Written by Connie Larkman
For the past five years, the National Church Leadership Institute (NCLI) has brought together insightful, inspirational speakers to teach practical, tactical skills for starting and renewing churches.
This year, the scope is widening.
"Because we now teach church-planting and renewal online in five-week intensive courses, we are shifting this conference to be a connecting point of innovation focused on the future of the progressive church," said the Rev. Cameron Trimble, co-executive director of the Center for Progressive Renewal (CPR) and lead organizer of NCLI.
Partnering with the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta to offer organizations the opportunity to become key partners in the nation's largest gathering of entrepreneurial church leaders, CPR will offer NCLI: Praxis21 Aug. 8-10 in Atlanta.
"Think of this year's NCLI: Praxis21 event as a creative ignition point for entrepreneurial leaders who want to reinvent church," said Trimble, who travels throughout the country to teach church planting and renewal.
"God is not finished with the progressive church," she said. "Our goal is to use this conference as a catalyst event, sparking new experiments in entrepreneurial ministry throughout the mainline church."
Trimble hailed this year's slate of more than 30 speakers as "exceptional," with the list including Phyllis Tickle, author of "The Great Emergence."
"She gives us a framework to understand the cultural shifts in which the church is struggling to find its way," said Trimble. "Her work is seminal to understanding the challenges of this age."
Laurie Beth Jones, leadership consultant and national best-selling author of "Jesus CEO," will help to "provide a wider perspective on how our secular and religious narratives are reshaping what it means to be a Christian leader today," said Trimble.
Also on hand will be the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, church planter, author and former moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA.
"He is inventing new ways of being 'church' through online experiments in worship and forming community," said Trimble. "He recently launched a new church online, offering it to all of us as an experiment in 21st-century congregational life."
Likewise, the Rev. Eric Elnes, pastor of Countryside Community Church in Omaha, Neb., will speak on behalf of shaping a worship experience that has a physical form but is also broadcast across the web.
"But rather than creating a passive audience to watch his service online, Eric has found a way to allow people across the world to interact with each other and the people of his church," said Trimble. "We might call it '21st-century' blended worship."
Trimble said each speaker will share experiences gleaned from pastoring churches, leading nonprofits and engaging with people at points of their greatest needs.
Others scheduled to speak include:
The Rev. Susannah Davis, founding pastor of Kirkwood UCC in Atlanta; the Rev. Ruben Duran, program director for New Congregations in the Congregational and Synodical Mission unit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries; the Rev. Val Hastings, founder and president of Coaching4Clergy, which provides specialized training for pastors, church leaders and coaches; Kimberly Knight, communications director of the UCC's Southeast Conference; and the Rev. Susan Mitchell, capital fundraising executive for the UCC's national offices.
Also scheduled to address NCLI: Praxis 21 are: the Rev. Michael Piazza, CPR co-executive director and president and senior pastor of Virginia Highland Church in Atlanta; Jim Powell, CPR chief executive officer; the Rev. Ken Samuel, founder and pastor of Victory for the World Church UCC in Stone Mountain, Ga.; and the Rev. Teresa Angle-Young, founding minister of Sacred Tapestry, a United Methodist Church new-church start in the Atlanta area.
'"Participants will leave with a great deal of practical information that they can apply the very next Sunday," said Trimble. "But they will also leave connected to a network of other innovative leaders and convinced that our best days are ahead of us in the church."
Learn more about praxis21.