Downtown churches in frenzy of renovation


Downtown churches in frenzy of renovation

If area churches have anything to say about it, Tyler is getting renovated.

Three churches in downtown Tyler, Christ Episcopal Church, Marvin United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church of Tyler are coming together to host the Renovation Tyler conference on March 2, in an unusual blend of Christian denominations.

The hope is the ideas and inspiration presented at the conference will spark the "renovation," leaders said.

"From the beginning, the thing that excited us was different denominations coming together to do something for the body of Christ," Pike Wisner, pastor of First Baptist, said. "This is for Christians who want to grow in the faith and learn to live like Jesus."

The event will be at Marvin, and doors open at 8:15 a.m. Award-winning songwriter Kyle Matthews will lead opening worship at 9 a.m. 

Richard Foster will speak about "The Nature of God's Kingdom: A Reign of Grace," at 9:25 a.m.

Foster is an internationally known writer and speaker, and his book "Celebration of Discipline," has sold more than 1 million copies and was named by Christianity Today as one of the Top 10 books of the 20th century.

The Rev. David Luckenbach, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Tyler, said he has personally referenced Foster's book over the past 20 years of his ministry.

James Bryan Smith will speak about "Apprenticing to Jesus: The Triangle of Transformation" at 10:25 a.m.

"I've spent my life looking at the question, ‘How do people change?'" he said. "The triangle of transformation says that people can change in three different ways: through narrative with an idea, through practices or habits and through community."

Smith is a professor of theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kan. and is a founding member of Renovaré, the Christian renewal ministry established by Richard Foster in 1987.

Renovaré is a 24-year-old nonprofit Christian ministry headquartered in Englewood, Colo., and is known worldwide.
"Richard created it to help churches come together," Smith said. "We felt it was a shame that churches didn't work together even though they were essentially on the same team."

Organizers attribute the high volume of ticket sales to the recognition of the organization.

Richard Foster, Smith and Nathan Foster will facilitate "Dialogue on the Six Traditions of the Christian Faith," at 11:15 a.m.

Nathan Foster, son of Richard Foster, holds a master's degree in social work and is a professor of social work at Spring Arbor University, where he was named 2012 Teacher of the Year.

Leaders hope to address what they see as a false sense of competition between denominations, they said.

"The vision has always been that it would be for the whole area, not just three churches," Doug Baker, senior associate pastor at Marvin, said.

Members of more than 50 churches of a wide variety of denominations have registered to attend.

"I'm excited to see what the Holy Spirit does when a fuller representation of the body of Christ will meet to talk about faith," Luckenbach said. "Only good things can happen when we talk to each other, listen and pray together."

Lunch will be at noon, followed by 1:15 p.m. worship. Richard Foster will begin the session titled "Renovation of the Heart: Becoming Like Jesus in the City" at 1:30 p.m.

At 2:10 p.m. Nathan Foster, director of Teaching Ministries at Renovaré, will facilitate "Dialogue with Local Leaders on the Implications for the Tyler Community."

Ministry and prayer will be at 2:40 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. closing benediction by Smith.

Attendees will be encouraged to sign up at the event for a service day to be held March 23.

"You never know what the long-term fruit will be," Luckenbach said. "It's going to be so much more than gathering for a great conference."


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