ORLANDO, Fla. – Jim Mellado competed in the decathlon for his native El Salvador in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. These days, he is president of Willow Creek Association, providing excellence and innovation in equipping churches and leaders with the tools needed for success.
Mellado addressed members of the Fellowship of Presbyterians (FOP) and ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians during a Jan. 31 plenary service at their National Gathering.
“Being a servant of the church has been a calling that has fueled my heart for the last 20 years,” Mellado said. “It is through the church that I’ve had the most poignant moments in my life.”
He harkened back to his days as an athlete to draw a reference to the way leaders build momentum.
“There are few things more exciting to a leader than seeing something he builds gain momentum,” Mellado said. “Sports illustrate that dynamic power of momentum.”
He went on to talk about how teams seize such momentum with great comebacks, done through the use of the same group of people.
“Leaders know the power of momentum,” Mellado continued. “They know how hard it is to get and how quickly they can lose it.”
In talking about momentum, Mellado compared North Korea and South Korea. North Korea is a country filled with threat, oppression, starvation, seclusion and persecution of Christians. South Korea, on the other hand, is a country sending missionaries around the world to share God’s Word while its churches are booming.
“The Jesus movement that produced megachurches in South Korea has people pleading for God to waken the land,” he said. “More people are being reborn in Christ (in South Korea) than are being born in hospitals. People are thinking they want to be part of that. A God-inspired movement has a lot to do with what is happening there.”
Staying with the theme of movements, Mellado acknowledged how powerful they are when God is involved.
“Movements of God are powerful, beautiful, unstoppable, just as Jesus promised they would be,” he said. “They are always at work around us. We just have to open our eyes to see them.”
Mellado said such movements and the momentum they gain are a result of three factors: remarkability, courageous leaders and creating working models that embody the ideas of remarkable people.
He referred to ideas or actions that produce great feats, citing Rosa Parks’ unwillingness to give up her seat on a bus as the fire that fueled the Civil Rights Movement. He used that remarkability factor in referencing the movement taking place with the Fellowship and ECO right now.
“This world needs a voice,” Mellado said. “It’s time for remarkable churches. You are wanting to emerge powerfully through the Fellowship and ECO. There is a movement to be stewarded, and you are the stewards of that movement. It reflects activity of God in our world. It’s always at work. We just need to ask God for the eyes to see it and the courage to follow it.”
Mellado said courageous leaders are needed to spread something remarkable, citing the two primary types as innovative and opinion leaders.
“When change is needed, leaders always pave the way, and it starts when God plans an idea that is innovative,” he explained. “The Fellowship has created a safe place for innovation critical to progress in the church.”
He told how Jesus is a source of innovation and that God brings together innovators, those like-thinking people with common goals. Mellado sees that with the FOP and ECO.
“We must embrace change,” he said. “Innovators learn from innovators, and they seek each other for challenges and shared ideas. The Fellowship and ECO provide those areas, and I celebrate you for that.”
The other type of leaders referenced by Mellado are opinion or “sneezers,” those influential people who can sway others because they spread a message or idea, gain respect, demand attention and are careful about what they bring into the mix.
“They are the bridge that allows innovation to gain momentum,” he explained. “These are the people who make it possible for new ideas to spread.
“When innovators and opinion leaders work together, life can happen. Re-invention can happen. A pruning takes place to make organisms of the church come alive. What’s going on here in the Fellowship and ECO has provided a venue where innovators and opinion leaders can introduce the right innovations into the church in a responsible way.”
Mellado added that there needs to be a continued encouragement to covenant together, noting there is no way to stand alone in fueling such a movement.
“You cannot do this alone,” he said. “You need fully disclosing relationships. You need each other along the way.”
Creating working models that embody the ideas of remarkable people was the final point emphasized by Mellado.
“History shows that if someone will lead, people will follow, and an unprecedented movement will begin,” he said. “There is no upper limit on the impact of the church in this world. The goal is not to be part of something remarkable but to be part of something miraculous. We do the remarkable. (God) does the miraculous, and He provides redemption and restoration of the things He loves most: people.”
Mellado used a video clip from Willow Creek’s 30th anniversary celebration that showed the cardboard testimonies of people who turned to the Lord along with a speaker proclaiming hope from the God who has been and still is good. It was designed to show how God worked in the lives of those people and how He will work through the Fellowship and ECO.
In that same vein, he encouraged the FOP and ECO to continue leading their movement, one he said will draw other churches to follow.
“Connect with Jesus all over again and hold fast to His calling for your life; do not get sidetracked, and when it gets discouraging, stay the course,” Mellado said. “What’s hanging in the balance are the souls that can be impacted by this movement.
“If you keep doing what God has called you to do, it will create a new mass of Presbyterians. Don’t let the God movement through the Fellowship and ECO become forgotten.”