My seminary has a great blog upon which one particular post by Chad Hall caught my eye the other day.
He cited five problems with conferences that I want to examine more fully leading up to the Orange Conference. Because, let’s face it, dressing orange isn’t the only thing I need to do to prepare– preparing my heart is important as well.
Chad says, “While there is nothing inherently wrong with attending conferences, some cautions are in order.” And he lists the following potential struggles. And this is a strong warning (in the good sense):
2. Ministry Pornography.
3. The Data Dumps.
Envy makes sense for me. I’ve all over to all kinds of conferences, and it’s hard not to sometimes wish that you had the buildings, the resources, the massive teams, the “platform” that other churches have. At the same time, I want to pray that I don’t allow my fear of envy to fear that God might actually have bigger plans for my life than I had imagined. Conferences can open my eyes in this way.
“Ministry pornography” is explained pretty well on Western’s blog, but it’s basically the idea that we get an artificial picture of a lot of ministries at conferences– the flaws are “airbrushed” out through the presentations. I know that there are problems at every church, so it’s best not to idealize a particular church. I try to look at practices that work but also think about the flipside. I mean, if you ARE doing something, it typically means that you’re NOT doing something else. Also, what works in Alpharetta, GA may not work in Clovis, CA. In other words, drinketh not the Kool-Aid. Instead, I’ve always got to pray about what I’m seeing to think about if it would really work here.
Data dumps are great for me. I often feel like Johnny Five from “Short Circuit.” One of my Strengthsfinders is INPUT! So I love it. Combined with my memory, I usually can store up the data and bring it home and sift through the implications later. Since (as of now) I’m the one person from my church staff going to the Orange Conference I want to act as a responsible delegate– bringing back what I learn to reteach to the rest of the team. I think when you are learning to teach you retain a whole lot more.
Idolatry is a tough one. The concept of Christian rock stars has always baffled me. How uncomfortable would it make me to have people shouting my name when they should be shouting Jesus’? I feel sorry for those leaders who have that kind of “following.” I wouldn’t want to be the shrieking fan who says, “I touched Andy Stanley’s hand!” If we view things from a macro church model, basically the Sue Millers, Reggie Joiners, and Jared Herds of the world are brothers and sisters in Christ who I would respect if they were members of my own church, men and women who have come up with great ways of articulating the timeless message of the Gospel (and how it ties into family ministry). If they think they’re more than that, that’s between them and God (although I don’t think they do). If I think they’re more than that, that’s between me and God. But I do want to be careful of weighing the merits of an argument by saying, “Well, you know, Reggie says…” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom, and I think that (for the speakers at most Christian conferences) they wouldn’t have it any other way!
Oh, consumerism. That’s a tough one. Sometimes I have to ask myself just how many books I need to be reading at once. This one is going to take self-control, that’s for sure. I thirst to learn. I want to get better. That’s one of the reasons I’m in seminary. I am consuming very expensive tuition in order to grow in my theology and practice. I have to pray about how to do that– and not overdo that. I think the same applies to conferences like Orange. I have to believe that there is so much that I haven’t learned, but I just have to make sure that I don’t go to the poor house over it. It would be great if I could get a seminary credit for taking a class on being orange, though. That would help!
So…yeah, it goes beyond buying clothing. It goes beyond booking a flight from Fresno to Atlanta. I’ve got to prepare my heart. I’ve got to be a good steward of this opportunity and not let it be more than what it’s supposed to be (while at the same time not minimizing what it could mean in my personal journey).
Easier said that done, right?