As part of my responsibility as the National Representative of the Association of College Ministries, I attend a lot of large Christian conferences to represent the ACM. This is a strange job for me since I have never been a big fan of these conferences. I often asked “What is the purpose of this conference?” Usually the answer had to do with the conference program. Having planned and directed many smaller conferences for college students I understand the importance of having a quality program, but the program alone seldom seemed to justify the cost in manhours and money to pull off a giant national or international conference. Last fall I met the Director for a large national Christian conference at a meeting planner convention. I asked him the question “What is the purpose of your conference?” His answer surprised me: “It is an opportunity we present to the Lord for Him to use as He sees fit. He has used our conference to forge friendships that He then uses in His Kingdom.”
Well said! So now I look forward to attending Christian conferences, and seeing what God is going to do within the hearts of His people while we are gathered in His name. The program is not what is important to me, the community, the relationships, the opportunity to see the Lord at work – that is what is important to me. In fact I now routinely plan time “next to” a conference or seminar — often not knowing what for — because that is likely to be God’s time more than the conference itself.
I don’t select “primary targets” with whom I plan to build relationships at a conference. Instead I am learning to depend on God to make the connections. The next time you get notice of a national Christian convention, conference, or workshop instead of just deleting it or discarding the notice ask God “Is there someone at this gathering that God can use to make me more effective is His service?”
Maybe the answer will surprise you and much as it surprised me.