This post is a little overdue, but nonetheless important to write. A few weeks ago, I was at my first ever PELC conference. For those of you who may not be familiar with it, PELC is the short name for the Pastoral Evangelism & Leadership Council which takes place every year on the campus of Oakwood University in December.
It was a great few days with hundreds of other pastors and I wanted to share with you my thoughts in case you are interested in attending next year.
What is PELC?
I had been confused about it for years because there is another event that happens around the same time called the Evangelism Council. It is also an annual event that takes place in December in Florida. PELC is a larger program that focuses on Evangelism and Leadership and is coordinated at the Division level (that is to say, it attracts people from all over the country), while the Evangelism Council is put on by the Southern Union and focuses more on different nuances of traditional public evangelism.
Why Was It So Good?
The worship service was one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Walking in on Sunday night, there was electricity in the air and you knew that you were going to leave different than when you came in. There were wonderful speakers during those evening meetings and you could tell there was a lot of planning and preparation done in anticipation for this event.
Also, with the recent events in Ferguson and New York, there was a lot of emphasis on the role and response that the church should take in light of these events. Many times, it can look like the church turns a blind eye to the events that the larger society is dealing with. However, the discussion was positive and relevant to creating mission-centered outreach plans. I’m proud to work in and be a part of a church that is serious about attending to the needs of society.
I’m always on the lookout for good material to help me in my local church context and there was a lot of good material to choose from. I don’t remember all of the different stands that were there but I counted at least a dozen different vendors including Advent Source, Pan de Vida, ARISE, and Breath of Life among the others. I thought I would have to wait until the NAD Ministerial conference next year to stock up on good books, but Christmas comes early when you attend PELC.
Besides that, the price was fantastic. It was $29 because I registered early. Plus, I took advantage of one of the Boot Camp classes on Wednesday morning “Managing Change in the Local Church,” which was totally worth the extra $10.
I heard that there was Spanish programming so I peeked in and actually ended up staying for a lot of it because of how great it was! They had seminars on music and worship, small groups, family and pastoral life, and leadership training with lots of laughter and solid material. Overall, this was a really great program.
What Could Be Improved?
On this point, I’m going to be blunt. I had always heard that the Evangelism Council was the Caucasian event, while PELC was the event for minorities. This was especially true in some years past when both events fell on the same week. While there was a lot of cultural diversity at PELC, there was not a lot of ethnic diversity. I would love to see a bigger turn out from state conferences.
Recently, the Southern Union took a vote to move their dates so as to avoid any date clashes with the Evangelism Council and PELC. Granted, while that does help in avoiding overlapping dates, it does little to do away with the impression that these are segregated events (even though both are open to everyone). I find that each group will most likely attend and support the event they feel most comfortable at.
Furthermore, because both events deal with Evangelism, most people will inevitably choose to attend one or the other unless they either live close to one, have the money to travel to both, or are required to attend both. I understand that the Evangelism Council primarily deals with the traditional form of evangelism, while PELC expands to include both evangelism and leadership development.
I believe Roger Hernandez said it best with this statement:
This is a hard truth no one likes to talk about. So I will. I often see minorities that attend programs/events organized primarily by Caucasians. Regrettably, I can’t say the opposite is true. It’s time to change that. This event, although organized and attended primarily by the Regional Conferences is open to EVERYONE. I don’t pastor an African American church yet I found the preaching, seminars and spirit to be both applicable and relevant to my own context. You will leave inspired.
This is especially ironic because of the conversations on race in light of the events in Ferguson and New York that were had at PELC.
Why is it that it’s easier to find solutions for the racial issues that exist in the nation than in our own church?
The only recommendation I have would be that more people attend. I was one of the few state conference attendees and found the experience wonderful. It would be great if state and regional conferences worked together to make a big evangelism council sometime. Until that day comes, make plans to attend PELC next year and be ready to leave inspired!