Why HAVE a Conference?
In commenting on the Life in the Spirit Conference and the Shepherds Conference, a question caught my eye. Apparantly I wasn't very forthcoming on whether I would have liked to have been at either conference. That question got me thinking about conferences in general - and just WHY do we have them? And more particularly what do I seek to gain from going to the conferences that I do? For I realised that I do actually have a stringent criteria on which conferences I go to (because I do not have a pastors budget like some!).
For some it is to go to hear preachers of a sometimes internationally renowned standard preach and expound God's Word. For others it is to fellowship with like minded people in similar situations and environments (i.e pastors conferences). For some it may be simply to experience worship in a far larger situation than they normally have Sunday by Sunday. For some it may be even simply to add to their bookshelves! For others it may be actually to have a holiday among Christians where they know their children may be safe.
However Ern Baxter (and therefore I) was always very impressed by the verses in Exodus 23, Leviticus 23 and Zechariah 14:16-19 concerning Holy Convocations of the people of Israel and the fact that they would - "go up annually to worship". It seemed to me that God instituted these convocations for two reasons. 1. To worship Him. 2. To remember Him. Dr John Piper said that "Mission exists because worship doesn't". Worship is our absolute highest calling. There can never be any getting away from worship. John Stott said that the soul who does not worship is a pitiful soul. And it seems that God has promised faithfully in His Word that He is indeed present in a powerfully manifest way when His people gather in unity to exalt His Name.
The second reason for a conference in my mind is to remember Him. This is more than just preaching (if preaching can ever be described as 'just'). To me this is a re-statement of vision. A corporate look at where we have come from, where we are at and most importantly of all - where we are going. In my short experience of going to conferences, the most powerful of all have been when God Himself has come down and stamped His own theme upon the conference. Who can forget the Brighton Leaders Conference when John Goves prophecied about 'a second half'? So this remembering can indeed come out through the prophets present, but it most definately should be coming out through the preached Word. And for that reason, I am not often hugely excited about visiting preachers anymore. I used to be - and was known to chase some over the country! But an assessment of vision comes best through the fathers of a family of churches - therefore much of my excitement is saved for hearing what Terry Virgo has got to say. It used to be the same when I went to an SGM Celebration in Nottingham - I wanted to hear what C J Mahaney had to say!
So while I would never begrudge a conference that addresses criteria other than those that I have mentioned (all conferences have their uses I think) for me personally at present with a limited budget and limited annual leave, I must restrict myself to conferences that fulfill this: That I go to worship God - and to remember Him.
Article Reference List of this website available here.