Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sacrifice your Seat at the Sold Out Conference

Just exploring an idea...

You know the new form of Corinthian Hoo-Haa: Chasing after 'great' preachers, always linking to them, forming fan-clubs on Facebook, downloading and listening to the back catalog of every online sermon of your favorite preacher, sometimes just to hear what all the talk is about. This is especially real here in the US, since we are entering what one blogger called: "The Conference season."

I am on the record as being nervous about Christian Fan-Clubs, unless it is a fan-club for Selwyn Sexton. I base that on Paul's warnings in his two surviving letters to the starry-eyed Corinthians. (Of course, I think that most well-known preachers would certainly *not* want you to join their Fan-Club. They are mostly humble men who want to draw attention away from themselves.)

The reason that Christian people often give for this (following, downloading, quoting, loving, promoting) is that the gospel is being preached in a fresh and relevant way, and that lives are therefore being saved and changed.

And I, too, love that the gospel being preached in a fresh way. And I, too, yearn for lives to be changed.


Praise God.

Here is a genuine idea, then, that hopefully combines your love for the Gospel, together with the challenge of sacrificial love. Here is an idea that I think captures the way of the Cross. Here is an idea that kind of tests whether our behavior is Corinthian:
If you have a hot ticket to a Christian conference with a gifted communicator, why not give up your seat to a non-believer? A not-yet-believer? Let's say that the conference you want to attend is completely sold out. Would you sacrifice your seat for a person who was not yet a Christian?
This is a genuine question. And I don't want it to be theoretical. If you think that this is right and godly, you could very easily contact the conference organizers, and say that your ticket is available if such a person contacted their office. Or let that be known in your church. You can get the Downloads afterwards.

I don't want to spoil a party or anything. I love going to these conferences too. But am I right that this could that be a gospel way forward?

Pic on Flickr by Alistairh.


Stan said...

This is very much true, Justin. I think at the core, it is not even about the personality around whom these people flock it is the comfort of having a community around this unifying element.

"Hey, do you LOOOOOVE John Edwards? I LOOOOOVE John Edwards too! Let's get tacos!"

"Hey, isn't John Piper like the best theologian EVAH?!?!!1! Yah, totally brah. He's such an awesome guy. Let's play video games."

And it's ludicrous because all of this is ignoring the one person who had the right to start a personality cult around himself, Jesus.

Justin said...

Now *that* is an interesting observation, Stan. Very interesting.

I wondered in posting this whether someone might feel compelled to give up a seat at a conference, and then regret it later. Part of me thinks -- don't worry, the downloads will be available etc.

But the reason that people would regret it is that they missed the *experience* of it; the 'comfort of community' as you say; that they were part of something that sold out etc.

But that having been said -- our unity and joy ought to be found in Jesus, not something or someone else. Good call.

And besides, if a conference helps someone pass from death to life, they can have my ticket!

Christopher said...

The reason that Christian people often give for this (following, downloading, quoting, loving, promoting) is that the gospel is being preached in a fresh and relevant way, and that lives are therefore being saved and changed.

I think another reason people follow various preachers (all of whom are pretty much the same) is that it gives them an 'authority by association'.

"If X is right, and I am his number one fan, then ipso facto I am also right."

Obviously people won't readily admit to this but I think it plays a big part - especially in certain Christian circles where being theologically pure is imperative.

Goldy said...

I wonder if it's not a new kind of Pharisaism. A link between Stan & Chris' views.
I have met X amount of Christians who seem to be more interested in debating theology with Christians than sharing the good news with those who haven't yet heard.
I've been told that I can't be "Capital 'R' Reformed" because I don't know if I'd call myself a strict 5 point Calvinist. People want to be part of a community & they want to think that being part of that community makes them right, or superior. heck, you don't even have to read the institutes, as long as you tick a 5-point box!

Hmmm, now I am getting so riled up I want to blog about it myself... I'll have to see how I go...

Nice one Justin.

John Forsyth said...

Totally agree Judd,

When we 'follow the leader' rather than christ then we are in danger of creating a cult based on personality.

I was chatting to a mum at school who told me that if her pastor left the church she was at, she would leave too, and go to the church he was going to.

So are we listening to these guys to become their disciples? Or are we listening to them in order to better become Jesus disciples?

Hopefully the latter.

Btw, I am still downloading all your sermons and joining all your fan clubs ;P

mandy malone said...


and is there a bit of "let the big guys do the thinking/growing for me" ??

- what my favourite leader believes/does I do too

Can we ever get to a point of being able to say our views on various issues, theology, the way we do ministry AND THE INSPRITATION TO FOLLOW JESUS is based ENTIRELY on:

- an open bible, an independant mind, and the Spirit...???
(plus a cup of coffee!)

was it george mueller who grew with the Bible ONLY? even throwing out all the favourite commentaries!!!

so, could we take it a step further and say "Have the guts to not 'buy the ticket' in the first place" and try having a personal faith?? :)

maybe asking honestly "who do I trust in?" is more scary than originally thought!

Ali said...

Hi Justin,
I am with you in principle, and I happen to have a spare ticket (maybe - I am trying to coax someone into coming) to a sold-out conference, but I don't know that many of these conferences are actually pitched at non-believers, or would be the best thing to bring them to - I'd imagine they'd be totally lost in much of the content. But you can talk me around on that one ...

Pete said...

I am glad I went to a big conference last year, but I didn't really like the whole crowd thing, and I liked the whole format of the uni conferences (and even missionary society ones) better.

Then again, at the moment I have a ticket for the next one of the same type, we will see what the best use of it is, but I hope God uses it well.

James said...

It was the main reason I didn't go on 'Engage' conference last year :)

Just jokes.

A very important post, J-Man. I often find it strange the amount people talk about downloading certain preachers sermons.



sam said...

i got tickets to ENGAGE. i take it this is what you are talking about Justin?! But not giving up the tickets. Reason: people in Newy rarely get to be part of something big and Evangelical and we're trying to build a core of people who will be at ENGAGE last year. Last year we plugged it hard. And a few went. This year the word of mouth factor meant that more people signed up. and hopefully next year there'll hopefully be more again no matter who is speaking. My only beef with the whole thing is that all the speakers from OS are jackin up the price of a weekend conference. I am a fan of your anti-cult like attitude to our Christian leaders but the experience of community with one another is what we're trying to build here in Newy and ENGAGE is the conference we locked into...

Justin said...

Sounds like a plan to me, Mr Hilton!

I'm just getting people to mull it over. Me included.

Have a *great* weekend.

sam said...

yes... sorry! wasn't trying to be antagonistic. It's a funny thing in Newy. As i have plugged the conference with people in my Bible study group (who are mostly new to our church) and have dropped names of speakers they look at me strangely as if to say, "are their names meant to ring a bell".

At the same time the whole ticket fiasco felt like i was buying tickets to a U2 concert and could almost expect them to be on sale on e-bay. Lol. I wonder if they are?