I am leaving with my Fusion crew this morning and heading back to Minneapolis after three very full days of passionate, rich worship and compelling, life-altering preaching. I feel as though I have met God afresh here in Louisville. This is what conferences like this are meant to be. This has been a feast.
Ironically, today I read the following quote in J.C. Ryle’s book, Holiness, which I picked up at the conference. It has everything to do with what will become of this conference “experience” once we return to Minneapolis. Ryle writes,
“It is easy to get crowds together for what are called ‘higher life’ and ‘consecration’ meetings. Anyone knows that, who has watched human nature and read descriptions of American camp-meetings and studied the curious phenomena of the ‘religious affections.’ Sensational and exciting addresses by strange preachers…loud singing, hot rooms, crowded tents, the constant sight of strong semi-religious feeling in the faces of all around you for several days, late hours, long protracted meetings, public profession of experience – all this kind of thing is very interesting at the time and seems to do good. But is the good real, deeply-rooted, solid, and lasting? That is the point. And I would like to ask a few questions about it.
“Do those who attend these meetings become more holy, meek, unselfish, kind, good-tempered, self-denying and Christ-like at home? Do they become more content with their position in life, and more free from restless cravings after something different from that which God has given them? Do fathers, mothers, husbands and other relatives and friends find them more pleasant and easy to live with? Can they enjoy a quiet Sunday and quiet means of grace without noise, heat and excitement? Above all, do they grow in charity…?
“I cannot withhold a growing suspicion that the great ‘mass-meetings’ of the present day, for the ostensible object of promoting spiritual life, do not tend to promote private home religion, private Bible reading, private prayer, private usefulness, and private walking with God. If they are of any real value, they ought to make people better husbands and wives and fathers and mothers and sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and masters and mistresses and servants. But I would like to have clear proofs that they do. I only know it is far easier to be a Christian among singing, praying, sympathizing Christians in a public room, than to be a consistent Christian in a quiet, retired, out-of-the-way, uncongenial home. …[But] if they do good, I am thankful” (xiii-xiv).
I think Ryle overstates his case a bit (or I wouldn’t have come to Na 2007!), but his point is crucial. Will what has happened here have any effect on our living once we return to “life-as-usual”? I desperately want to believe that what I have seen here, both in myself and in my friends, is real and lasting. I desperately want to believe that what I have set myself to do and be and not do and be here in Louisville I will, in practice, become. I desperately want to believe that what we have experienced here will not hinder my ministry as my people quickly realize that their church does not have endless resources to pour into the music ministry, and that their shepherd is a woefully inadequate preacher in comparison to C.J. Mahaney, John Piper and the rest.
I do believe that these things will be realized, but I believe it will only happen as we partake in community together – as we continually “stir one another up to love and good deeds,” and, moreover, that it will only happen by God’s grace, for which I am pleading with Him this morning.