The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference 2016

To register for the conference, or for more information click on the image below:

tcg2016

For the majority of my Christian walk, I would attend just about any women’s conference I could with my church. I enjoyed going with my church versus on my own because I saw it as a bonding experience among the women, a chance to fellowship, and an opportunity to retreat into worship and teaching. A few years ago, my good friend mentioned The Gospel Coalition’s conferences to me. As a church we were not going to it, I had limited funds and opportunities to get away, and there certainly wouldn’t be any group discounts on tickets or rooms for me that year. So, I turned her down despite her glowing review of the speakers and workshops.

The next year, she asked again. I said yes. I had no idea what I was setting myself up for either. This particular year was the 2014 Women’s Conference, and the speakers were going to explore the book of Nehemiah. I registered for the conference, selected my workshops and focus groups. I even received an invitation to a special writers workshop. The date approached, I was eager with anticipation at what this new conference was going to be like. There was no way that I could have known the profound impact that conference, and the following year’s conference, would have on my life.

It is my desire to share these experiences with you, as you may be sitting on the fence of decision.

The first blessing I received at the conference was watching the scales of how I was reading the scriptures fall from my eyes. I had spent too much time looking at the scriptures for “me” in the pages. I was trapped in asking how a piece of scripture applied to my life, or what it meant for me. Instead, I should have been seeking God first in His Word. It seemed so obvious. As if this was something I should have always known, but somehow missed.

Throughout the conference another friend kept coming to mind, she and her family had gone on a missions trip to Nicaragua. It was very apparent to all of us, upon their return, that a piece of their hearts was left behind. There would be comments made throughout the weekend that would draw my thoughts to this family. I would write her name down in my notes, circling tidbits I felt compelled to tell her. I would message her every night recapping these things. She would reply to my messages in excitement because the very things I was conveying to her… were the very things the Lord was laying on her husband’s heart at the same time. What a blessing to see the Lord work in such a way! He was sending her confirmation, and she wasn’t even at the conference!

As if having the scales removed from my vision of study wasn’t enough, the next blessing I would gain from the conference was attending Carrie Sandom’s two “Bible Tool Kit” workshops. The scales were gone, and the Lord was putting the tools into my hands that would enable me to see the bigger picture of the scriptures. It began a stirring in me that would push me in to deeper study and begin to shape my views on the importance of Bible literacy.

The final blessing from the conference came during the Writers Workshop. Several women who were successfully writing for their own blogs and even became published authors were available to share their experience with us. This workshop was the fire I needed to begin putting my thoughts to paper; as I began to look inside myself, the world around me, examine my faith and beliefs, and finesse my writing. This was just the catalyst for something more to come.

In 2015, I attended The Gospel Coalition Conference again, it was time for the second step in the journey. This go around, I would examine the importance of Bible literacy in more depth. There was motivation to write more, about deeper things. I would be catapulted into pursuing my Bachelors in Divinity Degree. I would pick up a copy of Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word in the Exhibition Hall, which would result in my teaching about Bible Literacy through five small group studies over the next year. Then, ultimately writing a course on Women’s Ministry for Christian Leaders Institute.

As the 2016 Women’s Conference for The Gospel Coalition approaches, I find myself growing more and more excited. I am looking forward to seeing what God is going to expose my heart to. My mind longs for the opportunity to hear from some of my favorite voices on theology. My heart longs for the continuation of this refinement in my life. This is not the conference where we get lost in the worship songs that we hear on the radio, but instead it is the one where we get lost inside the Word of God. It is truth spoken in concert from those God has called to teach and lead. It has become one of the most valuable resources for me as a place to pull away from the world, and into a congregation of believers who call to the Lord to pour more of Himself into our minds, hearts, and lives.

God is still doing a work in me. I’ve seen more growth in the last two years than ever before, and I credit that growth to those the Lord has commissioned to invest in me. These are men and women who spoke at a conference, to a room full of faces. They couldn’t know the impact their words would have on that gal, sitting somewhere in the middle, hand cramped from taking notes.

If you have found yourself on the fence, wondering if this is the conference for you… I would encourage you consider this investment. With all of the great speakers in line for the plenary sessions and the workshops being offered, this is an opportunity to let the Lord pour into you. And, who knows… perhaps your journey is about to take off!

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#Write31Days – Post 13 – When the Church Says No

tgcarticle

I was reading the above article, on the website for The Gospel Coalition.  The gist of the article was that members of the body with artistic talents are often discouraged in using their gifts within the church.  It could be an art form that is not really understood, or that the church staff don’t know how to actually include it into the service of the church.  It isn’t always that they don’t want to, they just may not know how to.

But I would challenge that is discouragement isn’t just for those who have artistic gifts, but any gift or talent that isn’t being utilized.  I have been in churches that were welcoming of gifts and talents & would utilize them if the person was willing to commit.  I’ve also been in churches that will dismiss the gifts they don’t understand or can’t seem to figure out how that gift fits in to the vision of the church.

From an artistic standpoint, I can totally understand.  As a professionally trained actress, who also has ample back stage experience,  I have offered my gift to churches in the past.  Some embraced it with open arms, others dismissed it as something not relevant.  Dismissed so quickly that I never even had the opportunity to explain that expertise.  In 2005, I directed a Christmas musical for the church we were attending at the time.  It just so happened that at one showing there was a television producer in the audience.  He loved the show, and they came back and filmed it.  They ran it every few days, where they had an empty slot, all the way through Christmas Day.

That was an exciting day for me.  Yet, too often, when I share with a church or ministry that I have a theater background they instantly want to put me in charge of a children’s production.  That is NOT my specialty, it is not my gift.  They do not understand the impact that LIVE performance can have on a group of people.  Perhaps this is because too few churches have trained professionals, maybe they haven’t enough trust in the quality or commitment.  What saddens me is to be shot down before you even get a chance to try.  The Lord blessed me with a gift, specifically a talent, one that I want to use for HIS glory.   It is sad to see it get brushed aside because someone else doesn’t “get it”.

Being dismissed and discouraged is not only an issue with the arts, but can come about in many different forms.  I watched my husband’s spirit get completely squashed by a men’s ministry leader because he made an assumption about my husband without even getting to know him.  What most don’t know about my husband is that he has the ability to talk to anyone about God.  It’s really amazing.  I envy his boldness at times.  Every day he is out among the community, doing his job, and sharing the gospel where he can.  He has prayed with people, give them encouragement, and even his own Bible if they didn’t have one.

He can do this because God gifted him in that manner.  My husband also went through Evangelism Explosion training to learn how to present the gospel to every day people in a way that they would understand.  Bringing them through the steps from accepting Christ, to getting plugged into a church, and more.  When we were married and our family was growing, a huge burden was on my husband’s shoulders.  He became lukewarm, going through the motions.  One weekend he went with a men’s ministry to a conference, and my husband was ON FIRE.  He was ready to get back on the horse.

The leader of the ministry didn’t know my husband that well.  He assumed that my husband was caught up in emotions.  Since he didn’t take the time to really listen to my husband, to ask any questions about his experience… the man quickly extinguished that fire.  My husband said “I’m ready to serve.  Where can I plug in????”

The ministry leader patted him on the shoulder and said:  “No brother, where can we serve you.”   My husband wasn’t even given the chance to share who he was, or the gift that God has given him.  To this day, my husband has not stepped forward since.  He was rejected.  Instead, he has become my biggest supporter and advocate.    Instead, he has continued to share the gospel in his every day encounters.

One church damaged my husband, and he just hasn’t recovered.  Over the years, he has had ideas for ministries where he could serve people in our church or community.  However, that inspiration is fleeting.

I believe that we have to be very cautious as a church to NOT allow our vision for the church become tunnel vision.  We must be open to see how the different gifts and talents of the body can be used in that vision.  It is easy to see things our way, within our own understanding and abilities.  It is easy to see how things ought to go and progress, and make a list of what gifts and talents are needed to move that vision forward.  It isn’t always easy to see how the gifts of others can fit into that vision, or be molded into that vision.   If we see things too black and white, we miss the many gifts that fall in the middle.

As leaders we need to be careful with the gifts and offers of service from others.  We need to not just immediately dismiss a person because at first we can’t see how their gift fits the vision.  We need to not dismiss a person as a capable kingdom worker without taking the time to get to know them.  We may be throwing away the most amazing gifts… and affecting people in ways we never realize.

This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind, accepting any and everything.  We can be judicious and gracious at the same time.

  •  Thank the person for offering their gift or talent to the church/ministry.
  • Ask them questions about their experience or training.
  • Get an idea of how they think their gift or talent could fit within the vision of the church, or help the ministry/community.
  • Take some time to really think about the conversation, pray about it.  Is there room for this ministry idea?  If not, is there an existing ministry that we can plug this person into that fulfills their desire to serve with their gift.
  • Follow up with the person, and be honest.  If you are not sure how it fits the vision, talk to them about it.  They may see something you don’t.  If now isn’t the right time, agree to revisit it in 3 – 6 months.  If you require more information, ask for it and take the time to review it.
  • If this is a brand new member of the church, and you are uncertain of commitment, have them go through the new members class and plug into a small group.  Let them know you want to get to know them better, and let them get acquainted with the church first.  Then you can talk ministry work.