Monday, July 18, 2011
The first one I attended was the Ligonier conference in Orlando. It was hosted by First Baptist Church of Orlando, a massive complex with ample seating and extensive facilities for eating, a bookstore, plenty of parking and a state of the art multimedia system. The sheer size and capability of the place was impressive. The speakers preached on the topic of Light and Heat. It was mostly a tribute of sorts to the ministry of John Piper (Desiring God) and R.C. Sproul (Ligonier). It was really cool to be able to sit and listen to these men. Their teaching has had a profound impact on me over the years. When I left that conference I had a deeper sense of the Holiness of God. His marvelous "otherness" left me feeling wholly unworthy of Him. This, I think is very true and a good thing. What I realize now as I look back on it is that I also felt very distant from our great and Holy God. It was as though I felt like He could not be defiled by my sinful, fallen, human hands. So, while I praised Him for His grace in electing and saving me I was still left with a sense of great distance between He and I.
The conference I was at over this past weekend was entirely different. It was the Threshold 2011 Missional Organic Church conference. It was held in a quaint little conference room in a Holiday Inn hotel. The hosts had to cut off registration months ago because they had filled to capacity. This was a good and a bad thing. Good because it kept costs down (this conference was completely free to attend) but bad because there were many who were left out and unable to come because of space imitations. The room where we gathered was less than a quarter the size of the bookstore at the former conference. The Threshold conference was unlike any I had ever been to. The focus of the conference was obviously to build relationships. The speakers would share what the Lord had led them to prepare and then they gave out an assignment of sorts that we would then share with those at our table. Yes, we sat at tables of no more than eight people rather than in stadiun style seating in rows. This gave us an opportunity to get to know the others at our table and see what Christ has been doing in their life. This time led right into a six hour break. This time was spent having luch together and spending the afternoon sharing more stories and hanging out with folks who were strangers only a few hours ago and were quickly becoming much more like family. In contrast, at the Ligonier conference the only conversations I had were about the weather, our travel to Orlando, or the speakers at the conference. Nothing any deeper than that.
If the relational aspect of the conference were not enough, the teaching was phenominally different and in my opinion much better. It seemed as though all these speakers intended to do was display the magnifiscence of Christ and lead us to embrace our unity with Him. To yearn for Him, search for Him and feast on Him as never before. This reconciliation between myself and Christ was much more than just sensing a closeness to Him. I realized the powerful truth that Christ is IN me and I am IN Him. Words cannot express.
Another major difference between the two conference was the accessablility of the speakers. At the first event the speakers would emerge out of a back door from some inaccessable part of the building, stride onto the stage and give their presentation and then disappear into the back again. At the latter gathering, the speakers sat at the tables with the other brothers and sisters until they stood up to speak and then after each session they stayed in the room for hours answering questions and encouraging those who wanted to speak with them. Their accessability was reflective of the relationship we have with our Lord. They were not distant and fleeting but they stayed near and were ready to listen and share themselves with us.
There is so much more I want to share about the conference. I'm sure the impact it had on me will spill forth into my writing in the future. For the meantime I thought I would share these few observations on the two conferences.
Posted by Bobby Auner at 8:21 AM