Report from Rochester

post date: March 5, 2011

We took this picture after the final session. Pastor Ray Viola is in white pants and blue shirt, front row on the right.
This morning we wrapped up the John 17 conference in Rochester, New York. Church leaders from all over the region gathered for three days of fellowship and biblical teaching.

The idea for this conference came to Pastor Ray Viola of Koinonia Fellowship during a missions trip to India two years ago after he preached on Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 that “all of them may be one” (v. 21), referring to the spiritual unity of all believers in Christ. Despite those words of our Lord, the body of Christ remains divided into denominations, groups, and factions. We divide over baptism, church government, worship styles, Calvinism vs. Arminianism, the End Times, and a host of other issues. Plus we are divided by language, culture, tradition and geography.

Pastor Viola envisioned a conference where evangelical leaders from many backgrounds could come together for three days of spiritual refreshment. Using worship leaders from Koinonia Fellowship, and with all the speakers (except for me) from local congregations, the different sessions explored the seven-fold basis of unity in Ephesians 4:4-6.

I spoke on the call to Christian love from 1 Corinthians 13. It has been a wonderful experience to see pastors from the inner city fellowship with men from the suburbs and to see a pastor of a charismatic bent enjoy a meal with a brother who is more Reformed in his theology. 

I commented in one message that we need “John 17” conferences in many cities. Certainly it’s a good thing when brethren dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1). We had a little taste of that this weekend in Rochester. I hope it spreads across the country. 

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