Back in December, I went to SOLA 13 in Michigan. Before I went, I watched this, in trying to prepare for the conference. There is so much anticipation when you know you’re going to a conference. There is excitement to hear the speakers, the impact that you pray the time has on your walk with Christ, the anticipated fellowship with others that are attending with you and I am always super geeked out about books, books and more BOOKS! I had been looking forward to T4G now for a few months and last week the time finally came to go. With all the anticipation and preparation that goes into going to a conference, now that I am home and back to work, I think someone needs to talk about how to come home from a conference.
There is a sacrifice in going to a conference. There is a financial cost. I was blessed to have my ticket and hotel covered by my church, but I still dropped some coin for food and coffee. There is also a sacrifice when you are married with kids. If you have young kids, like my wife and I, someone is probably going to be staying home with the little one(s). My wife graciously put up with me being gone for a total of nearly two weeks over the last couple months. She stayed home with our wonderful, little, teething daughter while I went to this conference (Thank you honey!). Finally, there is of course the sacrifice of time, whether it is leaving work, taking vacation time or just leaving the other duties of home and everyday life behind for a few days. With all these sacrifices, one prays that there will be fruit from the trip.
I love the heart behind T4G; thousands of people together, literally for the Gospel. There is an encouragement from brothers and sisters from various facets of the church all gathered together; pastors and lay people, Baptists and Presbyterians, men and women all seeking the will of Christ together. It is an awesome experience. And the singing, good grief, the singing! The theme for this conference was evangelism and the various ways in which each speaker approached the Gospel and evangelism built a rich, overall message.
However, this morning, I put on my shirt and tie, packed my lunch and drove a half hour to sit at a desk all day, catching up on emails, pulling reports and playing in Excel. It is hard to do this after a week like last week. How do we carry this charge that we receive from a conference home with us?
- Accountability – I was blessed to have attended with five other guys from our church. I didn’t go alone to this, which I think is important. If we can attend a conference with someone else or a group, then that is probably best. This will help as we continue to feed each other’s fire while we walk back into regular life.
- Read – Having attended both the Band of Bloggers event and T4G, I came home with a gaggle of free books. Many of these books were those that the speakers wrote, referenced or recommended. So my next step will be to read and read and read and read. This is a helpful way to keep the fire going.
- Write – I was challenged and encouraged by the Band of Bloggers event both to get better at regularly blogging and to understand this practice as part of the ministry to which God has called me. I will be continuing to process through some of what I learned at T4G here on my blog. Maybe writing isn’t your thing, but whatever it is that you do to process what God is working in you, then do that.
- Teach – Another way that I process things God is showing me is through teaching. This is also another ministry to which God has called me in the church. My lead pastor and I were planning on me teaching a series on evangelism before we went to T4G and before either of us really thought about the fact that evangelism was the theme this year. I will be starting that series in May and plan to use J. Mack Stiles’ book, Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus, which we got for free at T4G. His breakout session on creating a culture of evangelism in your church was great and was largely from his book. (I am assuming that it will eventually be up to watch on the T4G site).
- Live – As with any conference, there is generally a theme and/or an emphasis that should change the way we live. As I mentioned, the theme for this conference was evangelism, so I want to be intentional about doing evangelism. That seems simple enough, but how often do we really do the things that we get fired up about at conferences? Evangelism in my life has always ebbed and flowed based on whom God has put around me or in my path, but I feel an extra burden to push myself to be obedient when God gives opportunities.
- Pray – David Platt’s message on prayer was really good and incredibly convicting for me. As Platt and DeYoung both said, “All we have is the word of God and prayer.” This is relevant for any topic relating to our walk with Christ, but is particularly important in evangelism. Just watch/listen to Platt’s message. He said it better than I could here.
Like any mountain top experience in our Christian lives, we need to constantly figure out how to then go back down in the valley. We can’t live in conference mode. Our life in Christ does not consist of conference attendance. Conferences are good, helpful and edifying, but they are not life. Life is life and conferences like any other event are to build us up for life. The challenge is that we be good stewards of what God has given us in these events for the enrichment of our lives to the glory of God. My pastor prayed last night at our small group for the speakers at the conference. He said that they, like us, had to return to real life and had to live out what they spoke on. It was a great reminder and comfort that we all faced the same challenges, but all have the same Lord to walk with us through them. Blessings as you get back to real life and may God be glorified in our lives!