How to Use a Conference
Like Water Through Fingers
In the afterglow of a weekend conference you can almost bank on the intense feelings to start wearing off by about Wednesday if not earlier. If a conference is a good one, it can seem a bit disappointing to let its benefits slip through your fingers like so much water. And most of the time, we content ourselves to feel disappointed with the quick loss, rather than actually doing something to maintain the benefits of a conference.
"Improvement" and "The Use"
The English Puritans of the 17th century spent a lot of time talking about ways that they could 'improve' things. But they didn't go around thinking everything was of a faulty design. They would aim to take every experience, whether good or bad, and try to use it in some spiritually beneficial way. It is a good way of looking at things, and in the case of conferences, it should make us think again about its 'use'.
Tips for Spiritual Recycling
So you might be someone who went to the conference, enjoyed it, but are now seeing its benefits like peanut butter eaten with only the jar left behind. If you feel this way, here are some tips for spiritual recycling.
1. Listen to the talks again from the church audio page
The best way to retain what you learned at the conference is to listen to the talks again. If you wish to master the outline of Luther or Calvin's life you could listen to Dr. Trueman's talks with a pencil in hand and after listening a few times, you might have a better grasp of the Reformation timeline than your own family tree.
2. Explore the Paths Further
There are many resources available online that give further detail into the lives of Reformation figures. Pick Calvin or Luther and investigate some of their writings, sermons, and articles about their life. Use Dr. Trueman's talks as a roadmap and do some digging to read first hand what he referenced.
3. Find Recommended Books and Authors
In the Q&A times of the conference and Sunday School, books were recommended for further reading. Did you write them down? If not, go back and listen to those sessions and note the authors and books. Then you should try to track down some of them. Get the overview of church history by S.M. Houghton, or the paperback biography of Luther by Roland Bainton, or the Puritan standard, A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson. Find a book or author that appeals to you and follow up on the conference by reading some sources or summaries.
4. Find Nuggets
Pick out the 3 or 4 things that really stood out to you during the conference teaching. These are the nuggets of spiritual gold and it is important to 'mine' them. But don't leave them in a pile to be forgotten. Look at the Scriptures and church history and weigh out these nuggets.
5. Share with Others
It may seem obvious but if you find something that is spiritually beneficial to you, someone else might benefit too. Don't be afraid to share a benefit with someone from the church. Continue the conversation about how we can be 'theologians of the cross', or how the shepherd theme is traced through the bible, or what are the 'champions' in my life that compete with Christ?
Not Like Forgotten Resolutions
If you aim to 'improve' the 'use' of the conference you may feel the same atrophy of commitment as your New Year's resolutions. But now is a good time to make use of the spiritual benefits of the past, just as it's a good time to prepare to take advantage of opportunities to grow in the future. Think about this coming Sunday. Is there anything that you can do to prepare to make 'use' of the sermon? Is there anything you can plan to do now to prepare for how you will 'improve' the sermon after you hear it on Sunday.
A Spiritual Cup
As the saying goes, if you fail to plan you plan to fail. But even if your ambitions are modest, isn't it better to have a cup of water to share with others than letting the water pass through your fingers? Improving spiritual benefits will put them to good use. Then you can share them in a way that is something like a cup of cold water in Christ's name (cf. Mt 10.42)
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