Church or Conference—Which Do You Love More?
If you love Jesus, you will love His Church, plain and simple. If you have put Him at the center of your life, you will put the center of His work in this age, The Church—particularly your local church—right there as well. You will find time to go. You will find energy to give. You will find love to share. You will find lives to touch in and through your local church. You will seek solace there. You will find refreshment there. You will be edified there. You will worship there. You will love the teaching, the people, the fellowship, and the worship in your local church because that is where God has placed you.
Our church has been a blessing to our family in many ways, never more clearly seen than in times of trial, and never more keenly enjoyed than in times of blessing. That is because the church is a group of diverse people who are gifted and fitted together in this place (in our case, Allen Park, MI) for the purpose of worship, edification, fellowship, and evangelism. The more people in our body we get to know well, the more united we are to the body and the more we love what the Spirit is doing.
I hear a lot about people being blessed, challenged, and refreshed when they go away to gatherings of believers at conferences or events. I see posts on blogs and Facebook about how much individuals look forward to going away from their church to meet with believers. Whether it is Promise Keepers, Bible conferences, or crusades of times past or the T4G, Gospel Coalition, or one of various women’s conferences or issue-oriented gatherings of present Evangelicalism, many are seeking extraordinary experiences of worship, fellowship, edification and even evangelism outside of the local church. These are not bad events or organizations per se, but I think when we seek outside of the local church what God has designed the local church body to provide, they are not the best events to focus on, love, and long for either.
Without meaning to, we subtly allow the center of our affections to shift from Christ and His diversely unified body, where we have been placed, to some self-chosen idealized gathering we yearn for, experience, but cannot replicate at home. As is the case with all of what God designs, His plan is best. When we truly dig into each other’s lives in the local church, we will find some rare, diverse jewels of ongoing fellowship. We will experience some surprising experiences of worship together—corporately and personally. We will see the strangest people united to our body—people we need very badly and are taught by, but would have never chosen ourselves. We will be refreshed, and taught, and strengthened by this group, right here at home. Conferences are good, but the Church is far better!
The easy road is where the rubber isn’t touching.
While I see the place for conferences and they have been some help to me in the past, nevertheless I get wary when I see or hear of a pastor-teacher seeming to pay more attention to them than to his own sheep. The same goes for the sheep.
Excellent article Pearson! I’ve had this same thought for a while. Too often people drool over going to hear the “big names” preach at a conference, but drool (literally) when they are listening to their pastor preach at their local church. Local church should always take the precedence over a conference.