"Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of that city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."
-- Jeremiah 29:5-7, ESV
When, Annie Lobert, former prostitute and founder of the ministry "Hookers for Jesus," got up and testified of God's radical, life-changing love in her life, I knew the IF:Gathering wasn't going to be your Mama's average church tea. She didn't tout easy answers or cliche platitudes -- just passionate love for a God who could sweep in and absolutely change your life. I didn't know what to expect from the rest of the conference, but there was no doubt -- I was hooked.
As Jennie Allen, Jen Hatmaker, Christine Caine and a host of others took the stage, any residual doubt dissolved, birthing a sense of community its place. There were actually other women out there with the same kind of spiritual hunger pangs that I had. There was a generation of women who desired to drop all the charading, parading and pontificating and replace such hollow actions with authentic, passionate, grace-filled love.
This group gathered with the express intent of equipping and unleashing "the next generation of women to live out their purpose." That felt like water to my weary soul.
The icing on the cake? IF's tantalizing tagline: "If God is real, then what...?" Such profound (and convicting) ramifications if we actually seek to put legs on that one.
IF's momentum is attracting more than just those whose skin has not yet known the affects of "the fall." Women of all shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities are coming together for one reason -- to seek Jesus and unleash His Kingdom here on earth. A Kingdom of healing and reconciliation, understanding and relationship, respect and love.
What could that mean for our city, our neighborhoods?
Apparently we 'Writing in Pencil' gals live in what's "affectionately" known as the Christian capital of the the nation. The Christian Mecca, if you will. In fact, in a 2005 report, National Public Radio described Colorado Springs as a "booming city that's home to more than 100 evangelical Christian organizations." And that was 10 years ago. You'd think we would have this community thing nailed.
In the piece titled, "Mecca for Evangelical Christians," NPR went on to interview a high profile local Pastor who claimed that Colorado Springs was, "ripe for a spiritual transformation." (I'm sure those of you who already considered yourselves "spiritual" loved that declaration.)
Sadly, the news story narrowed its focus from anticipated "spiritual transformation" to the one thing that has divided Christians and non-Christians alike for centuries: Politics. The article closed with these words, "Evangelical leaders promise that in the coming years they'll be even more active in politics. And Colorado Springs will be a base from which the evangelical movement launches initiatives that affect civic life across the country."
Oh how I wish those words brought me comfort. After all, I believe in Jesus. And I live in Colorado Springs. Why wouldn't I want to rush to the polls to launch evangelicals into office? I mean, if civic life depends on it and all.
Don't get me wrong, I believe Christ-followers can absolutely change the world. But let's be clear -- it is God, not man, that does the changing. "IF" we understand and live under this holy hierarchy, well then, my friends, we might just stand a fighting chance -- which once again begs the question, IF God is real -- then what does that mean for me? For you? For us? How could belief in a real God result in radical, community changing action?
The second-annual "IF:Gathering" aired last month. We did not watch it live, but plan to play the digital download March 6 & 7 at First Pres, Colorado Springs. Yep -- right here in the Christian Mecca, because we believe God is the God of our city -- and yours. And He wants to redeem what's been lost through division and strife -- to restore the years the locusts have eaten.
God desires to reach hearts and break down barriers in every person, in every city around the world. Not by marching in, guns a-blazing, but by the sheer love and power of the Holy Spirit. We do not need to defend Him, but we do need to represent Him. He does not need us, but He will use us to make all this real -- in the words of Jen Hatmaker, to bring real hope, real healing, real intervention and real love.
Are you in?
"When you truly feel God's love, you cannot be selfish" -- Annie Lobert
Perhaps I need to just start there...
If you live in or around Colorado Springs, we would love for you to join us as we seek what God might have for us in this next season! You can find more information and register for the event by clicking here.
Have you heard of the "IF:Gathering?" Have you ever seen it live or watched online? If so, we would love to hear from you! How has this experience impacted your faith journey, your actions within your sphere of influence or your city?
I can't wait to hear what the IF speakers are going to throw down this year. I am continually challenged by the idea that we little church people need to be doing more than attending church and coming across like we've got it together. I will be the first to admit that I can become a pretty complacent pew sitter and I'm, for sure, one who wraps myself around other spiritually like minded people a lot of the time. Would it be an overgeneralization to say that most Christians do? I listened to a podcast of Christine Caine's (one of the IF speakers) the other day and heard these words as if God was speaking:
Christians in America often times just want to make the church a little brighter instead of trying to bring light to dark places. I do it, without a doubt. I'm hoping to hear at this conference more challenges to the way I should really be living, IF God is really real. Because, as Christine Caine says, "God did not send his son to die on the cross to make us Christians a little nicer." Here is one last thought. What if there is someone who has made many poor choices, and she stands in her prison cell for one last night, and asks, herself, "If God is real, then what?" Then she proclaims in her heart that God is real and she steps out into her next chapter and is changed. Then on the other side of town, someone has lived a safe little Christian life, like I have, and asks, "If God is real, then what?" And in her heart she proclaims that God is real and she steps out into her next chapter and is changed. Is either of those changes greater than the other?
The scripture you lead with, Megan, is so powerful! Jeremiah 29 encourages the very thing you write about: anyone who aligns themselves with Jesus must not be insular and protect their own haven where no ideas are challenged. Instead they must serve the city, have a broad outlook that is FOR the city. IF: Gathering feels like the place for those ideas to be greenhoused into something real for the 719.
IF: Gathering is the spearhead of a movement that “craves the uncomfortable…will wrestle with hard questions and not know all the answers…will invest in one another and represent the Church to a generation that needs God.” I’m so in – both for me and for my city. Come to 2 hours of it, or come for all of it – but do come – we need to do this together.