If you’ve played the video game Super Mario 1, 2, or 3, you know there is a little character named Mario who must go on a quest to save the princess. He gets into all kinds of adventures along the way, and to handle those adventures he needs an inventory of special items. One thing he collects along the way is gold coins. Every once in a while Mario will stumble into a special area where there are hundreds of gold coins everywhere. If you play the game often, you know the trick is to grab as many of those as possible before moving on… because very soon, Mario is going to need all those coins. Well, the C2C Conference in Pittsburg, KS this September was a giant gold coin trove. I almost felt like I couldn’t collect the coins as fast as they were coming. Now, four weeks later, I still feel like I’m tabulating the coins I collected; it will probably take a while to sort through them all.

The theme of the conference this year was, Extension with God’s Supernatural Power. Churches in our C2C family all across the country gathered to hear insightful, powerful, and challenging words from leaders across the globe. It was an incredible time of fellowship. The evening sessions were intense and not just a little emotional. Doug Kreigbaum, from Pittsburg, and Justin Limmer from Casper shared with us about changing our thinking for extension and expansion. They asked us to challenge our habits and preconceived ways of thinking, allowing God to stretch and increase us. Stephen Middleton from Sturgis, MI and Scott Squires
from Pittsburg , encouraged us to hold our practice and principles loosely and allow them to be subject to God’s change, to allow God to Conference 2014 3stretch out our tent… which might be uncomfortable. On Saturday night Tom Bedford laid out the straight-talk. He reminded us that the church is not the mandate; the Kingdom is the mandate. Dave and Chris Richards from Basingstoke, UK spoke about expansion through spiritual sons. The afternoon sessions gave us opportunities to learn practical ways to allow the Holy Spirit to move through us

All of this was wonderful and valuable. The point of it all however, was to put our hands to work, to get out and actually put into practice what we were hearing. I had an excellent opportunity to do this on a personal level during the entire conference. Glenn Middleton, from Sturgis, has spent some time helping me cultivate the gift of discernment God has given me, at no time more purposefully than at the conference. Glenn pushed me to not just tip toe, but to jump outside my comfort zone. When uncomfortable, I often give myself a pass on having to act, thinking, “I’m not ready yet,” but just as Stephen and Scott explained when challenging us to stretch out our tent, I knew that growth is uncomfortable. You have to take risks to grow.

It was a great privilege to not just spend the weekend hearing the words about extension with God’s supernatural power, but to feel them being lived out in my life as Glenn encouraged, pushed, and challenged me to cultivate the gift God had given me and use it to benefit others. He asked me to speak to a room full of people for a bit during the afternoon sessions. My voice wobbled and I’m pretty sure I was at least a little sweaty, but something inside of me felt the power of God backing me up. At one point God asked me to pray for a girl near me. I fought the urge because I wasn’t completely, absolutely positive I had the right word from God for her. Finally, with a little nausea, I obeyed and shared with her what God had shown me. It was like my ears were suddenly unstopped and I could hear God speaking to me so much more clearly. I felt a confidence rise in me. The act of obeying and stepping out of my comfort zone brought a wealth of reward with it.
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To summarize my weekend experience, I was able to hear over and over again the word about God stretching us to expand so that He could work through us supernaturally. I was able to observe firsthand a very kind and humble man taking the time to teach and train and challenge me to practically live this out. I was able to immediately make a decision as to whether I would allow my tent to be stretched and my status quo to be upset, or to continue living in my comfort zone.

A couple years ago my husband and I planted a tiny garden that produced three tomatoes. I couldn’t share my tomatoes with anyone because I only had three, and one was sort of tiny and underdeveloped. My life has been like our garden. Expanding a garden is work; it is uncomfortable and hard. If the only reason you’re planting the garden is to produce the same fruit you’ve always produced for the same purpose you’ve always produced it, you’ll never see a reason to expand. When playing Super Mario, if you don’t understand what adventures lay ahead, you’ll never see the reason to stock up on the gold coins. This conference, for me, drove home the point that God is giving us a bigger vision. Our gardens have to produce more fruit. Our gold coin banks have to be full. God has given me a lot of gold coins. I can choose to keep them all for myself, or I can realize that the reason I’m collecting them is to give them away, allowing God to stretch me and push me out of my comfort zone, so that His Holy Spirit can move through me supernaturally for the good of the Kingdom.

Crystal Maertens