I attended the On-Target Evangelism Conference this week in Anaheim. The California Southern Baptist Convention sponsored this event. This was the second time I have attended. I attended several years ago, and I was both challenged and encouraged by the messages that I heard. Unfortunately, I missed last year. But I was able to attend this year. And it was even better than the last time I was there.

Nelson Searcy – Nelson Searcy, who pastors the Journey Metro Church in New York City, gave several lectures on breaking growth barriers. I cannot swallow all that Searcy teaches without spitting out some bones. But I do like the way he has thought through various matters of church life (like stewardship, assimilation, and small-groups) in practical and systematic ways. I found his lectures very helpful, even though I have heard much of the material before.

Ed Stetzer was the main speaker for this event. He has recently written a book entitled, Comeback Churches. He preached during his first session. And the remaining lectures were on his book. Even though it is based on research of so-called “comeback churches,” it is a book filled with spiritual wisdom. I read it during my vacation in December and thought it was a good work. And his elaboration of the subject made it even better for me.

Voddie Baucham – Voddie Baucham, who pastors Grace Family Baptist Church near Houston, preached the opening night. I have heard much about him and was looking forward to hearing him in person. His message was stellar, even though some of the people sitting around me were definitely not pleased. Baucham preached the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20). But throughout the message, he challenged us with the practical implications of our mission and confronted a lot of “sacred cows” we have in the church. In many ways, his messages crossed paths with some of the earlier messages. But I think this was a good thing. I felt like the different messages about how to do church in practical terms were important. No one has it absolutely right.

Local Pastors – Throughout the second day of the meeting, local pastors from different parts of California talked about what was working and not working in their local churches. Their testimonies were honest, refreshing, and encouraging. God really is doing great things in different ways in many churches.

Rick Warren –Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Community Church, closed the meeting. Honestly, I was tempted not to say, thinking I already knew what I was going to hear. But I was absolutely surprised. For more than an hour, Warren just sat on a stool and challenged us pastors about our personal, spiritual growth. He had a printed outline. But he didn’t follow it. He just talked to us about the fact that we cannot really expect our churches to grow if we are not growing. He landed with an exposition of 1 John 2:15-17. It was fantastic. I was so convicted and have begun to think through some personal changes I need to make in my own life.