I hesitated writing this post. I thought about it, prayed about it, and the passion inside just kept building. I felt led to share my thoughts. They are in no way intended to judge others, or to be overly critical. My desire is not to offend anyone. But even as I write those words, I think of Jesus, and how he surely offended many in His day. His testimony was not always easy on the ears, but it was Truth with a capital "T." And so, I felt compelled to share my thoughts. Please know that although this is constructive criticism about a conference I recently attended, in many ways this is a rebuke to myself for all the times I've fallen short of being bold, for failing to always speak the truth in love and for missed opportunities. And know that I have also made the conference organization aware of these thoughts, as to not complain for the sake of complaining, but as to be heard.
Last weekend I went to a conference. I am not going to share the name of the conference, but I will say that it is a nationally recognized conference whose target audience is Christian women.
When a friend suggested we go to this conference, I thought it was a great idea. I looked forward to digging into God's Word and learning more about Him in a group setting. I looked forward to solid teaching, to Worship that I could get lost in and focus on Christ alone. I looked forward to depth.
Yet after the first day of this two-day conference, I quickly realized that the goal of this conference was not depth. Not once did a speaker open their Bible and dig in to the Scriptures. The most we got was a lone Bible verse worked casually into the midst of life stories. We were swimming in the shallow end.
I prayed that night that the Lord would change my perspective, and help my expectations to be His, and not mine.
I thought about the fact that although I longed for depth, maybe this conference was designed to reach new believers just beginning their walk with Him. And I also expected day two to focus on the life saving gift of Jesus Christ, for all those women present who don't know Him at all.
With a renewed perspective and changed expectations, I entered day two of the conference. But as the same stories in newly wrapped packages were shared one after one, just as the day before, my heart sank. Because as I thought about all the women in that auditorium, from all walks of life and coming from all different situations, I knew that the one thing they all needed to hear was the one focus that was missing: Jesus.
It can be argued that in the midst of the heart-warming stories and feel good testimonies that a Christian could pull out how God worked in those speakers' lives. And I believe that I did. I could see how the Lord interweaves those little details or things we call coincidences into our lives through our experiences, and how they all point to Him and glorify His name.
But what about the women present who wouldn't call themselves Christians. Or who do, as I did for so long, but who are still missing something. Who are missing the point. Who are lacking Jesus and His grace. What about them?
As I thought about what we are called to do as followers of Christ, I thought about Mark 15:16, "And He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.'" Being a Christian rests on the fact that we have believed in and accepted the gift of Christ that God gave to us on the cross so very long ago. It rests on the realization that we are sinners, falling short of God's glory, and that we NEED a Savior. It rests on Jesus Christ. Yet not once was the Gospel presented.
Quite simply, if we're not sharing the saving love of Jesus Christ, just as Jesus did, then aren't we missing the boat of opportunity? Are we not called to be disciples, preaching and teaching just as Jesus did? Are we not called to have a heart for the lost, for those who don't know His love and grace, for those who have not accepted the free gift of salvation? I think of the analogy of an unsaved friend not being let through the gates of Heaven. As our Lord says to the friend, "Turn from me, for I never knew you," that friend then turns to me and says, "Why did you never tell me?" And if we're not clearly sharing our faith with our friends, our family, even strangers, then aren't we keeping Christ our little secret?
No matter what our overall intention is through our interactions with people, shouldn't our goal always be to share the love of Christ with others. Not just in a subtle, 'they'll see Him through my actions' kind of way. But in a bold, "Jesus died for YOU!" kind of way. Because I'm sure there's more women out there than just me that just wouldn't have came to the understanding of God's gift to us through Jesus's death on a cross if they hadn't been told, point blank, like I was when I was 16.
And as I look back at this conference, I realize that's just what these women have done. They identify themselves as Christians, but never once revealed how you too can become one. I'm not doubting their authenticity, or trying to judge them, but I am aware of the missed opportunity of such an event. The Lord has blessed them with such an awesome way to reach thousands and thousands of women for His glory, and lead them to the truth. But the most important truth was not revealed. And after all, if we don't have Christ, then what do we have? It's all for nothing.
How many women will be lined up at the gates of Heaven saying, "But why didn't you all tell me about God's saving grace at that conference?"
It breaks my heart. Another watered down, feel good message, lacking the one thing everyone needs: the gift of Jesus Christ. Another missed opportunity.
Sure, the conference was entertaining. It was filled with some wonderful, heart-warming stories and some pleasant songs. It had some charismatic speakers and some comedians that made me laugh out loud until tears fell from my eyes. And that's all well in good. But then there's twisting the truth, even just a little, to make it more pleasing to our ears. A song discussed how we are worthy of the Lord, yet Romans 3:23 tells us, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." None are worthy, not one. And a speaker, one who could be called a motivational speaker, claimed that we need to take hold of our lives, think positively, smile a lot, and things will begin to go our way. But in John 15, Jesus tells us that we are not guaranteed easy lives as Christians, but instead may endure much persecution in His name. And then I remember 2 Timothy 4:3, and how the Lord warns us of these slight twists of truth..."For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear."
But after all the laughter and all the tears and all the good feelings, what are we left with if we don't have Jesus? Emptiness. A void that needs filled. And it can't be filled with any amount of stories, or music, or laughter. It can only be filled with God's gift to us.
I pray that the one thing I learn from this experience is to not waste any more opportunities. To be bold in my faith and to walk in His truth. To be His witness, not only through actions, but through words. Because how else will they know?