I remember going to one of my first Christian conferences as a relatively new believer. One of my faith heroes was speaking and I left filled with such excitement at the power of what God did through his message in my life. When I got back to my community group filled with faithful, godly, Jesus-loving people and recounted my experiences, their polite but disinterested smiles made me wonder if there might be something wrong with them.
Having spent most of the time I've been following Jesus in vocational ministry or pursuing vocational ministry, I never gave much thought to the way the average, gracious, caring, committed members of my church thought about Christian conferences.
I have since come to discover, there is, in fact, nothing wrong with them, but to them conferences are only for pastors, church leaders, or those interested in pursuing ministry as vocation. They wondered what there could be for them in taking dedicated time to focus on being encouraged and equipped in the local body.
A lot, I thought. If we understand the love of God for his whole body, why does specific, training, encouragement, and equipping for ministry tend to end at the vocational level? Yes, it’s the pastor's responsibility to equip the saint for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12), but what else might be done in our churches to reach wider, support deeper, and encourage greater, than we do on a weekly basis?
It was out of this thought that the idea of the Steadfast Conference was born.
Last Saturday, April 7, Sojourn Network churches from the Pacific Northwest gathered, bringing lay-leaders and "normal" church members together for half-a-day to focus on being encouraged and equipped to serve in the local church for the long-haul.
In a transitional part of the country like ours, digging deep and drilling down into your local church to stay, serve, love, forgive, and endure for the long-term stands as a great picture of God’s faithfulness contrasted in the, "whatever feels good for me," culture we inhabit. But to do that, we need encouragement and support.
The conference was headlined by Dave Harvey (Executive Director of Sojourn Network), a man with over three decades of history following Jesus, serving the local church, sinning, repenting, being sinned against, forgiving and walking through difficulty in the community of Christ's beloved bride. Just the resume for the kind of guy that should encourage the members of our churches.
Dave taught on steadfast faith and stubborn grace; two essentials for long-term faithfulness. Breakouts were taught by pastors from Sojourn Network churches in the Seattle-area. The 105 attendees could choose between: the importance of biblical foundation, the importance of friendship, and perseverance through trial in the church.
Men and women, young and old from every walk of life were encouraged and supported through our time together. We'll have to wait through the coming decades to experience the fruit of our time together, and that is okay because we are playing the long game here. Flash, brilliance and show fade quickly, but the long suffering work of God in the hearts of his people being used mightily to change the world through the local church is a slow burning, ever-expanding, forest fire that one day will cover the face of the earth as the glory of the Lord is revealed to all through God's chosen means, his local church filled with "normal" Christians.
Audio from the sessions can be found here www.foundationchurch.org/steadfast