Evangelism Conference on ‘Sabbath Rest’ to help PC(USA) rethink evangelism


Registration opens soon for Oct. 15-19 conference at Zephyr Point in Lake Tahoe

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Presbyterian Mission colleagues the Revs. Drs. Ray Jones and Jason Brian Santos in Theology, Formation and Evangelism ministries (TFE) at the Presbyterian Mission Agency have been asking each other questions about the practice of Sabbath such as, “What is it?”, “Why do we do Sabbath?” and “How do we depart, once we’ve participated in Sabbath?”

Jones, acting director of TFE, and Santos, coordinator of Christian Formation, took these questions to the 2018 Evangelism Conference planning team. Collaboratively, the group decided to create a different kind of conference experience for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), calling it the “2018 Evangelism Conference: Sabbath Rest, Holy Surrender, Full Life.”

Presbyterian News Service caught up with Jones and Santos to ask them, among other things, about the focus of this conference.

1. Sabbath Rest, Holy Surrender, Full Life — what does that mean?
Santos: This theme points to that which God calls all of us — resting in the Sabbath. To engage in this rest, we must offer a holy surrender of our own need to work and accomplish. Doing this, we receive what God promises from that rest —  a full life.

Jones: Our lives and ministries flow out of Sabbath rest. It’s a time to examine our lives in worship with the people closest to us — and a time to let go and be filled with God’s purpose and love. For me, experiencing God’s loving presence in our lives leads to the fullest life possible.

2. Why an evangelism conference on Sabbath rest?
Santos: This evangelism conference was prompted by our desire to rethink what we mean by “evangelism.” When we consider what evangelism is through the lens of Sabbath, we’re forced to ask what it means to embrace rest in a way that bears witness to God’s redemptive power in the world. Being a follower of Christ calls us to live in different rhythms and this, in and of itself, is a radical, albeit unexpected, form of evangelism.

Jones: We think if we just receive the right information, then our churches will change. But ministry is more than information. It’s about relationships — God’s presence in our relationships. When we stop to experience God’s presence, we are more in touch with our purpose and call. Evangelism becomes a natural part of who we are. We don’t have to be trained to do something that is not already in us or good news to us.

3. Why is Sabbath rest important personally? What about for the PC(USA) as a whole?
Santos: While Sabbath rest is undeniably central to our Christian identity as individuals, it becomes even more significant when we consider its communal implications — from local congregations to the denomination at large. The practice of Sabbath is one of the most important reminders of what God wants for us and how we ought to exist in the world. It is a reminder of what we lost in the Fall and a taste of what is yet come.

 Jones: We need to pause to experience God’s love of us and how much God delights in us. We are so busy doing works of justice and engaging ministry that shapes people’s lives that we lose sight of the One who loves us and gives us the power to do this work.

 4. What is the significance of having the Sabbath rest conference at Zephyr Point in Lake Tahoe?
Santos: We were looking for a West Coast conference center. We kept coming back to how amazing Zephyr Point would be for a conference on Sabbath rest. Its setting is stunning.

Jones: Like many of our conference centers, Zephyr Point is already a place where people experience the Holy. It’s a place where, we believe, people will experience God with all their senses.

5. What kind of conference is this going to be? What should people expect?
Santos: This conference is more of a Sabbath retreat than a traditional conference. For example, we’re allowing daily communal prayers to frame our time together. We’re asking participants to gather in community groups for integrated sharing, rather than attend workshops with the goal of collecting knowledge.

Jones: This will be a time to experience God through renewed spiritual practices, share our lives with other leaders, worship God, have space to pray and think, and have time to process information about ministry in our own context.

Santos: We’re not just looking to explore the concept of Sabbath in the hopes that folks will learn something helpful about it for their respective ministries. We’re looking for participants to encounter a new way of thinking and being in Sabbath through communal participation in Sabbath practices.


Registration is coming soon for the 2018 Evangelism Conference: Sabbath Rest, Holy Surrender, Full Life, Oct. 15–19 at Zephyr Point in Lake Tahoe. Presbyterian News Service will share that information as soon as it is available.

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