Lessons from a Conference Twenty Years Later
In February 1992 I attended a conference near the Toronto airport. The conference was called Ministry 2000, and it took place so long ago that I can’t find anything about it on the Internet. It was one of the first ministry conferences I ever attended.
I just came across the notes. It’s like discovering a Christian ministry time capsule twenty years later.
It’s interesting to reflect on this conference after a couple of decades. Here are some thoughts.
- Conferences are ephemeral. It would be difficult to measure the impact of this conference on my life. I remember only three things about the conference, and I’m not sure that the conference made much of a difference in my ministry. I’m guessing most conferences are like this: good at the time, but it’s very difficult to measure the impact.
- People remember what excites you. I can’t remember much of what was said at the conference, but I can clearly remember two things. Bill Hybels got down to business right away about the priority of evangelism, and Bruce Wilkinson was very excited about application in sermons. I have mixed feelings at best about Wilkinson’s talk, but it’s true what D.A. Carson says: people don’t remember what you teach; they remember what excites you.
- Things haven’t changed as much as we think they have. Twenty years later, I had a hard time finding anything that doesn’t apply to today, whether on evangelism, cultural analysis, or critique of Christian culture. I’m a little surprised, because this was supposed to be a conference addressing the needs of that day. Perhaps the issues and principles don’t change as much as we think they do.
- I paid no attention to the speaker I needed to hear the most. I was shocked to come across notes from a session with Dr. James Boice. For the past decade, I’ve wished I could have heard Dr. Boice before he died. It turns out that I did, but had completely forgotten. Reading over my notes, I think I know why. He had nothing to say that was new. What he said, however, has crucial. He spoke of the priority of the Word and the need to resist the pressure to capitulate to our culture of entertainment:
It’s the Word of God that has the power, along with the Spirit....What new tricks will Paul pull out for these troubled days? What he always had: the Word of God. We don’t regard the Word as highly as we should.
It turns out that the session I remember least is the one that I needed to remember the most. I wish I had paid more heed to one of the least novel ideas expressed at that conference, and one of the most important.