I just got back from attending a ministry conference. Our missions conference was at the Long Beach Convention center right next door to the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Convention. Do the Plumbers hear people making speeches about selling more pipe with the same passion we heard pastors at our conference encourage us to pursue the mission of God? I was half tempted to walk into their convention to compare and contrast the Plumbers convention with a pastor’s conference. Do the plumbers have smoke and lights and big screens? I didn’t sneak into the Plumbers convention, but the conference that our leadership team attended definitely made us think. In many good ways it challenged us to lean into the mission of God for this world. In other ways it challenged us to think critically about how we do what we do as a church.
One of the observations I made to our team was this – “I wish the people who put on these conferences would pay closer attention to the setting of these things. The conference hosts., worship leaders and speakers say God uses anyone who is available to God’s purposes, but they say it surrounded by throbbing lights, smoke machines creating in-door ‘God-rays,’ and boom cameras that zoom into their faces on large screens. They don’t realize that the context they’ve created affects the content of their message.” This forced us to talk quite critically about our own ministry. Is the context of our worship gatherings congruent with the content of the Gospel? Is the way we gather, and the space where we gather screaming something that doesn’t match what we’re saying? Are we a bit more concerned with being impressive to believers and unbelievers or are we just being real about the Gospel and the reality of ourselves as we’re confronted by the Gospel? These are all good questions to consider. Sometimes the value I get from these conferences has more to do with what I question and disagree with (examining why) than from any new idea I hear from up front.