Last week, some friends came to see us who normally are the conference type of Christian, and indeed I would say Mike and I used to fall into that category. I personally would organise my work diary around conferences, ensuring I would not miss one session for fear of missing out on any new vital revelation or heavenly download. Of course now that’s impossible, with a retreat to run and miles and miles away from any we would consider going to… It is not as though we can just pop in for an evening meeting! And consequently a lot of our conferencing is now done over the Internet – thank God for live streaming – although a retreat to run does mean we often miss sessions!
Conferences for me are a bit like going up to the House of the Lord (Psalm 122:1) and not to mention a huge worship fix to see me through the general trials and hum drum of life. A way of getting cleaned up washed down and ready to start all over again. Mostly the teaching is awesome with always-fresh manna in the house.
However, discussing this with our friend we all deduced we had missed something – the retreat!
They initially came down to see us to encourage and bless. However, our God as always (I’m sure he was the original inventor of the BOGOFF offer, 2-for-1) ensured they did not go short. Facing some fairly momentous decisions in their own lives, during their stay with us the Lord really ministered to them, by speaking deep and hidden truths into their own very personal situation, coupled with phenomenal encouragement through prophetic words and appropriate scripture. They left feeling uplifted, encouraged and, above all else, confident that Father God really was on to the situation.
So… Conferences versus retreats
Travelling to both conferences and retreats can be viewed as making a pilgrimage – Lord, we are really serious about meeting with you. However, retreats by their nature are often in secluded, secret places, so journeys can be more difficult. It is all worth it, because once you have arrived you will hear the silence. See the stars shine brighter, feel the wind, smell the fragrances of nature and taste the air.
At conferences, you hear God’s voice through the word being imparted and expanded to you, and in that to some extent Man’s interpretation. On retreat, it’s one on one, you and God alone.
At conference, it is loud, exciting and vibrant worship. On retreat, you slip into a daily rhythm of prayer, gentle worship, quiet meditation and reflection.
Conferences are great to catch up with friends, meet and make new ones. Great opportunities for networking, product purchases and the latest must have. On retreat, all that fades into insignificance; it’s just you and the Lord getting down to serious business.
Perhaps if you have never been on retreat and you are reading this blog, maybe it could be the next thing you need to do in order to unlock some unseen potential in your life.
However, above all else, I thank God daily for the diverse way he speaks and meets with us. I am so in awe we have such a creative God who passionately longs to spend time with us, and I am ever increasingly grateful that there are specific places where we can take time out to do just that.