Christian conferences are powerful experiences. The cumulative effect of getting away from your daily grind, blending with new parts of the Body of Christ, singing your heart out to the Lord, and receiving a concentrated dose of God’s word can make a deep impression on you. Sure you can always get the audio later, but getting the audio will never impact you like getting there live. Audio can’t compete with atmosphere. There’s something about being there that changes you.
Jesus Himself knew the importance of conferences. That’s why He often pulled away from the crowds and went up to a mountain with a group of disciples. Not everyone paid the price to climb the mountain with Jesus, but those who did certainly were impacted. The Gospel of Matthew records 4 mountaintop experiences (Matt 5:1; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16). Those times were strategic and intentional. We know they left their mark on the disciples, not only because (obviously) Matthew thought to record those times, but because Peter, decades later, was still clearly impacted. You can hear it in his voice:
We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we became eyewitnesses of that One’s majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, a voice such as this being borne to Him by the magnificent glory: This is My Son, My Beloved, in whom I delight. And this voice we heard being borne out of heaven while we were with Him in the holy mountain. (2 Pet 1:16-18)
Peter is referring back to Matthew 17, when Jesus was transfigured. His superlatives are still dripping with their original impressions—power, presence, majesty, honor, glory, magnificence. This is the description of someone who was there live. Peter was an eyewitness. He had a first hand experience of seeing and hearing. Interestingly enough, the only requirement for picking the replacement for Judas in Acts chapter 1 was first hand experience, not brains or brawn. They needed someone who could say, “I was there.”
And yet, even the most powerful and life-changing conference fades. Often, within days, the fire has started to cool. We get back into our normal routine and the humdrum wagon ruts in which we live our lives—the same long commute to work, the same exhausting assignments, the same friendship drama—these all seem such a far cry from the passionate high of the conference. We were certain the Lord was going to come back in that meeting! We talked about turning ages and now I’m back to turning in homework.
Every conference, as great as it is, must end. They often end surprisingly fast—Jesus is transfigured, we hear the voice out of heaven, and then the whole thing is over and we’re trudging back down the mountain. At the bottom of the mountain, the glory is gone and the struggle is back on. When the disciples came down from the mount of transfiguration, they met a demon possessed man (Matt 17:9-20). Sound familiar?
I’ve always remembered the application of these verses that Witness Lee makes:
When we get out of the sphere of the transfiguration, out of the atmosphere of the manifestation of the kingdom, we face the power of darkness outside the kingdom… During an inspiring conference or training, we may have the sense that we are on the mount of transfiguration. However, when we return home, we realize that the power of darkness is still all around us.
In other words, things are back to normal. How are we to go on after such an awesome conference that has so definitely ended? What is the proper response to all that we have seen and heard, with all the impressions we received?
I thought of four points that may help. We should have a threefold response, in three directions, with one overarching realization.
1. Return to thank God
Luke 17:11-19 records the story of Jesus cleansing ten lepers. All ten lepers are sent away to the priest and, on the way, all are cleansed. The story ends like this:
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, glorifying God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answered and said, Were not the ten cleansed? But the nine, where are they? Were none found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner? (Luke 17:15-17)
Our first response after a great conference should be to return to God to thank and glorify Him. Before anything else we recognize God as the source. “Lord, thank You for showing me Your economy! Thank You for Your all-inclusive death on the cross! I praise You that you are the great I am! Thank You for filling me with the Spirit!” We should incorporate the points of truth from the conference into our praise life and forget temporarily if we have experienced these things or not. This is not only liberating for us, it is satisfying to God. This is a great way to extend the conference into the next week. Don’t let the conference just slip away. Get back into what was spoken and speak it as praise to God.
2. Go tell others
The first point is a “vertical” response. This one is “horizontal”. When we go to great conferences, we should tell others what happened.
In Mark 5, Jesus casts out a legion of demons from a man. A legion was the basic Roman military unit of roughly 5,000 soldiers. So this was a pretty big experience to say the least. The man’s life is literally changed. This is what Jesus tells him:
Go to your house, to your own people, and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you. (Mark 5:19)
When the Lord operates in our life, He also sends us to tell others about it. We should realize that as loud and clear as God spoke to us at the conference, it was only heard by a tiny portion of the world. Don’t be a “to me, for me” Christian. Paul said that the grace of God is given “to me, for you” (Eph 3:2). Don’t be a cul-de-sac to the Lord’s dispensing. Food is taken in through one small part of the body, but it is for the whole. The Lord allows us to hear things so that we would share them with others. This is to testify—to tell others how we were personally affected and changed.
We should go to our “own people.” If we are in college, we should tell people in our class or our study group what the Lord did in us at the conference. We should not accost them with points of doctrine. Rather, we should give a testimony and specifically include our realization, “The Lord had mercy on me.” This is powerful. This is another way to extend the conference into your daily life and prevent it from fading.
3. Practice what you have heard, mixing it with faith
The first response is in relation to God, the second response is in relation to others, and this third response is in relation to ourselves. We should practice what we have heard at the conference. Don’t let the conference remain a collection of perfectly crafted quotes for Twitter. Look to the Lord for how to practice it. Agere sequitur credere—action follows belief!
The things which you have also learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:9)
If you heard a message on morning revival, don’t just remember the points and learn how to share them with someone, start practicing it! Ask yourself, “Does my life match what I heard this weekend?” The Christian life is not a matter of abstract concepts for the mind only. It must consist of concrete paths for the feet.
However, as we endeavor to practice what we heard, we should always remember another verse:
For indeed we have had the good news announced to us, even as they also; but the word heard did not profit them, not being mixed together with faith in those who heard. (Heb 4:2)
We are often discouraged by our current level of success in practice and the standard we perceive in God’s speaking. We need to mix the word we heard with faith, otherwise it won’t profit us. To hear is not sufficient; we must believe. In other words, we should believe that what God has spoken to us and impressed us with, He is fully intending to do in us. God’s word never returns to Him void (Isa 55:11). We should not remain in the despair of our temporary struggle or weakness. Just like Abraham, we should be “fully persuaded that what He has promised He is able also to do” (Rom 4:21). This faith will empower us, encourage us, and will substantiate the divine facts of God’s word in our experience.
Watchman Nee says:
All temptation is primarily to look within; to take our eyes off the Lord and to take account of appearances. Faith is always meeting a mountain, a mountain of evidence that seems to contradict God’s Word, a mountain of apparent contradiction in the realm of tangible fact—of failures in deed, as well as in the realm of feeling and suggestion—and either faith or the mountain has to go. They cannot both stand. But the trouble is that many a time the mountain stays and faith goes. That must not be. If we resort to our sense to discover the truth, we shall find Satan’s lies are often enough true to our experience; but if we refuse to accept as binding anything that contradicts God’s Word and maintain an attitude of faith in Him alone, we shall find instead that Satan’s lies begin to dissolve and that our experience is coming progressively to tally with that Word.
4. Be content with ordinary days under the divine dispensing
Finally, we need to realize that as good as conference highs may be, they are not our daily experience. Every day is not fireworks. God intends it this way. We should be content with ordinary days under God’s divine dispensing. We should realize that, often, God does His surest work in the quietest times, right when it seems like nothing is happening.
Zechariah, a man who helped in the long task of rebuilding the temple, said something very encouraging:
Who has despised the day of small things? (Zech 4:10)
We shouldn’t despise those days when it seems like nothing is happening. God works little by little, at the speed of life. The conference may be good for revival, infusion, inspiration, and vision, but the real work will be carried out by the Spirit of reality, calmly and quietly deep within our spirit, often times without us even realizing that it’s happening.
So yes, the conference is over, but the points and impressions can live on and become deeply constituted into us through practicing these four points.