Why I Attend Conferences

Innocently, Thursday evening, my wife asked me a question…

Global Leadership SummitWhat is this conference you are attending all about?

Innocently, true, but the reality behind the question is why I read good books, take college courses, and teach at church and college. These conferences and experiences challenge me to improve. Better tomorrow as a result of time investment today.

The conference on my radar this week is the Global Leadership Summit scheduled and fostered by Willow Creek Community Church on the outskirts of Chicago. Pastor Bill Hybels started the church over 40 years ago after feeling the challenge from a college professor on what an Acts 2 Church would look like. Instead of entering his family business, Bill entered into ministry and on many fronts his church has an Acts 2 Ministry to the world.

But this has not been my only conference. We have attended several Dave Ramsey one day seminars over the years, but a few years ago I attended Dave Ramsey’s conference in Nashville as he started an outreach of his business to Pastors and Ministry leaders. This was a blessing, as Max Lucado spoke several times and I’ve always enjoyed his books.

I have been to Church Growth, Church Finances, Leadership and Managing, and a host of church related conferences. Some have been spot on, and others I went home feeling strangely let down. I’ve been to a Zig Ziglar event in Seattle and a host of speakers challenged 40,000 people that they can do better! I have taken webinar classes that cover the spectrum of possibility, and even though many of them were simply trying to sell a product, I have learned from each presentation some keys on what works, and what doesn’t!

At Global this year, conference speakers included notables and strangers. Thursday it included Melinda Gates and Alan Mulally. Friday will include T.D. Jakes and John Maxwell. A dozen speakers in all, including those remote ministries and outreaches in not so privileged countries, Business people. Authors. Challengers. Pastors. It ran the gauntlet of people, cultures and countries. This conference had nearly 600 simultaneously broadcasted locations with nearly 200,000 in attendance. They have an app, hash tag, social media accounts, books, handouts and all kinds of things to connect the audience to the speaker.

My thanks to Evergreen Christian Center for hosting the local broadcasting! Free coffee and snacks, along with hospitable people made it an enjoyable place. I even connected with a pastor friend from Alaska who as relocated to Washington to assume the reigns of another church!

Through the years I have been blessed to be a part of many secular conferences and meetings that lined up with my career in Information Technology, and with the industries I worked in – Banking, Oil & Gas, and Education. Add to that the other businesses I’ve worked in and you could say I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to expand my horizons.

This is crucial. Expanding my horizons. I’ve found that if you listen to the same old voices speak the same old messages, then you do not see beyond your reach. It is like entering the library. Instead of going to that some old section time and again hoping the selection changes, you instead begin looking through all the other sections and finding books that challenge your knowledge and quench your desire to know more.

I loved Stephen W Hawking’s book, “A Brief History of Time” and though I’ve read it a number of times I’m sure I know not one iota of measurable knowledge anymore today than when he published it several decades ago and I read it for the first time! Still, I will pick it up and work hard on gleaning some knowledge from a man I will never meet who has a mind like I can only speculate about. 

Essentially, there is no ending to this process. You never learn everything there is to know, and those things that open up the windows of knowledge only point to more things you never knew you didn’t know!

Some things are beneficial. Others are not. It all depends on your situation. And you need to be able to determine what’s good for you. And what’s not.

This was probably part of the problem with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They knew the tree in the middle was the “tree of knowledge” of good and evil, but it was outside of their reach. Leave it alone. But we know the story. They partook.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.  (Genesis 3:6-7 NKJV)

I’m sure this was something better left alone! There was so much more they knew nothing about that encircled them in the garden. They could have spent their lifetime getting to know everything else!

I want to be like that stair step of knowledge that Peter spoke about in his letter.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. (2 Peter 1:2-9 NKJV)

Peter tells us to continue to add to our toolbox those things that help us to abound so that we will never be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of Jesus. If you lack these things then you are shortsighted, and even led to blindness.

So, find opportunities to expand your horizons. Read a lot. Study. Write postings about it. Find someone new to connect with. Sharpen yourself with their perspective.

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