I am pretty sure that many of you have not had the experience of attending a Christian conference. I know I hadn’t prior to being more involved at here at Asbury. They are not for everyone and even some of my friends are not big fans of them. I, however, am a BIG fan and just returned from one led by Andy Stanley last week! It can be an AMAZING experience and I highly recommend attending at least one conference to every Christ follower. I love the feel of walking into a room with people who are unashamed to speak openly and freely about Jesus and what He does for us. I love the worship that normally is a part of them and the way people just give themselves over to praising our God in ways that they might not at home. Attending Christian conferences is exciting for me and I feel renewed when I leave.
But here is one truth about these conferences. They are challenging. Sometimes they challenge what you are doing currently in your environments and churches. Sometimes they challenge you in ways that you want to change what you are doing in your churches, but don’t know how. They always challenge me to ask myself if I am doing my best to be like Christ. I think the biggest challenge about these conferences is this…what do we DO with the things that we learn when we return home?
The conference that I attended last week was about how we are going to reach the next generations for Jesus. We were challenged to think about what we are currently doing that only serves us. We then had to decide if we were okay with that OR do we actually want to go out into our community and reach NEW people for Jesus. If the latter was the case, then we needed to make a decision on what are we doing to try and make that happen? The apostle Paul was willing to risk everything, even changing himself to meet the needs of others…
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9: 19-23
Paul was willing to do this because he knew Jesus. He was in relationship with Him and knew him to be authentically who he claimed to be. He knew that our faith in God rests in the resurrection. He knew that the promise of the Old Testament was fulfilled when Christ was resurrected and He became our Messiah.
Paul lived through his doubt, grief and loss over Jesus’ death to be FOREVER changed by the gift that was the resurrection. He knew what mattered in his life was to share that gift with others. He knew what Jesus taught, which was loving your neighbor, is how you show your love for God. He was motivated and excited to share this amazing gift with as many as he could.
This leaves me thinking…huh? Why are we, in our current educated, comfy (for the most part) world, not more interested in sharing this eternal gift with others? We talk about it with others at church and then we go out to our neighborhoods and workplace and don’t even talk to each other at all. We talk about wanting the best for our children, but how often does that thought really include their faith and not just their career, financial situation, marriage and social status?
Andy Stanley shared a lot of thought-provoking information but I really loved it when he said, “I tell people all the time, when you are not sure what to say or do, you just love like God, through Christ, loved you.” This is HUGE! Not just treat others the way that you want to be treated, but “love like God, through Christ, loved you.”
God loved us enough to send His son to die on the cross. He loves us enough that no matter how many times we mess things up, He is still willing and waiting to forgive. He loves without holding on to past hurts, He loves us in so many ways that we cannot even understand. That is how we are called to live. WOW! Really? So in other words, we need to get over being right and just love – yes! (John 13:34-35) We need to get over being too good for things and just wash other’s feet – yes! (John 13) We need to have faith that God is with us in our finances and be willing to give where he calls us to give and know that if he sees the sparrow he knows our needs too – yes! (Matt 6:25-26)
Christianity is a movement. It is supposed to have legs, which means that we need to be active and doing not just sitting and learning. It means that we as the body of Christ should be serving, giving, inviting and engaging.
We need to be at church, so we can learn more about the teachings of Jesus and we can be connected to our community. We need to be in groups so that we can be connecting in real and authentic relationships with others who can support, encourage and continue to grow with us on our journey of faith. We need to be giving to our church and missions to exhibit the fact that we trust God to provide for us as a discipline to him. We need to be serving our community at large as Christ served those around him. We need to be inviting others to join in this journey with us and be excited to share with them this amazing gift which is called Christianity, because we believe it and we want to reach people for God.
I do not believe that you have to be a scholar to love as God loved. You don’t have to be able to answer every single question about faith or the Bible that a person might ask you. Just be authentically you, the best person God created you to be, loving as God loves us, so that you can be used in the way that He intended.
Even if you struggle with some of the Bible’s teachings or some of the confusing things going on in our current modern culture and world. Wake up each day and do your best to follow after Jesus’ teachings and you will be better for it. My God is amazing and powerful and He showed us throughout His time on earth how He chose the imperfect to be His followers and how He was able to use them for His good. Have respect for all and faith in God. Let’s reach out to our kids, our friends, our neighbors with love and the joy that is our salvation and hope in the future.