For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother,
because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. —Philemon 1:7 (ESV)
When was the last time you left a conference with your heart refreshed? Can you think of leaving a seminar or educational event with your soul screaming “give me more, give me more”? Yeah, me neither. That was until early March of this year when I attended the Converge “Pursuing Jesus First in Life and Ministry” conference.
Those who know me, know that I straddle what I call my worlds of “law and grace.” I’m a part time attorney and in part time ministry. To keep my law license up to date, I am required to take a certain amount of CLE classes (continuing legal education) every three years. The legal courses are helpful to my law practice and educational, but, how do I say it, often BOR—ING. Sometimes I complete the courses being more exhausted than when I started it despite learning some helpful law and tools to use. Usually, I hear the word “conference” and grab a pillow while my eyes glaze over.
During the beginning of this conference, however, our very own elder here at the Ridge and Executive Director of Pastor care for Converge, Chris Van Inwagen, got up on stage during the leaders’ luncheon and read the Philemon verse above. He then told the room of Pastors and leaders that this is what they did. They “refreshed the hearts” of their congregations and he thanked them for it. His words were very encouraging to us. And, probably without knowing it at the time, his words were a bit prophetic as well because refreshing is just what God had in mind for the next couple days for those who attended.
The first day of the conference we heard from the Utah team planting churches to share the grace of Jesus in an overwhelmingly Mormon state and Wyoming leaders planting churches in a “hard country with hard people.” We met a messianic Jewish Pastor with his recently married Cuban wife who was moving to Colorado to reach the Jewish people for Jesus—Messiah. We also met the pastor of a Colorado Filipino church who reaches many people in that community online and in person with their native tongues. We heard a powerful message on prayer and learned how to develop Godly volunteers who develop more volunteers. Later that evening we had some great worship time and met the Colorado church planting and merger team who provided inspiration and some belly laughs with their humor.
Friday evening was the “main event” with Converge’s first African American president in its long history—Dr. John Jenkins. His new presidency of our church planting organization was the reason I was attracted to this conference in the first place. The gentleman who introduced Dr. Jenkins quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and said that Dr. Jenkins was picked to lead our church movement not because of the color of his skin, but because of the content of his character. True to main event form he delivered a knock-out message and his vision with energy and passion. While preaching he said we didn’t say “Amen” enough during messages, but he would teach us how. We laughed at his humor and learned to say it more as he reminded us throughout his message.
I left Friday evening alive and full of the Holy Spirit. God was on the move in our movement and Dr. Jenkins, and we could feel it.
The next morning, I woke up with the song “House of the Lord” by Phil Wickham playing in my head. It repeated over and over in my mind until I just decided to get up and sing it out loud as I made breakfast and a cup of coffee:
“There’s joy in the house of the Lord
There’s joy in the house of the Lord today
And we won’t be quiet
We shout out Your praise”
I arrived on the second day of the conference just as it started and, what do you know, the first song the worship team played was “House of the Lord!” It was a great time of worship.
Dr. Jenkins delivered another fantastic message and there were more “Amens” and “Preach” coming from the crowd than the night before. There was joy in the room, and we weren’t quiet. After his message and before the breakout sessions, I was able to meet Dr. Jenkins to thank him for his leadership and excellent preaching. He was a gracious and thoughtful man.
Then it was off to our choice of several break-out sessions. I chose “Preaching in the 2020s” led by the host church Pastor, Matt Wolf. It was a great session and I soaked up as much as I could since I’m nervously getting ready to preach in the near future. Sitting down before the session, I noticed Dr. Jenkins sitting in front of me. “Dr. Jenkins” I said, “I’m surprised to see you here since you don’t need any help preaching!” He laughed out loud and turned to me with a big smile and declared “We can all learn something.” True. I should have said “Amen” but forgot! I’m still learning.
Rewind with me back to Saturday morning singing “House of the Lord” by Phil Wickham and the very talented Arise Church worship team. I’m worshipping next to Pastor Marcus Mackey who has been working with Aspen Ridge Church and is now planting the Grace Hills Community Church in Indian Hills, Colorado. I look at the worship team on stage and those around me and am in awe of what I see and sense. It’s a scene I don’t often see, and it was refreshing.
Filipinos next to former Mormons. Blacks and whites with raised hands of praise. Gentiles and messianic Jews singing at the top of their lungs. “There’s Joy in the House of the Lord, there’s Joy in the House of the Lord today! And we won’t be quiet, we shout out your Praise!” I couldn’t help but think this was a glimpse of heaven as described by John in Revelation 7:9. A magnificent picture of “every tribe, every tongue, and every nation” pursuing Jesus first now and into eternity! Sing with me:
“We were the beggars
Now we’re royalty
We were the prisoners
Now we’re running free
We are forgiven, accepted
Redeemed by His grace
Let the house of the Lord sing praise”
And let me be clear, pursuing Jesus first is no boring church service. Not even close to religious rule keeping or a ritualistic rite of passage with people falling asleep in the pews. This is get up on your feet and party! Duty dissolves into delight. A party above all parties for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. A fun festival of food, praise, laughter, and dare I say, a bit of boogie. Pure Joy in the House of the Lord. Amen and Amen!
If you’ve read this blog and agree or want to say “let it be” text me an AMEN (720-380-5781). You know you don’t say it enough!
Peace and Joy be with you,
Director of Small Groups