Leaving Rows of Chairs to Live Out Life…Face to Face

Last Thursday I shared some thoughts about the cultural shift from face-to-face care and support to looking for “hugs” from our computers.

This weekend I got to experience the joy of real face time firsthand. I attended The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference here in Orlando. It was a powerful time of teaching and worship led by Keith and Kristyn Getty. I heard messages by John Piper, Don Carson, Tim Keller, Nancy Leigh DeMoss and others. (Those messages will be available at no cost at TGC’s website soon: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org.) I was intensely inspired by women teachers — young and old, single and married, seminary professors and stay-at-home moms — whose messages were fueled by a contagious and robust commitment to studying theology and living in community where biblical truth is lived out. I want to be like them.

The rich and inspiring messages were powerful. The wonderful worship led by the Getty’s and their awesome band (including a violin, recorder, upright bass and accordion…I loved it!) was refreshing. But the sweet fellowship encouraged and inspired me as well.

One man said that Christian fellowship is when one believer shares what God is doing in his or her life with another believer. So simple!

This can happen in a brief chat in the hallway or during a lengthy heart-to-heart conversation over coffee or a meal. I enjoyed both this weekend:

  • I had lunch with a friend I’ve known for nearly 25 years who has been going through some weighty trials in her marriage. She admitted how hard the past three years has been, the heartache over wondering if she could continue to endure due to her husband’s lack of progress, the hopelessness and anger and sorrow…all leading to God’s faithfulness to bring hope and recent progress! I was able to thank her for her godly example during this season of suffering and encourage her desire to pursue repentance for things God has used this trial to reveal in her own heart. (One of the fruits of trials is how God uses them to gently and lovingly bring dross to the surface of our hearts. Such a gift!) What a joy to benefit from the life and example of this friend…face to face.
  • I was able to greet a godly woman whose ministry has benefitted me for years

    who I know has also been going through a lengthy season of difficulty and transition in her husband’s ministry. I thought to email her…but then decided to wait and look into her eyes to tell her I had been praying for her for the past year.

  • I unexpectedly saw the mutual friend of one of my dearest and closest friends who is also walking through a series of breathtaking trials in her family. Only God could have arranged for us to “happen” upon one another at a conference of 35oo women! It brought comfort to my heart to receive her hug, hear of her warm affection for our friend, and to also hear she and her husband will be with my friend and her husband this week to extend care and love. I can’t be there…but this woman can.  How kind of God to arrange that encounter.
  • I had dinner with some Redeemer Girls (ladies from our church who attended the conference) and heard what the Lord was stirring in their hearts through the messages and worship. As the oldest woman at the table, I loved observing their humility. Excitement about hearing biblical truth. Joy in buying books about godly womanhood, marriage, parenting, children’s ministry and theology. And I was inspired by their discerning and insightful questions about some of what they were hearing. How I love them.
  • And then, on the drive home with one of my New Girls (a daughter-in-law), I was moved to tears by some brief yet warmly heartfelt words of encouragement she shared with me in our driveway. Icing on the cake after a spiritually invigorating weekend.

Yesterday morning I skipped the final session of the conference to be with Redeemer Church. Something in my heart drew me back to the people with whom I’m walking out life. I want to take the things I learned and make them real. To apply the gospel in real-life relationships. To demonstrate the infectious love for sound doctrine and the humility I observed at this conference in normal life with fellow sinners. The Gettys weren’t leading worship and Don Carson wasn’t preaching. But Kyle and Benny did a great job. I was glad to be home with my church.

Sitting in rows hearing teaching and entering into worship is a precious gift from God. But that’s not all there is to being a Christian. When the teaching and worship is over we leave conference hotel or church building — or, in the case of our new little church, the Martial Arts Studio! — and live it all out face to face.

If not, how do we know if we’re really getting it?