The Future of the NAB

By Robert Wendt
Pastor – Fellowship Chapel
Sterling Heights, Michigan

What does the future look like for the NAB? There was a season in ministry when I was just asking, “What does the future of the church I’m serving look like?” Then, as time passed, I began to wonder not only about our local church but also about the hundreds of other churches in our conference.

In a world inundated with headlines about church decline, aging pastors, and faith deconstruction, it can be easy to get caught up in the latest negative news. Looking from afar, it can certainly seem as if the future is rather bleak. Yet, the words of Christ found in Matthew 16 continue to overwhelm my mind: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (vs. 18, ESV).

After attending a two-day regional cohort for emerging leaders, I witnessed the truth of Jesus’s words. Over thirty individuals gathered at Grace Community Church in Detroit, Michigan, to discuss topics like leadership development, the future of the church, and emerging leaders. They represented eight churches from the Great Lakes Association. The best part of it all was that many of the attendees were in their twenties and thirties.

During our conversation, we talked about cultural topics, such as the evolution of taking a picture on a Polaroid by pressing a button to the current day of using a smartphone. We also discussed more important issues, such as how we can work together to encourage, equip, and empower each other to make a positive impact on our own generation, as well as the generations that come after us, including our children and future grandchildren.

Our session started with an introduction, where we shared our backgrounds and listened to the Doug Kempton, senior pastor of Grace Community. During the conversation, we had the opportunity to understand Pastor Kempton’s vision for developing leaders while discussing the challenges faced in our different contexts. We talked about various programs, such as “The Journey” and simple pizza nights and how to prioritize culture over competency.

During the session, we were able to gain insights into the future through the lens of different communities. Pastor Kempton shared various approaches that have been established at Grace, which sparked brainstorming and sharing of new ideas for future approaches at other churches. The discussions covered topics ranging from the multi-ethnic and socio-economic context of Grace’s community to the challenges faced by aging cities. Overall, the session was full of hope, light, and excitement for the future.

We ended our first day with fellowship around a meal. This allowed us to be able to not only break bread together but to build strong relationships in a setting and context different from the norm. Going out to eat together made the miles, travel, and time worth it, and it fostered relationships that I’m certain will continue to grow in the years to come.

On the second day of the event, we had a busy schedule. We started with singing songs of worship, followed by a dialogue with Pastor Dave Ambrose from Heartland Community Church. During the conversation, Pastor Ambrose shared his insights and experiences on how God has moved through Heartland. He also talked about the church’s culture of nurturing and empowering young leaders. Then there was a panel discussion, led by Pastor Drew Steinhart, featuring a group of young adults.

Our two-day journey came to an end with a lunch, where we shared our key takeaways and discussed the next steps we could take together. We also took time for communion. Some of the next steps we identified included finding more opportunities to pray and work together, as well as remaining focused on empowering and entrusting younger leaders in our churches. However, what was really apparent was the shared desire we all had to partner with the Lord in advancing his Kingdom here on earth, across all generations.

What does the future of the NAB look like? Based on the two days I spent with leaders from the Great Lakes Association, the future looks bright! Thank you to Doug Kempton for hosting us, to Dave Ambrose for helping with planning, and to Wayne Stapleton for facilitating this gathering. I can’t wait to see what things look like in the next several years.

The best is yet to come!