One more half day tomorrow morning, and the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference will be over. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly, and there is no question it was time and resource well spent. It will be a while before I can absorb the content from all the workshops, continuing classes and the general sessions. Hopefully, some of what I have learned will be noticeable here.
There are Christian writers conferences in many places, including in Texas. So why did I pick this particular one? I can answer that in one word: Ridgecrest.
The church I serve has been pastorless for almost a year now, and in addition to that, we’ve also lost a youth pastor, a children’s/preschool ministry director and one of our worship leaders. That has inevitably added things to my plate in addition to my regular duties. Though we have called an interim pastor, and are in the process of filling those other positions, it has been a long stretch of time with a lot going on, and not very many breaks. A four-day conference, with several hundred people who are all writers in some form or fashion, was just the ticket for a good tank-filling experience. Because we are a Southern Baptist church, we are on Lifeway Christian Publisher’s regular mailing list, and back in January, when I first saw the listing for this particular conference on their brochure, it virtually jumped off the page at me. “Tank-filling” experiences for the staff are encouraged by the church leadership, and provision is made for a limited budget to provide for the majority of the expenses involved, so it was pretty much a no-brainer. As a Discipleship minister and lay ministry coordinator, the practical value of a writer’s conference is as high as the tank-filling aspect.
Ridgecrest is also a major attraction. The two conference centers owned and operated by Lifeway are major assets to the Southern Baptist Convention. Of course, there are people here from a wide variety of denominations and churches, but having a place for training church leadership in such a beautiful location is literally a gift from the Lord. The center’s facilities are clustered on the side of a mountain, facing another range of mountains, and topped by a large, white cross (which also doubles as a cell phone tower, I’m told). High in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the setting is inspirational. The last time I was here, in 1985, the facilities were somewhat rustic. They have been improved tremendously, and now include first class accomodations and meeting space. My favorite place this week has been the prayer garden. God has spoken to me many times in the past, in the prayer gardens of both Ridgecrest and Glorieta, and he has been there this week, too.
My spiritual tank has been filled, and in addition to the classes, workshops, worship and lunch and dinner with conference faculty members, some published authors, some editors and publishers, I have also spent some time just resting, sitting in one of the rockers on the deck above Rhododendron Hall, looking at the mountains and enjoying the cool breezes. I have also taken a walk completely around the center every morning at 5:45 a.m., just to see what God does at sunrise. I came to Ridgecrest for all of that.
Sunday morning, it will be my turn to preach. After spending most of the week here, I don’t think it is too out of place to say that the congregation is in for a treat.