Pre-Conference event draws praise


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

Inspiring. Outstanding. Phenomenal.

Those are some of the comments made about the first Trans4mation, a series of lectures held in Jackson prior to the 2009 session of the Mississippi Annual Conference.

The day-and-a half event featured the Rev. Rudy Rasmus, Steve Sjogren and Chris Lahr and a panel of in-house folks discussing mission and outreach. Rasmus and Lahr also preached at worship services during the conference, held June 12-14 at the Jackson Convention Complex.

“Rudy Rasmus was truly phenomenal. His transparency and spirituality was awesome to behold. The message that he brought helped me further refine my ministry,” said the Rev. Lister Bowdoin of Bovina-Edwards. “Chris Lahr reminded me and incited me to see Jesus in un-ordinary places and peoples.  

“Generally, I appreciated the fact that Trans4mation attempted to set a tone of acceptance, creativity and spirituality leading into conference.  I did not get enough of Rudy Rasmus and Chris Lahr.”

“We have had great feedback,” said the Rev. Steve Casteel, conference director of Connectional Ministries. “The speakers did an incredible job, the space was good and the energy was good. I can’t wait to see what it will be like next time.”

The Rev. Sheila Cumbest of Ocean Springs St. Paul was another who praised Trans4mation. “Trans4mation was outstanding,” she said. “I wish we had had everyone there for it. Maybe it could be in the middle of conference for one day.”

Rasmus, pastor at St. John’s UMC in Houston, Texas, talked mostly about urban ministries. He and his wife the Rev. Juanita Rasmus, turned a nine-member church into one with more than 9,000 members. They created a ministry that provides a wide variety of services to the poor and disadvantaged.

Sjogren spoke on church building and new-church plants. Through the years his church planting internship program and Sjogren’s coaching efforts have produced several dozen successful church plants. Sjogren is currently focused on writing, speaking and mentoring church planters. Sjogren’s passion for evangelism, church planting and leadership development is reflected in his writing.

In 2007 Sjogren and his wife, Janie, began the launch of their fifth church planting adventure in the greater Tampa, Fla., area.

Lahr works as a recruiter and academic director for Mission Year, which is a program that provides people ages 18 and older the opportunity to live in intentional community and serve in an urban center. Lahrs graduated from Eastern University and Asbury Theological Seminary. Lahr and his family have lived in Philadelphia, Pa., since 2000. Lahr also spoke at the youth service held June 13.

“Trans4mation was powerful and challenged me to walk with the poor, least and lost,” said Joan McCain of Tupelo.

While most of those who responded positively to questions from the Advocate about Trans4mation, not all were as impressed.

“I had mixed emotions about Trans4mation,” said the Rev. Brian Scott. “It was nice to hear the success of the speakers, but they did not offer anything I have not already read or heard in other continuing education events. I am not sure if it was worth the extra expense of paying speakers, renting space and costing me an extra night in a hotel.

“I do think that the presentations would have been wonderful for more of my congregation to hear than my one delegate, but they were not in Jackson to hear them.”