Did you ever leave for a conference with the mindset that you would be challenged and edified in the gospel? Most of us think in that direction as we make our traveling arrangements. How many of us have left with the thought that we would come back depressed and discouraged? There is nothing like getting together with a group of Christians for a weekend conference. For those of you who attend one or perhaps two conferences each year know that those times can be truly refreshing, exciting, inspiring, convicting, and yes – tiring. Christian conferences provide a great time to rekindle old relationships and build new friendships with people that you meet for the first time. Some conferences provide a “family reunion” feel as you return year after year to learn and worship together. Have you considered the dangers of attending Christian conferences?
This past weekend was our first G3 Conference held in our church here in Georgia. As the conference came to an end on Saturday, although I was completely drained physically, emotionally, and spiritually – I felt like a great vacation was coming to an abrupt ending. As I reflected upon the weekend, I remember how I once felt leaving a similar Christian conference. Rather than leaving this specific conference encouraged and edified in the gospel, I walked away discouraged and defeated. The reason was centered on the fact that I had looked to the preachers in the conference as men who were successful in ministry and were walking the “easy” road back to their successful churches. I had allowed myself to look at the men through a rose colored lens. Instead of filling up my heart with the gospel, I was filling up my heart with discouragement. I had allowed my mind to think that the conference speakers were somehow immune to trials and problems in pastoral ministry. Rather than leaving the conference strengthened in the gospel, I returned home discouraged.
Below you will see a list of practical dangers to avoid as you leave a Christian conference. We are all suseptable to these traps and much like a soldier suiting up and preparing to enter the battle field, we must have our minds prepared and ready for the work that the Lord has called us to.
May the Lord protect us from these common dangers:
- The danger of viewing the conference speakers as immune to trials and very successful while you are somehow a “man of sorrows” and unsuccessful.
- The danger of feeling that your worship within the context of your own church family is less exciting than the latest conference you just attended.
- The danger of feeling lonely due to the reality that you just left your closest friends at the conference as you now head back home. Instead, ask yourself this question, “Why do I not have close friends in my current ministry context?” If you have become guilty of isolating yourself and refusing to pursue solid friendships, that is extremely unhealthy and very dangerous for any Christian – especially a pastor. Have you forgotten that God is with us at all times and will never forsake us?
- The danger of loving conferences more than the church of Jesus Christ. Although conferences can be exciting and profitable to our souls, we must remember, Christ died for the church – not conferences.
- The danger of covetousness. It’s really easy to covet the platform of another preacher, the position of another pastor, or the notoriety of a specific conference speaker. We must remember that this is a sin. God has gifted each of us and called us to specific tasks for His glory, and the unknown missionary or pastor serving in obscurity is no less important to God than the conference preacher who stands before thousands.
If you find yourself leaving an exciting conference discouraged, remember that anyone can pastor a conference, but only those specific men selected by God to pastor His church can carry out that task under complete reliance on His power. Remember that anyone can be a member of a conference, but only God’s children can be members of His church. God often uses conferences, but it is His plan to drive His mission and accomplish His will through the ministries of the local church.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief. For if it were not for unbelief even the devil could do nothing. It is because we listen to the devil instead of listening to God that we go down before him and fall before his attacks” (Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and its Cures, 1965, p. 20).
May God spare us from such depression and discouragement which leads to an open door of sin.
For His glory,
Pastor Josh Buice