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A few weekends ago, I went to the IF:Gathering here in Albuquerque. I had heard about IF years ago when Jennie Allen spoke at the Catalyst leadership conference in Atlanta, GA. From that point on I had wanted to go, so when I saw it advertised on Facebook, I wanted to sign up immediately. I invited a friend of mine and registered us as soon as I could.
IF is a Christian women’s conference with the ultimate goal of discipling a “generation of women to encounter the invisible God”. This was my first year attending, and the theme this year was perseverance, centering on 2nd Timothy. With most of these conferences they pick a different theme each year, and I would assume it’s the same with IF.
As a side note, before I get into my reflection, I think it’s important to state that conferences like this require a sacrifice. They will never be convenient, but they are worth it, especially if you are in ministry. We spend so much time pouring into others, but we have to take time to be renewed. It is worth the sacrifice, inconvenience, and time away from our ministries to renew, refocus, and make us better ministers.
There were so many amazing speakers, but to make this post a reasonable length, I’ve chosen to focus on the messages from which I had the biggest take aways.
Jo spoke about being “in the middle”, the time between when we hear God tell us something and when it comes to fruition. She gave us specific things we can do to persevere through the middle, based on what Paul had told Timothy. The strategy that hit home most with me was to not shrink our dreams. So many times in the middle we doubt what God told us and shrink what He said into a “reasonable” task/outcome, but we need to hold on in faith to that original vision.
She talked about “spiritual motherhood”, meaning how we should all be embracing our role in discipling someone else. She encouraged us to not write ourselves off from spiritual motherhood simply because we have been through trials or have struggles. In fact, us overcoming those very struggles through Christ could be exactly what someone else needs to see and hear.
Anytime this lady speaks, you better have a pen and paper ready. However, you better know some shorthand, because she lays down some wisdom, but does so with the speed and fervency of a five-year old on Christmas morning. She said two things, though, that were extremely profound for me. First, “it’s your time if you’re alive”. In other words, this is it…We don’t get another shot at this life on Earth, so we need to stop humming and hawing around wondering if the time is right for what God has put inside us. This is the only time we have! Secondly, “faith is not enough to fulfill your destiny”. We will need both faith and perseverance.
I had never heard of Bianca before IF, however I felt more kinship with her than any other speaker. Her message was about true discipleship, the idea of doing life together. She pointed out that, “you can still be alone when around other people because you are not making yourself vulnerable and available”. So many times we miss out on God’s blessings in a relationship because we are not willing to take the risk to open up.
I love this girl so much! She took a look at discipleship through the lens of her relationship with her grandmother. So first, she had us all in tears describing what that relationship was like. Then, she derived some really poignant truths from her time with her grandmother. She said that, “discipleship that lasts looks like loving them for a long time”. So we have to persevere with someone through the good and the bad. She also pointed out that, “discipleship is telling what you know, not gathering all the knowledge beforehand”. Often, we feel like we cannot disciple someone because we don’t know enough, but if we know Jesus and we have walked with him longer than the person we are discipling then we know enough. He will guide us with the knowledge we need as long as we are diligently seeking him.
Again, this was only a small sampling of the goodness overflowing from this conference. If you have never been, I would encourage you to find an IF Gathering near you next year. I know I will be returning. In the meantime, if you would like to hear more from any of the people mentioned above, check out their books listed below:
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