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Photo: Jonathan James Photography
Inspire 2017 attendees participate in one of several breakout sessions.
Photo by Jonathan James Photography

Two years ago, nearly 850 people gathered in Detroit, Mich., for a new kind of CRC event. Over the course of three days, they were renewed for ministry, connected to other Christian Reformed people, supported with new resources, and inspired to go out and continue serving the Lord in whatever way God has called them.

This coming August, we’ll have the chance to “do it again.”

Inspire 2019 will be held at the St. Clair College Centre for the Arts in Windsor, Ont., Aug. 1-3. It will be an event for all Christian Reformed people involved in any sort of ministry at their local congregation, including pastors, elders, deacons, Coffee Break leaders, Sunday school coordinators, Safe Church team members, youth leaders, church planters, outreach committee members, and more.

Many of those who attended Inspire 2017 are now eagerly awaiting the 2019 event.

“It was wonderful to connect with fellow pastors and volunteers!” said Daryl DeKlerk after attending Inspire 2017. DeKlerk is a pastor in Vernon, B.C., who had been serving as a pastor in Jarvis, Ont., during the last event. In addition to connecting with others, he said, he appreciated how Inspire 2017 was rooted in Scripture and Reformed theology.

“It was an event devoted to what we have in common, rather than what divides,” he explained.

Ben Hoekman, a student at Calvin Theological Seminary, agreed. “As an incoming Calvin Seminary student [in fall 2017] Inspire 2017 left me feeling incredibly encouraged about the current state of the CRC, as well as its future,” he wrote in his evaluation of the event. “God is doing amazing things through the denomination's ministry! I hope that the Inspire conference becomes a regular event for the denomination for years to come!”

That hope is now becoming a reality. In 2018 the Council of Delegates of the Christian Reformed Church in North America voted to hold an Inspire event every other year. Following that decision, the planning team for Inspire 2019 began putting details in place for this coming August. Four keynote speakers have already been announced, and 80 workshops have been planned for Inspire 2019.

These breakout sessions cover a wide range of topics that address the needs of people in local churches, such as family faith formation, ministering with persons with disabilities, building safe church teams, learning how to do neighborhood ministry in rural settings, and much more.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the personal renewal and equipping that I experienced as a result of attending the breakout sessions,” Sally Koll, of Grand Rapids, Mich., said about her 2017 experience. “They were amazing, challenging, and hope giving.”

Another attendee, Janet Dykema from Kentwood, Mich., specifically enjoyed sessions led by young adults. She said it was inspiring to find “that we have future leaders in the denomination and to hear their thoughts about what kind of church they are looking for. Their responses to questions were surprising and helped us older adults to realize that they want to be pursued and conversed with, hopefully to lead to a chance to know them more deeply.”

Registration for Inspire 2019 is now open. Full details, including a summary of this year’s workshop topics, can be found at crcna.org/Inspire. The early-bird rate for registration, including snacks and meals, is only $80 for the three days of the event, and several area hotels have offered reduced rates for Inspire attendees. Organizers hope that the low cost will make the event as affordable as Inspire 2017.

Inspire 2017 “was a pretty amazing conference! Sincere thanks to all the parties that made it possible for us to receive the highest quality food, service, accommodations, training, and . . . inspiration, of course, at such a low cost to the participant,” noted Jane DeGroot from Grand Haven, Mich.

According to the Inspire 2017 evaluations, one of the best moments at the event was the opening address by Richard J. Mouw, a former Calvin College philosophy professor and Fuller Theological Seminary president emeritus.

During his talk, Mouw mentioned how he had learned a lesson after making a funny face while taking care of his grandchild. The child burst out laughing and proceeded to ask him to do it again, and again, and again.

“God is like that. He never gets bored. He delights in the world he created,” said Mouw. “Every day, God says to the sun, ‘Do it again.’ He says to the moon, ‘Keep shining.’ He wakes us up and says, ‘Do it again.’”

Sometimes we might get stuck in a rut with our ministry efforts. We can get tired of doing the same things, grow bored of committee meetings, and become worn down from all our efforts. But, Mouw reminded listeners, God delights in our work the way Mouw’s grandchild delighted in his funny face.

“I loved the concept of doing the mundane again and again for the glory of God,” reflected John VanderWindt of Foxboro, Ont. in his Inspire 2017 evaluation.

Inspire 2019 planners hope that this year’s attendees will be equally inspired and renewed for their work in ministry.