The continuous reference to this conference being an “educational experience” by it’s chief organizer, Dr. Dwight McKissic, would certainly characterize my description of the Baptist Conference on the Holy Spirit, held this past weekend at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. My only regret is that I had to squeeze out the time to attend, and had to leave after the panel discussion on Saturday, but I’d have to say that every minute was well worth the effort made to have been there, and I left hungry for more.
Perhaps the highlight of the conference, from a fellowship perspective, was immediately recognizing fellow blogger Bob Cleveland in his pink cap, and meeting him and his lovely wife Peggy, taking an empty seat at that table, and discovering, to my delight, that fellow bloggers Debbie Kaufman and husband Merrill (hope I spelled that right, I was trying to remember from his name tag!), and Alycelee Faulkner were also seated there. In the next few moments, I had the privilege of meeting both Paul and Wade Burleson and Ben Cole. I’d have to say that was an absolutely uplifting start to what would be one of the most significant weekends in my life.
I’m sure there will be plenty of bloggers who will analyze and comment on the content of the sermons and presentations at the conference, and will do a great job of analysis. I want to reflect on my personal experience as a participant.
As Dr. McKissic frequently stated, the conference was, for me, an educational experience in virtually every moment. I have a long list of things that I learned, about the work of the Holy Spirit, and about how that Spirit works in gifting and preparing the people of God for the work of ministry. I learned specifically about the moving of the Spirit in the lives of the people who spoke, and who gave testimony about how the Spirit has worked in their specific ministry, and in renewing and reviving the churches they pastor and serve. I learned that dependence on the Spirit is necessary for spiritual things to occur, and that no matter what efforts or plans I may have, and however good their intentions may be, if they are not God’s plans, and the Holy Spirit is not allowed to lead, they are worthless and will accomplish nothing.
Worship on Friday evening began at 7:00 p.m. and it was past 10:30 when I left the building and headed to my car. I can’t recall, in my entire Christian experience, ever having been in a worship service lasting three and a half hours. When this one was over, however, the gladness I felt in my heart didn’t have anything to do with the fact that it had ended, but with the fact that it left me hungering for more. Three sermons, all unique in the way they were presented, all delivered by diverse preachers from diverse backgrounds, yet all unified and cohesive in their content for one reason, at least in my opinion, because they were all inspired by the same Spirit. My personal experience was one of transformation.
“Should it be said, O house of Jacob: ‘Is the Spirit of the Lord angry? Does he do such things? Do not my words do good to him whose ways are upright?'” Micah 2:7
The five hour drive back to Houston on Saturday afternoon, which under normal circumstances seems to be a long, long period of time, was not nearly enough in which to reflect on the fourteen hours of time I was able to spend at this conference. There is no doubt that I experienced an encounter with the Holy Spirit, and no doubt whatsoever that this encounter was a transforming experience for me. In spite of my own best efforts, and from simply knowing better, I cannot resist the human temptation to lean on my own understanding. There are places in my life and ministry where an abrupt change must now take place, because I was doing things with my own mind, and in my own strength, and not depending on the Holy Spirit. I needed to be straightened out on a few things, I needed revival and renewal to see my need for repentance, and that’s mainly what this conference did for me.
In another realm, it generated some questions. I’m deeply troubled by issues related to spiritual freedom in Baptist life, and I was particularly disturbed by the revelation, something new to me, that candidates for Baptist missionary service must answer a question related to their personal spiritual giftedness, and are barred from service if their answer related to a particular spiritual gift is a positive one. That’s the subject of another blog article, for later.