Typically, Christians do a great job of hosting large, inspirational conferences where well-known speakers provide great insight on what the Christian life can and should be like.
Conferences often do a great job of highlighting a major element or facet of Christian faith that has, for one reason or another, gone overlooked or become a forgotten practice.
I just finished my fourth week at the North American Mission Board (NAMB), and I was blessed to have the opportunity to attend their last Send Conference of the year that took place in Orlando. I walked away from the conference feeling that it was one of the better conference experiences that I’ve had.
Yet there is always a danger that accompanies the Christian conference.
Conferences certainly have a role to play in Christianity (as they do in the broader American culture), but we need to make sure that we do not misunderstand their role and overestimate their value.
A good conference, like the Send Conferences NAMB hosted this year, succeed whenever they challenge, encourage, and provide practical advice for moving forward. Sadly, we rarely learn how to carry the fire that accompanies the conference high into the practical outworking of our day-to-day lives.
When I was younger, many of my friends and I often asked ourselves the question, “What do we do to make sure that we don’t lose this feeling?” after we got back from a summer camp or mission trip. As I have gotten older and experienced conferences ranging from Passion, to Jesus Culture, to Catalyst, and now to Send, I realize that this is a problem that never goes away.
Our Christian lives often seem modeled on moving from hit to hit of “Jesus high,” and we almost become addicts who don’t really know how to function aside from seeking the next great worship or preaching experience.
If this becomes our Christianity, we are in serious trouble.
Christian faith is about a life lived in the reality of what God has done. It’s not about filling stadiums or conference centers or churches with Christians grasping at the straws of religious experience.
If you’re truly a Christian, then God has saved you, through Christ. That salvation isn’t meant to be a merit badge that goes on the mantle next to your participation trophies, diplomas, and employee-of-the-month plaques.
We aren’t supposed to attend Christianity the way that we would a sporting event or a concert. We definitely aren’t meant to approach faith like a couch potato on a Netflix binge.
What God has done for you in and through Christ was meant to change you, and that change was meant to be proclaimed and shared with those around you. Sometimes, I wonder if we don’t get that second part because we have failed to understand the first part.
Rather than confront the harsh reality of our sin and learn what it means to be redeemed by Christ’s blood on the cross, we simply cling to the religiosity of faith that makes us feel good about ourselves.
We don’t often confess this, but perhaps we don’t actually see life change–brokenness healed in our own lives–because we rarely, with an open and honest heart, admit our need for a Savior.
If we aren’t seeing change where our sinfulness is being restored into wholeness (and holiness), then whenever we’re told to share Christ with other people, all that we hear is “become a salesperson.”
We don’t realize that what we should be doing when we share our faith is proclaiming the truth of God’s extraordinary salvation for the lost and broken. Instead, we are convinced, knowingly or unknowingly, that we’re just hyping another one of those products that people buy even though they don’t really need it.
It’s just like selling one experience among many: sports highs, concert highs, business highs, relationship highs, TV highs, school highs (okay, that last one may be a stretch). Sure, many of these experiences are great, but are they really life-changing?
We aren’t just supposed to be perpetuators of a subculture that generates its own cultural and material goods.
The gospel of Christ, if true, genuinely is turn-the-world-upside-down transformative. After all, the old you that hurts itself and hurts others through sin has been exchanged for a life that helps, heals, and restores. Not only does the gospel mend your broken soul, but it grants the power to become an agent of God’s rescue mission here on earth.
Christianity is about so much more than scrounging around for your next hit of ‘Jesus high.’ If you’re in Christ, you have been changed in order to become an change-agent.
If you have a hard time believing that, check out 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.