Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Conferences Can Be Great!

My friend Kirk Wellum wrote a post that identified some possible problems with Christian Conferences.

It made me start to think of ways I think these conferences can be quite helpful. Kirk did mention that “such things are necessary for a variety of reasons,” so I thought I might try and fill in some of those reasons. This was a quick list I came up with a few minutes ago.

Why conferences can be helpful.

1. To develop relationships with other Christians outside of your local church.

2. To hear preachers you do not normally get to hear. This is especially true for pastors that are preaching almost every Sunday. And I am of the mind that a YouTube video or CD is not the same – there is great value in hearing things live and being there as the Spirit honours the Word.  Preachers can learn much from listening to other preachers.

3. To be instructed in one theme or area for a concentrated period of time. Although some folks get to attend Bible schools or seminary, many do not, and a conference can supply that kind of instruction in a condensed form. It is not a replacement for the academy, but it serves the church in a way the academy cannot. For example, two days of instruction for women on Women’s Ministry might do much good for many of our churches.

4. To provide a context for Christians to serve other Christians.

5. To gain a respite from routine and do business with the Lord. Of course this can be overdone in a way that promotes mere emotionalism, but for centuries Christians have been gathering in ways like this to step out of their normal patterns to concentrate on their Saviour.

6. To buy books. Most conferences now offer excellent book tables which for many is the only way to evaluate possible purchases.

7. To be mentally provoked. I have never been to one conference where I agreed with everything that was said… not even when I was the preacher! It is good to be with other Christians and be forced to hear things from a different angle or with different vocabulary or just to consider ideas or Truths that have never crossed our horizon.

8. To be encouraged by good examples. It is too easy, in my estimation, to write off “the big names” as mere celebritiism. Clearly, there is an idolatry in the North American church, but the fact remains many want to learn from those names because of their godliness, not their celebrity. Christians ought to be attracted to godliness in other Christians. Pastors ought to be attracted to godliness in other pastors. We have much to learn from each other and a conference can be a helpful way of letting one man used of God speak to many others.

These are some reasons that come to mind off the top of my head. How about you? Have you been to a conference? Was it encouraging? Is it all hype? I am interested to hear what you think.

2 comments:

  1. This is fresh in my mind, as I just returned back from another fantastic Shepherds' Conference. But I must say that, during the time preceding the conference and the time I was actually away from my family, I had this gnawing feeling of "should I really be here?" Part of it was questioning my motivation. Am I really attracted by the celebrity/personality issue, alluded to by both you and Kirk? Part of it was the guilt of being away from my family. Part of it was the fact my church was helping pay for me to be there.

    In the end, though, I thought it was advantageous for me to attend, for all the reasons on your list. Here are two others, based on my experience:

    9. Conferences provide a great opportunity to meet fellow laborers in the Gospel. I still look back fondly to the time you and I shared over breakfast at T4G '08. At ShepCon, it was good to meet like-minded brothers from other Gospel-proclaiming outposts in Alberta.

    10. Conferences are helpful to 'the church back home.' This year I was purposeful in choosing seminars that would equip me in my role at my church, and thereby be helpful to the church. For example, I attended seminars dealing with sermon preparation, marital counseling and mentoring. I also promised myself I wouldn't attend again unless I brought someone from my local church along - either an Elder or potential young leader.

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  2. I love this, Paul! Read this just in time for T4G. Numbers 3, 4, 7 and 8 were particularly encouraging reminders for me. Are you going to T4G by any chance?

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