The ChristCon Con


Each week in North America, thousands of Christians gather together in hundreds of different Christian conferences scattered across the continent. In the course of a year, millions will attend thousands of these Asleep in the Light ID Tagconferences to hear celebrity preachers preach, learn from massively credentialed Christian teachers, and enjoy fellowship with likeminded believers.

Yet we have no revival.

Pastors, worship leaders, and Sunday School teachers will attend conferences for pastors, worship leaders, and Sunday School teachers. Men, women, couples, singles, seniors, and youth all have conferences geared to their unique needs. We have countless denominations conferencing to handle policy and chart the future of their group.

Yet we have no revival.

We sponsor conferences on theology, ecclesiology, purity, pastoral care, eschatology, hermeneutics, biblical archeology, and any topic within Christendom we can imagine. We even have conferences on evangelism.

Yet we have no revival.

We drop millions of dollars on airfare, trainfare, boatfare, and gasoline to get to conferences. We line the pockets of innumerable conference speakers, teachers, facilitators, and facility owners. We have the monetary equivalent of the GDP of a small African nation to spend on lodging, dining, and even sightseeing within conference host cities.

Yet we have no revival.

On the other hand, in China, where the flames of revival burn white-hot, the Communist Chinese police hope against hope that the Chinese house churches will start arranging conferences. What better way to round up renegade Christian leaders by the conference-full, bind them in shackles, and toss them into some prison hell-hole—some never to be heard from again.

But born-again Chinese Christians know better, so they don’t hold conferences.


Chinese Church: No Christian conferences. No one attending conferences. No money spent attending conferences. Yet revival gloriously blazes on.

North American Church: Thousands of Christian conferences yearly. Millions of people attending conferences. Untold millions of dollars spent attending conferences. Yet we have no revival.

Concerning the status of the North American Church and its love for conferences, the Bible supplies us an apt phrase: Chasing after wind.

I make no pretense toward the prophetic, but I have a word for us all:

One day, you and I will stand before the Lord at His Judgment Seat and He will ask us if we told the lost about Him, discipled others to spiritual maturity, fed the poor, clothed the naked, attended the sick, and visited the prisoner.

But He won’t be asking how many Christian conferences we attended.

Some will object to this post. I simply ask this: Are our churches so weak that we can’t disciple anyone to any reasonable level of maturity, so we have to send everyone running off to a plethora of conferences to take up the slack? If so, we should instead be staying home and fixing our churches with prayer, fasting, and faces-in-the-dust repentance. But do we do this? No. We pack people off to conferences. And as we’ve seen, we have thousands of conferences and yet we have no revival.

Do we understand how seriously we’re squandering the Lord’s resources? If we did, we’d get serious about this Faith we supposedly hold dear and stop treating it like a hobby (with fancy conferences that make us feel good about ourselves—yet accomplish next to nothing eternal).

What if each of us took the money we had allocated to yet another conference on our calendars and instead used that money to pay for medical care for the uninsured single mother with four kids who lives down the street? What if we took the weekend we would have spent with our posteriors planted in some padded theater seat soaking up a message we already know from yet another “gifted” speaker we’ve heard a bazillion times already and instead spent that time fixing up the house of one of the elderly in our congregation? What if we actually took all the things we’ve already learned about Jesus and put them to use telling others about Him and doing good works in His name so that when we have to stand before Him we look like sheep, not goats?

Perhaps if we raised the bar for those who get to attend conferences. Perhaps if we set a standard so that before we’re allowed to attend another conference we must help lead five people to Christ and disciple them to some semblance of Christian maturity.

Funny thing is, if we did that, I suspect that many of us would be asking what the point of conferences is anyway. Maybe then, our love for Christian conferences would be replaced by a love for the lost and for the brethren.

And then we would have revival.

51 thoughts on “The ChristCon Con

  1. Forgive my ignorance. Do people attending conferences have expectation of spiritual renewal or revival?

    It is my understanding that attending church in the US is necessary to make business contacts and get ahead in many regions. I assume the same would be true about conferences, however noble the supposed agenda. Is my assumption incorrect? It is my understanding religious conferences are big business. Is that a false assumption?

    Are conference attendees told that is how spiritual renewal and revival occur?

    It was interesting reading blogs while covering the SBC conference last year for an online news site. Not SBC blogs, townie blogs. The money was nice, the street evangelism tolerated as much as drunk sports fans would be tolerated. The complaints about poor tipping in resturants was real. And at the risk of sounding crass to your more sensitive readers, I’d like to know how much pay for view revenue jumped during that time. Some business got done on the convention floor, but overall it sounded like party time, whatever that means to SBC’ers.

    The Jesus Junk business is about 9 billion and climbing, lots is sold at conferences last I heard.

    Are you claiming people are sincere in their belief conferences go beyond more than networking, personal fulfillment and business?

    • Bene D,

      I think we Americans are experience junkies, and conferences give us experiences. I also think we’re looking for something we know exists, but we’re simply not finding that something in our local churches.

      In the last two weeks, I’ve seen dozens of conferences advertised on the blogs I read. And that’s the tip of a very small iceberg. In my area, several conferences were advertised. I wouldn’t be surprised if any week in North America saw 400+ Christian conferences of all types going. Seriously. You’ll find a dozen in any major city on any given weekend. Yet we have no revival.

      What set me off was the confluence of events with a major conference featuring some of the Reformed “rock star” pastors, but that conference was still going on when another popular Reformed blog advertised a super-secret, ultra-limited conference to happen soon with nearly the same group of speakers. And I expect nearly the same attenders. Meanwhile, my area saw a major men’s conference come through, then over at Pyromaniacs, they played up a major singles’ conference. Cruise conferences for Christians are again swinging into high gear and I’ve spotted several of those advertised.

      But what does any of this accomplish? If they don’t lead to revival, then they’re nearly pointless. So we learn more. We Western Christians are perpetually learning, but rarely do anything with all that learning. We’re sponges that soak up, but never release the “juice” we’ve accumulated. This benefits the Lord not one wit.

      Is there a business networking angle to all this conference-hopping. I think that may be true for some conferences more than others. I think we all have a desire to be part of something big. But then we’re a part of the Kingdom of God and that seems not to be big enough for us, so we go chasing other opportunities. Meanwhile, we’re blowing it.

      I was thinking about tossing in the aside about the cheap tips from SBC convention attendees, but decided to save that for the comments. Then you go and mention it in the very first comment. In a way, you devastatingly made my point. The cheap tips seemed to get more attention than anything that came out of that convention, yet it’s the worst possible truth to come out of it. Those waitstaff who took care of all these Christians got one clear message: Christians are cheap and don’t really care about us. They’ll leave a tract and nothing else.

      How sad. That only further reinforces my post.

      The Christian Bookseller Association convention is now called something grotesque like The International Christian Retail Show. Could they have picked a more idolatrous and cheap-sounding name?

      I honestly think many Christians go to conferences hoping to be spiritually changed for the better. The problem is that all we’re doing is soaking up without any release. The real growth is in the release, yet so few understand this.

  2. Axis

    Apart from the biblical accounts which were written some 600 or so years after the time of the figure called ‘Jesus’ (which itself was a Greek name translated from Hebrew) is there any solid proof that this man actually existed?

    I don’t want any leaps of faith here just another source apart from the bible whose authenticity I am very doubtful of.

    • Well, there’s Flavius Josephus (32-100 AD), who wrote in ‘Antiquities of the Jews’: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

      It’s disputed, of course, but the earliest transcript of that complete quote of that portion of “Antiquities” is from 324AD. The historical reality of Jesus has really never been disputed by even atheistic scholars. What is in dispute is whether Jesus rose from the dead and so could be considered who he said he was, namely God in the form of man with power over sin and death, with the ability to redeem your soul.

      As to the accuracy and dating of the Bible, there are tens of thousands of manuscript portions of just the New Testement, most dated in and around 300 AD. Portions of what we now call the New Testament have been found that date to the first century and early part of the second century (such as Papyrus P52), or within 40-60 years of when the originals were supposed to have been written.

    • Axis,

      I was going to mention Josephus (since his writings are widely available), but David beat me to it. What David also said about the historians’ response to Jesus is true: no reliable historian doubts the existence and Roman crucifixion death of Jesus.

      Two other books I would recommend that would have basic, but valuable, information:

      Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell
      The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

      Both those books are readily available. If you have other questions. please feel free to ask!

  3. Brandon

    Great post. I’ve been dealing with a few folks in our church that want to attend ANOTHER conference this summer. When you resist promoting these conferences the people just can’t seem to understand why you would be against them. I’m tired of attending “revivals” and conferences which seem to make Christians feel good about themselves for having made the effort to attend, yet there is no abiding fruit that results in their lives….You’re correct, these conferences are a waste of time and money that would be more wisely invested into people and communities than ourselves.

    Bene D-
    You asked, I’m assuming sincerely-
    “Are you claiming people are sincere in their belief conferences go beyond more than networking, personal fulfillment and business?”

    I’m certain that at some level, people attend conferences to further businesses, pawn off their “Jesus junk”, or rub elbows with the “big dogs” to enhance their reputations. But as a pastor I see our people believing that the next conference will be the one that propels them to maturity. This is simply not the case.

    Are you reading the same blog I’m reading????

    Be blessed…

  4. It’s all about emotions. People come back from these “mountain top experiences” full of praise and absolutely bubbling with excitement. But the feelings soon dissipate with the bubbles.

    A friend of mine and I were leaving a concert of christian musicians, (I won’t call it a Christian Concert) and he wondered out loud how many of the unmarried couples that came to the concert were now going to go back to their apartments or parents house and have sex.

    His question was based on the hyped up emotional response that the concert provoked, but the inability of the attendees to channel that energy into constructive purposes.

    It’s not an idle speculation. We have no revival because the Spirit does not lead. Because the Spirit does not lead, nothing happens to the energy we create. How many people are drawn to a church because of the “awesome worship”? But when the worship is over, people go home, longing for next Sunday when they can get “filled” again. It sounds more like drugs than God to me.

    What a waste.

  5. Pingback: Brian’s Preacher’s Pen Blog for Ministers » Blog Archive » Please Read This
  6. B

    This post was especially close to me, because I’ve thought really hard about the same subject. You get a bit cynical when, time after time, you see someone “revived” “emotionalized” or whatever, and it fizzles after two weeks. I’ve personally decided to simply take that emotion—and apply it, in a small way, but apply it steadily.

    Recently, I’ve read many books about Bible study. Now, there’s nothing wrong with getting excited about it! (It’s an exciting subject) But I simply resolved that, instead of expecting this excited fizz to continue, buoying me over the hardships, I would work steadily at the Bible study that I could do. Not the ideal, not a huge project, but work on it.

    I always wince when I read this

    22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves James 1 ESV

    Even if I can only plod along, doing the part of the word that I can, at least I’m a doer, even if I don’t have a conference/seminar high.

    And on what you said about persecution…

    We’ve got a lot of things that occupy our time. In America, we aren’t often forced, really forced, to ask our Father in heaven for our daily bread—oh, sure, we acknowledge that everything comes from him, but we don’t believe it. In America, you aren’t often forced to the Bible, or your knees, to find out what your religion is worth. What it means. Even if we understand intellectually, we’ve never had the reality of Philippians tossed into our teeth, and where Paul was when he wrote it—how he could write the way that he did.

    I was listening to a sermon that Tim Keller preached (at a conference, but this was an mp3, am I forgiven?) and he used this example: you put money into a Coke machine, and there’s a delay when the money is in there, but you don’t have the Coke. You have to pound the machine, the pennies drop, and you get your Coke. Revival, he said, is when the pennies drop in an entire congregation, or nation. You finally “get it” you understand the gospel in a way that you never did before.

    The pennies don’t seem to be dropping, and that may be because we haven’t really had any pounding here. It’s not vital that we understand what we say that we believe—and so we don’t bother.

    I hope you can get something out of this lengthy and somewhat wandery comment.


  7. Great post! Love this line: But He won’t be asking how many Christian conferences we attended.
    I don’t think conferences are a bad thing necessarily. I agree (and this is why I love this post) that when they substitute mentoring and when they displace loving our neighbor, they become a bad thing.

    • Heather,

      People go to conferences to

      1. Be a part of something bigger than themselves
      2. To learn something new
      3. To have a unique experience with God and others
      4. To fix a problem they perceive within themselves
      5. To fellowship with other believers

      But every single one of those is something we should be addressing at the local church level. If people aren’t finding those in their local churches, then something’s wrong with the local church. We need to concentrate our fix there. The transient nature of conferences offers a seductive alternative to the local church, but in the end it tends to undermine the local church.

      • Dan, I appreciate your heart for revival in the local church. This is something that is desperately needed. I wanted to respond to something you said.

        But every single one of those is something we should be addressing at the local church level. If people aren’t finding those in their local churches, then something’s wrong with the local church. We need to concentrate our fix there. The transient nature of conferences offers a seductive alternative to the local church, but in the end it tends to undermine the local church.

        I would agree with you that the list you gave Heather is a legitimate list of reasons that many attend conferences. I would also agree that the local church needs to be addressing these points. The point I would like to make is, local churches are members of the body of Christ just as individual believers are members of the local body. Do not conferences provide a venue where local churches can come together to fellowship, worship and find out what God is doing in other parts of the body? I have always found this to be beneficial and encouraging.

        While conferences will never be able to serve as a substitute for genuine revival, I do think there is benefit to be derived from them.

        God bless.

        • Gordon,

          Conferences tend to divide rather than unite. A few people out of a church go. They come back and share a few things. Rarely, very rarely, does the conference have any lasting influence on that church through those few people. The return rate is next to nil.

          If so, perhaps we need the rethink the conference thing and ask what will gove us a better rate of return. Else the conference-mania only serves to hype some people up for a few days before the situations in their local churches cool them off.

  8. Hello all – first time commenter here.
    I have never travelled to a Christian Conference before, but I will still extend your lack of revival to many small home Bible Studies that are organized by our main churces. I have been involved with, hosted and led many small groups over the years, and extending that out into a meaningful ministry is very difficult.
    I wrote a book review a few weeks ago, and in it I addressed this issue at some length. Take a look:

    I welcome any feedback.

  9. Keith

    I also heard somewhere – almost as reliable a source of information as the internet… :O) – that the Chinese house churches also don’t recognise someone as pastor unless he has been in prison for his faith… Different kind of ministry training…

  10. Mike

    Great call on your part; thank you for this post. I suppose the response and participation of so many to these ostensibly Christian conferences has some motivation informed by our commitments to behaving as consumers.

    I serve with InterVarsity; many readers of this blog perhaps would know of the convention we host every three years: Urbana. One could plausibly apply the above allegations to the convention. I won’t go there now! Instead, I’d like report on a couple of particular twists planned for within Urbana most recently. (I should note that Urbana did not meet at the university this past December: we’ve relocated to St. Louis-we ran out of room at the university.)

    One twist was a planned track addressing slum communities and ministry within. Of the many unusual characteristics of the track, one was that students, staff, and track leaders all had “bucket baths” during the week of the convention. From what I heard, the water was “brisk.” But, such participation, as we might expect, tends to reframe the relative leisurely digs the remainder of the convention enjoyed and -more importantly- incarnates what life and ministry could become among people for whom “bucket baths” provide the necessary personal hygiene each day: no matter how cold it may be…I should add my disclaimer: I did not staff this track. But, of my colleagues who did, as well as the students I heard from, this track was used by the Lord for transformation for all.

    The other twist was a dinner for the entire convention that came from a World Vision menu for refugees. This corn-soy blend porridge, of course, provides protein and fiber, but is far from the kind of accustomed menu of variety that so many us assume is part and parcel of American culture. I don’t recall hearing a single complaint, but instead expressions of wonder that indicated some processing of cultural reset occurring.

    It is possible for a Christian convention to equip and transform, and I would imagine that the above twists are hardly novel. I fear, like you Dan, that more often such events are important for motivations that don’t aim for transformation of the person and communities.

    I believe your comments are worthy of further investigation, e.g., what kinds of lifestyle changes do those who attend Christian conventions participate in following their attendance? How have these conventions assisted in developing new ministries or fresh collaborations for service? And to what degree do such conventions further confirm our commitments to consumerism? Thanks again for this post.

    • Urbana 87 was instrumental in getting me into the mission field. It was, without a doubt, a ‘mountain-top’ experience. It took follow-up and perseverance to turn that mountain top experience into meaningful activity, however. And of the 25 people my church sent, two of us actually ended up in any kind of christian service.

      While I agree with Gordon that a conference can be a meaningful and life changing time, by themselves, a conference or retreat is nothing more than a dose of religious amphetamines. With encouragement from the body, discipleship, and meaningful fellowship, a conference or retreat can result in revival. But that level of involvement is often lacking. Too many people attend special events because of the boost they provide. And we are getting addicted to the boosts.

      Years ago, Urbana was one of the few youth conferences around. As Dan pointed out, these kinds of things are now ubiquitous. The kids in our church are now being encouraged to shell out some serious bucks for CIY. The promotional video makes it look like a rave. This coming off Winterfest and local and state wide conferences. Far from encouraging growth and nuturing, these conferences are turning into leaps from peak to peak, with each conference seeking to attain ever higher approaches to the throne. Is Babel too far behind? Are we seeking to build our own tower to God, brick by tar-coated brick?

    • Mike,

      I attended Urbana in 1984. I’m an old-timer IVCF guy.

      Urbana tries harder than most I think. Even then, it can be an information dump. My experience was largely bad as I was trying to find a music ministry who would take me on as a drummer. What I didn’t anticipate was so many music ministries telling me the drums were the devil’s instrument! (I’ve written about that elsewhere on Cerulean Sanctum.)

      I’m glad to hear that a little bit of cognitive dissonance occurred at the last Urbana. I suspect that this might be the best way to actually use a conference to change people.

      Even then, it cost a lot of money to attend Urbana. I can’t help but think that all that time, money, and energy can be pumped back into local ministry. As much as I endorse world missions, it’s better for us to bring natives here and train them then to send American missionaries to the mission field. Since most countries have indigenous Christian populations, you get over the cultural and language issues much more quickly. Anyway, I’m soapboxing now.

      My whole idea behind this post is to get Christians to question the status quo we’ve developed in this country. Conferences are about as status quo as it gets, despite the fact they routinely state that they will change attendees. Yet we have no revival. If something doesn’t work, we either need to fix it or toss it. We’ve got every kind of conference known to man, so the fixes have been tried. I say we toss and work toward strengthening our local churches.

      • Mike

        Amen on all counts! I can verify that the Urbana costs for students are always giant concerns of staff. The concerns of attending Urbana being compared to “taking a drink from a fire hose.” People inside and outside of Urbana wondering about the nature of transformational outcomes. And more: believe me, much much more…

        And, even with the affirmation of you and others about Urbana, I’d still say that your questions about Christian conventions reinforcing a status quo in North America Christian churches need further pursuit. I’ll add one more thought…

        I’ve realized that I’ve felt reluctant over the years to host retreats and so on, because of intuition that so much of what needs to worked out in the students’ discipleship needs to happen on and around campus. I know that if I’m assigned responsibilities for a retreat or the like, I have aimed for some kind of missional response or transformational outcome. I mean, if a student is going to lay out dollars and time to be there, then I sense the responsibility to honor that commitment. And so on…but, while I do host some activities, I don’t aim to host “retreats” or “conferences”. But, most of those activities I do host, e.g., serving the poor in town, even bringing along unbelieving students, are better suited for something less sensational and almost deliberately ordinary. And, some of the above realization is linked to the idea that communities that follow Jesus don’t need to practice consumerism in order to validate their faith: they don’t need to fulfill a commitment to the status quo to follow Jesus together.

      • You’re assuming we have something to teach them…

        But, seriously, folks, the most effective ministy is to work with the foreign nationals already here. When they go home they are equipped to grow and disciple others with their own cultural understanding.

        On the other hand, don’t disparage the ministry of going to another culture and being open enough to be served. All the known world was in Jerusalem on the day of pentacost, and the first church probably had representatives from most of the languages of the land, but nearly all the original apostles went out into the outside world to make disciples.

        The problem that I see goes back to the root that we’ve all yacked about before: Self-centered “Christianity”. We are too comfortable in our cocoons and rabbit-holes to be Christians. The conferences are just another example of this need we have to feed ourselves. Pigs at a trough, and the bigger the conference, the bigger the trough. I’ve never heard of anything more anti-Christ than a Christian Cruise. Christian Hedonism? Have fun and worship, too? Whose idea of fun, I wonder?

        A Focus on the Family flyer in our church bulletin this week stated that a recent Barna Group study stated that 9% of professing Christians hold Biblical world views. Now, I’m no fan of Focus, believing them sycophants of the political right rather than a serious Christian ministry, and “Biblical World Views” needs some definition, but I wouldn’t refute the percentage. Jesus said that narrow is the way and few choose it. It behooves us to make sure that we and those immediately surrounding us are on the right track spiritually. We don’t want to stray from this path!

  11. Bene D said:

    “It is my understanding that attending church in the US is necessary to make business contacts and get ahead in many regions. I assume the same would be true about conferences, however noble the supposed agenda. Is my assumption incorrect? It is my understanding religious conferences are big business. Is that a false assumption?”

    I think this illustrates why there is no revival. Many aren’t living to die and thus worship the one True God; rather, they are living for self or some other god (“to get ahead,” “to make business contacts,” “big business”). We worship money, power, self, business, reputation, big church, worldly success, but we don’t realize that it prevents us from worshiping the only One worthy of worship.

    I think the reason these are a “con” is because we con ourselves by being idolatrous and focused on the wrong things. We aren’t trusting in the Lord with all our hearts; we are leaning on our own understanding.

    • Bryan,

      I think we must always ask why we need to go to a conference. Then we have to provide extraordinary reasons for needing to attend.

      Honestly, if it costs me $100 to attend a conference, I can certainly find someone who would benefit from my giving them that $100. I think I’m getting a blessing by attending the conference, but truthfully I may be getting a far bigger blessing by paying the electrical bill of a poor family.

      Do we practice hat kind of thinking?

  12. Connie Reagan

    Uh, they do have conferences in China. Held secretly, held to refresh and train leaders. I know people who have gone there to minister. And come back with some harrowing tales…

    Of course any resemblance between their conferences and ours is merely coincidental.

    When we learn to depend on God and not man’s plans and efforts, we just might have revival. Apparently it seems it takes persecution to make THAT happen.

  13. Once again a very insightful post, Dan. I’ve been asking similar questions of myself lately. It’s so much easier to read Christian books than it is to go out and make disciples.

    Regarding your view of missions, are you familiar with GFA? Now that I’ve slighted Christian books, I’ll recommend Revolution for World Missions. It challenges Western Christians to support native missionaries in poor countries.

  14. Thanks for this Dan. I will be linking this post to my Wednesday Warrior post. You have hit a raw nerve here Dan, but I love the way you have approached it, with love, a mild rebuke, and fair and balanced.

    Be encouraged.

    • John,

      Thanks. Maybe I got one right. Your posts are always done in love.

      I did not get one wink of sleep Saturday night heading into Sunday. I went in to play drums for church and was just wiped when I got done. The Lord kept me up all night with this post rattling around inside me. Half a dozen times I started to get out of bed to write it just so it would go away and I could sleep, but I didn’t. So I stayed up all night with it tearing at me. Even when I prayed about it, I could get no peace until I wrote it down. Amazing.

  15. I want to thank all of you for being respectful, I’m not in the US so the questions were real. Prior to reading Dan’s post I read about an Teen Mania youth conference in San Francisco. The city council isn’t thrilled, etc. etc.

    What floored me was the $99/US required for the main event, where the attendee gets to hear God-laced bigotry. You get an instant personality with rules and dogma to share with your new best friends. It’s incredibly sad.
    Here is an example:

    It was encouraging to read what churches were doing that didn’t support this Teen Mania persecution complex, bigotry and con.
    Churches had dinners for grandparents where grandchildren served them. No glamour, no ‘reverse rebellion’. Teaching service without military metaphors or protesters to scream at. This alternative won’t make good copy, entertain, piss off the grownups; no spending through the nose for cool T-shirts or music and 99/US just to get in the door.

    Thanks, this was a good thread. I learned, and appreciate it.

  16. Sir Chuck

    Interesting points, Dan, I ones I’ve considered myself. Your last point about the alternate uses of $100 is especially poignant.

    However, is it possible that there is another way to look at these conferences?

    What if these conferences are one facet of a slowly-growing national revival, one that is manifesting itself over decades?

    We all know there is some outrageous exploitation going on out there, but perhaps that is the bathwater, not the baby. Perhaps the continuing popularity of these conferences is that really, they are nurturing that little seed of revival in our hearts, one good word at a time. Perhaps each time we return home, a new chapter or passage of scripture speaks to us.

    One of the commentators alluded to the disappointingly short duration of the spiritual lift. However, I would propose that thousands, perhaps millions, have made significant directional changes in their lives due to their attendance at one or more of these conferences.

    For me, it was attendance at several of the PromiseKeeper’s events in the 90’s. My attendance at these was due directly to influence of spiritual brothers at my local church, and the continuing time of fellowship and discipling that succeeded the conferences was also with a small group from my local church. In that sense, the conferences served as mile markers on my spiritual journey to know Christ better. As I proceeded, I would maintain that a personal revival was well underway.

    Do I still need to religiously attend these conferences? Probably not….and I don’t. Now that I have walked a longer way with Our Lord, the destination is a little clearer, so the mileposts can be further apart. Still, its always nice to occasionally check one’s path…and share with one who hasn’t yet come as far.

    Hard to personally pass judgment on revival, unless you assume we’d all be revived equally and at the same time. I can only think of one time that would occur, and revival is guaranteed then, isn’t it?

    • Sir Chuck,

      I think revival is guaranteed. The Bible plainly states that God does amazing things when His people humble themselves, pray, lay down their lives, love the unloved, and obey His commands. The fact that we’re not doing those things very well is one big reason we don’t have revival.

      Yet conferences supposedly exist to address those issues. What gives then?

      • The fact that we’re not doing those things very well is one big reason we don’t have revival.

        My point was, this is a relative statement. It appears to me that many are doing those things, to a greater or lesser degree, and are experiencing revival in their lives accordingly. And the increasing number of Christian gatherings may indicate that more and more are in the midst of this revival.

        I recall the 60’s quite well, when Christianity was more or less a given in our society. Now, it isn’t…we’re much more “diverse”, even within the category of Christianity. Passive Christianity is yielding to more active expressions of our faith, and people are being forced to commit, for or against.

        These conferences of which you speak are a public expression of seeking to follow after Christ, and were not common back then…nor were Christian radio or television stations, contemporary Christian music, national prayer chains for our president and government, active sentiment against abortion, or even great Christian discussion forums such as the CS. And back then, it was hard to find outspoken critics of Christianity…they’re coming out of the woodwormwork now…all because Christian influence is more visible and active now than it was back then.

        All of which I take as sign of revival in this land (and others around the world, as well). I share your concern in its staying power, and in its potential for distraction and misuse, but I also share your confidence in Christ who strengthens us. And the times advise us of his imminent return, so this revival and counter-revival seems a very natural thing to be taking place. Wouldn’t you agree?

  17. LL

    hey brother, appreciate what you said re: conferences and how they can be an addictive, unhealthy dependence which give thrills without substance.

    however pls allow me to make a few general observations.

    1. conferences can provide a needed lift and ongoing education for pastors who labor by themselves in difficult situations. it can be a real breath of fresh air for those of us who serve in relative obscurity to go someplace where someone else preaches, prays oversees worship etc. while one could do that at home with others I’d be the first to selfishly admit that it’s nice to get away sometime.

    2. many conferences (not all) can provide messages that actually speak of God’s character and nature and thus truly feed the saints with His grace, goodness, wonder and beauty in Christ. sadly (and this is the fault of many pastors) our ‘preaching’ has descended into ‘how to’ messages that only address ‘real life’ issues. we’ve been told that the only real value to a message (and thus God Himself) is in it’s practical benefit. rarely if ever do we preach so that God’s people will lift their eyes from their circumstances, gaze upon His greatness and apply what they hear to their worship.

    3. finally, (thee points I know:) consider that there may be something godly (in the macro-creative sense) that propels us to want to gather together in large groups once in a while to express a shared identity, purpose and destiny. though the O.T. feasts and celebrations aren’t required any longer they may hold a clue to something innate re: our humanity. perhaps the Lord knew that it was good for us to gather periodically in large groups to reinforce our call to Him and connection to each other.

    speaking of that there’s no reason why some type of service or giving component can’t be built into a conference (see Dt. 14:22-29)

    The Lord’s Peace

    • LL,

      One thing I believe the Lord has been teaching me recently is that He’s more than equipped us, we just need to do the work. Conferences tend to lay the same foundation repeatedly, and the Bible says that true maturity isn’t found in that pattern. We just need to do the work. The TRUE growth happens when we do the work, not when we sit back and absorb even more teaching and preaching.

      We have our churches for community gathering, but when you get down to it, those church communities are pretty feeble. Better that we strengthen them and get our community there than to hang out at a conference.

      I hear what you’re saying, but I wish that we could call a moratorium on all these conferences for about five years and instead do what the Lord is asking of us. Like I said, perhaps if we did that, we’d be more blessed than any hundred conferences could give us.

  18. Jds

    Who are we to say that it’s right or wrong? –>

    But the king said, “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the LORD has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?'” (2 Samuel 16:10)

    Not to say they’re cursing, but as far as we know, they could be led to attend conferences. For who knows the mind of the Father except for the Father?


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      • Either on something (probably books) for the teens at my old church or a group of Mission workers (leaning towards some overseas but there’s a couple that had to come back from the Philipines to treat their kids’ thrice-over tuberculosis). Basically, the kinds of ministry that either builds up the mind and hearts of the young or that builds up the faith and perserverance of those currently working in the field.

  20. Jds

    Sorry for not making much sense…

    Just wanted to point out that it’s hard for us to honestly say whether that’s not what the Father wants for people do to. Granted it’s not in the Bible anywhere that we MUST attend conferences, but there’s no way for us to know whether it’s still a part of the Father’s plan for some people to attend. As far as I know, He could be suggesting to people to attend for fellowship, input, etc.

    Then again, I have never been able to visit a conference and probably never will. So I might just be totally off the mark. 🙂

    The Bible quote is one I like, personally, as a reminder not to always condem others for the sometimes hard-to-understand things they do.

    But like I said. I could be totally wrong and off the mark, but that’s ok. I don’t mind being wrong. 🙂


  21. John

    Squirming a bit on this one. Yes, a lot of “itching ears” looking for the next “experience.” But personally our lives have been inspired and transformed by the few conferences we’ve attended over the last 3-4 years. Our lives have taken a 180, from mega-church consumers to involved doer’s. There’s a “revival” in our lives. Conferences with “seasoned doers” played (and hopefully will continue to play) a primary role in framing the Ideals, and then kicking our butts.

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  24. This is my first post, and I agree with much of what was written. The best “conference” I ever attended was a marriage seminar in a dusty old gymnasium, attended by a grand total of 10 people. Over the course of six hours our pastor showed us the Biblical model for marriage and I learned more there than I ever received at the more popular marriage seminars. I think Americans are, for some reason, of the opinion that popular “experts” have more to say about living the faith than your typical, everyday pastor. Perhaps in most churches this is true; a sad commentary on the state of our churches if that’s the case.

    • Adam,

      Thanks for commenting. Sometimes the simplest things are the most profound. In too many cases, though, we have plenty of sound and fury, but we all know what that signifies.

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