I’m not often a conference guy. I know some guys who would probably go to every church-related conference under the sun if schedule and wallet allowed, but that’s not me. I go to one, maybe two conferences a year—and I gotta say that I really like the one that has been on my schedule three years running now.
In 2014, Midwestern Seminary launched their For the Church conference (complete with a change in school motto and website: ftc.co, which has many useful resources). I’ve been each year, and each year I’ve been able to convince more friends to come with me. There is just something awesome about a seminary chapel packed full of pastors, students, and others, singing together to God and being encouraged through scriptural expositions and admonitions.
They had their 3rd annual For the Church conference this past Monday and Tuesday. Went along with four friends, and it was great.
But why go to conferences—whether you’re a guy who likes to go to as many as you can get away with or whether you’re like me and limit it to one or maybe two a year? A few answers:
First, you need the fellowship. How often do we pastors get locked away in our offices, writing sermons or blog posts, reading books, doing counseling, and other “pastoral duties”? All of that is well and good and part of the job, but we also need fellowship. We need to share space and breathe air with other pastors young and old, small church and large. We need that time around other brothers who will encourage us and just plain ol’ hang out with us. During the conference, I got to have a couple of dinners with pastor-friends and the second day rode the hour up and hour back in a car with a good pastor-friend. It’s a time to let the guard down and soak up being around other brothers in Christ who work the same jobs, deal with the same issues, have the same struggles, and need the same friendship.
Second, you need the spiritual food. Yes, sometimes pastoring can be hard when you’re trying to save a marriage through counseling, walk a family through death, or confront the sin of an unrepentant heart. Sometimes you get that criticism from another person who doesn’t see everything that goes on yet somehow concludes that you’re not really doing your job to its fullest. Most days aren’t like this. Most days are quite enjoyable (I do get paid to spend time with Jesus and then share what I’ve gained with others). Yet, even with these other things in mind, if I had one thing that I would call a “major downer” of being a pastor (especially the only pastor in a small-to-average-sized church), it would be that you don’t get too many chances to be fed the word of God through another person.
Oh, sure, we have our books and our podcasts and our favorite preachers to listen to on Bott Radio Network; but there is something intrinsically edifying about being able to make actual eye-contact with someone who is expounding the word of God. We answer the call to do it for our churches most weeks out of the year. So who feeds us? Who encourages us with the word? Conferences can be a great place for us to sit, listen, and be fed.
Third, you need “free” books. Okay, so not every conference out there does this, but many give away free books. I put the bolded “free” in quotes because we know the economic realities—either they are paid for (at least partially) in attendance fees, by sponsors, or by generous donors. I got four free books and a free Bible at this year’s FTC, and last year I think it was five. Somebody paid for them, but if I would have bought them in the store, I would have paid more than my ticket for FTC.
And let’s face it—I’m going to buy books, lots of books, throughout the year and you probably are to. So might as well haul in some free ones at a place where you can fellowship and be fed the word.
In conclusion… If you’re a conference goer already (whether to a bunch or to just a few), then great. If not, then take the time and find at least one conference that piques your interest, make the time, and go. And if you want, super-early-bird registration is already open for For the Church 2017: www.mbts.edu/ftc17.
Image credit ~ book cartoon: adam4d.com instagram feed