? If you’re spending energy on people who are stuck, get ready to be stuck. If you are spending your energy on people who are broken, get ready to be broken.”

Joshua’s mentors were Moses and the dozens of elders who comprised Moses’ executive team. Joshua was the only young person on that team, Brown said.

“As God is developing the next in you, who is coaching that next? Who is mentoring that next?” he said. “If we’re going to get to the next, we’ve got to have someone to coach us.”

  • Elevated perspective.

As Moses took Joshua up on the mountain with him, Joshua received an elevated perspective, Brown said.

“Whenever you’ve got the right coach, the right mentor, whenever they go up, you go up, too. You are elevated,” he continued. “You see things as you’ve never seen them before. … Whenever we have the right mentors, we have an elevated view of what life could be.”

  • Glimpse of glory.

“Joshua and Moses got so high on the mountain that they began to see and feel the presence of almighty God,” Brown said. “Do you still believe in the power of God? Academia, technology is powerful, but if we don’t have the power of almighty God, true transformation cannot take place.

“I believe, in 2015, that all things are possible for those who believe. When was the last time you took God at His word?”

  • A promise.

“Joshua represented next for God’s people,” Brown said. “Moses started it, but Joshua finished it.

“The reason Joshua could walk into the promise is because he was willing to go through the promise. He had to fight battles of committees, of life, of frustration … but he didn’t give up. He walked into the promise.”

Brown said when he got the call of next in his own life – to one day found Impact Church, which he did in 2007 – he didn’t know where exactly it would lead.

“Sometimes when we sign up for next, we don’t see the fine print. We only see the outside of the card,” he said. “I have been through some kind of process every week, every month, every year. … There is always some kind of process, but thanks be to God! Along the way, I have had Joshua experiences. On the other side of every process, there is always, always, always a promise.

“Don’t let the reality of today block your promise for tomorrow.”

The Granville Hicks Leadership Academy for Laity and Clergy honors the Rev. Dr. Granville A. Hicks, a 1957 Claflin graduate who has been recognized for his leadership as a pastor and district superintendent in the South Carolina Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The purpose of the academy is to equip laity and clergy for ministry and leadership within the church. It works to empower individuals with biblical knowledge, intellectual growth and theological reflection, thus enhancing church development, renewal and mission outreach. It unites laity and clergy, establishes church leadership, increases awareness of the role of Christian education in the church, offers cross-cultural experiences within the church and enhances the church-University relationship.

This year’s Granville Hicks Leadership Academy also served as the official launch of Claflin’s Young Clergy Initiative. Among other topics, speakers and panelists gave insight on what it takes to reach young people in today’s ministry.

During an afternoon panel discussion on Feb. 12, the disconnect between young people and the church – and the challenges the church faces as a result – was addressed.                                                                                                             

“The disconnect is not with Christianity – their disconnect is with the church,” said Dr. Lewis Brogdon, assistant professor of philosophy and religion at Claflin University, who led the discussion. “Something is driving them away.”

That something could be any number of things, according to panelists Edward Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga.; Jeremy Franklin of Grace Church in Columbia, S.C.; and Candace Smith of The Faith Center in Miami, Fla.

Long said the body of Christ is inconsistent – denominations vs. nondenominational, and some churches are fully focused on youth ministry, while in others, youth are an afterthought. Smith said the church is segregated and invisible – youth don’t feel their voices are being heard.

The upside, Long said, is that there are still people flocking to some churches and filling arenas in the name Christ.

“It could be worse – it could be dead. There could be nothing at all,” he said. “Religiously, it’s not a free world. The youth who have caught it or are catching their faith are enjoying it.”

Brogdon said churches need to find ways to communicate to young people through their passion – which, for many millennials, is bringing change to the world.

“They really don’t see anything inside the four walls working to transform the outside,” he said.

Franklin said the lack of opportunity for young people to practice their faith is a challenge the church faces.

“This generation is pregnant with potential and poised to make a change, but they need someone to believe in them,” he said. “How many people can say that they’ve said something encouraging to a youth in the last 48 hours?

“If they haven’t had a space to develop their gift, use their gift, then what?”

Today’s generation, Brogdon said, is vulnerable. Their hard work and furthering their education may not pay off in the form of a good job. As a result of the culture of violence in which they live, youth bear witness to fighting and bullying on a constant basis. “Our young people want someone to talk to,” he said.

Older church members must also get past what they perceive as disrespect by young people who don’t meet their standards at church, the panelists said, whether it’s the clothes they wear or how they act.

“My church in Florida is a little more receptive to letting people come in how they are,” Smith said. “We immediately want to scale the fish before we catch it.”

“God looks at the heart; we look at the outside,” Franklin said. “The church is trying to fashion the youth into mini mes. … The youth are saying that we honor God by the posture of our heart, not our appearance on the outside.”

Long said understanding across generations can be accomplished through co-mentorship.

“I’m no good to you if I don’t understand you,” he said. “Open yourself up to being mentored as you are mentoring them. I’m learning as I’m sharing.”

“They are hungry,” Franklin said. “Hungry for relationships, hungry for fellowship.

“They are hanging onto every word.”

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