This Sunday afternoon I am heading out to a conference specifically designed for Churches with attendance under 500. I am excited to learn and grow, but I am really excited because on Monday night they are having an hour of worship specifically designed for Pastors. Basically, that means I do not have to do anything.
While I am looking forward to learning next week during the main sessions and workshops, I know I will also acquire new things in unexpected ways. Through the years of attending conferences, I am usually caught off guard by one or more interactions that take place on the fringes.
Here are some of the things I have learned at conferences that were not on the main agenda.
1. The Power of a Team. I attended a conference at Southeast Christian Church many years ago. While walking around the building, my group went into a room labeled “communion.” Inside were dozens of refrigerators filled with communion trays ready for worship. There was also a specially made machine to fill an entire tray of communion at one time. Later we caught a staff member, and he talked about a man who engineered that communion machine and the dozens and dozens of people it took to fill all their communion every week for 9,000 people. The lesson was simple; One man preaching a great sermon is good, but you need a number of gifted servants to lead people to God.
2. The Power of the Gospel. I was at a Church conference in Grand Rapids, and we heard a new preacher deliver a power talk about creativity and being made in the image of God. We learned that he led a large Church in town, so we loaded up the car and drove over. There were no signs on the street, in the parking lot or anywhere really. The only sign they had was a little-printed note on the front door. I noticed something I had never seen before; people came to that Church purely to hear the gospel. I am still in favor of signs, but I know that those are only tiny aids to the big project of Jesus.
3. The Power of Professionalism. The flip side of my last experience was a visit to a Church conference here in Missouri. The first night there was a cookout on the front lawn of the Church to kick off the meeting. While sitting on the grass, I noticed there was not a single dandelion. I started talking to a companion, and we noticed the grass was perfect, there was not a piece of trash anywhere, the parking lot had no holes, and the exterior seemed to be flawless. I learned that doing things for God should push us to do our best. Sure, the power is in the gospel, but if people are turned away before they hear a sermon, then there is trouble.
These are three of the biggest lessons I was taught at a conference without ever hearing a word. The truth is that they are all interconnected. It takes a great team of people to build a professional environment for people to listen to the message of the gospel.
I can’t wait to see what I learn this year.