ECON makes “virtual” impact

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The 2021 Statewide Evangelism and Church Health Conference (ECON) went virtual this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s conference was unique as there were two times available for viewers to watch it live. 

ECON was held in an all-virtual format for the first time. The event was well attended and lessons and encouragement were still given. A third of the online audience engaged in an online chat function – sharing their best practices on evangelism, technical challenges they’ve recently overcome, personal stories, and just overall encouragement with fellow pastors, ABSC staff, and others. 

Numerous church staff and associations around Arkansas gathered together safely to stream the event and watch as a group. This online platform even gave Arkansas Baptists a chance to partner with local businesses in the community. The Melba Theater in Batesville streamed the event at both times and offered the opportunity for area churches that wanted to safely watch together to do so at the theater. 

The conference was kicked off with Will McKay, Evangelism+Church HealthTeam Leader at the ABSC, giving a quick introduction and rundown of what was to come for the afternoon/evening. 

David Mckinney, the Lead Worship Pastor at Cross Church in Fayetteville, led a song with the Cross Church Worship team to set a worshipful tone. 

Johnny Hunt, Senior Vice President of Evangelism and Leadership at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), spoke first with an emphasis on ‘Who’s Your One?’ He shared his own testimony of becoming a follower of Christ, and we heard from his brother who Johnny helped lead to Christ as well. The point was made that, “Who can love your family more than you,” and that our mission field is not just the unreached people groups, but the people in our own circle. 

Carey Nieuwhof, the founding pastor at Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario Canada, spoke about trends emerging in the church in 2021. It’s no secret that COVID-19 shook churches at their core as many had to temporarily close their doors and switch to other methods of discipling and reaching their communities. Nieuwhof went over “five disruptor church trends” that churches are facing today and action steps to get over them, “Crisis is not just a disruptor, it’s an accelerator,” he said. He also stated that the biggest thing the church can do is continue being the local church, “Nobody should be able to out-local the local church.” 

Paul Chitwood, International Mission Board (IMB) President, spoke about what the IMB has been able to accomplish this year, despite the pandemic. He went on to talk about how we can’t let certain situations stop us from sharing the Gospel. We have to continue to take Christ’s light unto the world, whether it’s across the ocean or in our very own backyard, “Who will be the spark today?” 

A new aspect of ECON this year included round table discussions with various Arkansas Baptist pastors and ABSC staff from the Evangelism+Church Health team discussing, recapping the message, and providing application points and discussion topics to further drive the issues home. 

Dr. J.D. “Sonny” Tucker closed the event with thanks to the speakers and those who joined  virtually along with a message of encouragement and prayer. Despite that things have looked different this year in many ways, we’re still united under the single call of sharing the Gospel. 

If you missed ECON, or would like to watch it again, click here.

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