The Fort Lauderdale Planters Conference
By Sam Nadler
They arrived from the West coast, from throughout the East coast and the Southlands to attend Word of Messiah’s “Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations Conference” in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida over Martin Luther King weekend. Some were just starting out, some were starting over, and some just wanted to continue to develop the work of God that they had been laboring in for years, but all wanted to further the Good News among the Jewish people and proclaim Yeshua as Lord!
I have to praise God for our host congregation, Temple Aron HaKodesh (of the Holy Ark), and its congregation leader, Joe Vitkus for the unusual hospitality and service they provided to Word of Messiah and all the conference participants. The people of that congregation were particularly excited to see what God would do, especially after I spoke at their Shabbat service and a dozen people responded to the Lord’s invitation. May the name of Yeshua be exalted forever! Our great Charlotte staff set up everything excellently in advance (thank you, team!).
My wonderful wife, Miriam graciously used her airline mileage to accompany me, lead worship at the conference, moderate a women’s discipleship break-out session, handle the materials table, and coordinate the meals for the conference. Whew! I cannot praise God enough for my invaluable partner in marriage and ministry.
I got to know the attending leaders and planters in advance since I call up each one about 10 days before the conference to pray with them regarding the various ministry matters they are dealing with and what they would want the conference to especially address. Miriam follows up to pray with any of their wives that may want prayer, as well. These prayer times especially knit our hearts together in love and spiritually prepare us even more thoroughly for the truth and grace the Holy Spirit wants to minister into our lives together.
The Word of Messiah textbook, “Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations” was given to each participant as the instructional format for the work of congregational ministry. Admittedly, it is always a shock for some conference participants that there are objective biblical standards and have “drawn the target around the arrow,” shooting from the hip as they go along, with foundational difficulties that hinder their growth and even destroy their fellowships.
Of course, all we studied was about Yeshua, for the very three-fold responsibilities of the elders, prayer-worship, word-teaching, and overseer/administration are the manifestation of the three-fold redemptive work of Messiah, as prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures and fulfilled in Yeshua: Messiah would be our High Priest (Psalm 110:4), our prophet like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-19) and our King of kings (Isaiah 9:6-7). The elders minister in prayer even as Messiah “ever lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25) and they minister the Word, even as Yeshua is the living Word of God (John 1:1,14)) and they oversee the community even as Yeshua rules and reigns as the Head of the Body (Ephesians 1:23). Of course, we delved deeply into the implementation of each of these areas, for Yeshua taught us that the blessing of what we learn is only in the doing (John 13:17).
A great deal of our time is spent on the matters pertaining to discipleship. Many leaders realize that their congregants may be merely acculterated and not discipled in the faith and just how this problem accounts for much of the disunity and discontent that some congregations experience.
To further apply these discipleship principles and practices in the congregation, we provided five break-out sessions, one skyping all the way from Cyprus: for children’s ministry led by Debbie Holford. Also, being skyped from Charlotte, NC were Barry Gardner, with Discipleship and Carolyn Phillips covering Administration. The men’s ministry was lead by me and the women’s ministry was led by Miriam.
At the end of the conference, the various leaders shared that the conference was especially helpful in their ministries. Joe Vitkus exclaimed to all the participants, “I’ve learned more about congregational ministry in this conference than I learned in my past 24 years of service for the Lord!” Another leader, Matt German, stated on Facebook, “Today was the “double portion” of the Developing Healthy Messianic Congregations conference. Wow. Oh, that someone had taught me all of this years ago.” He also wrote me this note: “Sam – just a quick note to thank you and Miriam for pouring into our lives over the weekend. We appreciate all of the words of encouragement as we take on the task of relaunching our ministry. May the Father grant you all favor as you continue His works! Blessings ~ Matt”
Please be in prayer as Word of Messiah continues to proclaim the Good News with the result of many more healthy Messianic congregations being planted both here and around the world.