The other day I got an email from a friend, a well-educated woman I respect. It said this: "I attended our local IF gathering both Friday and Saturday. I have to admit I didn't expect much, and was very pleasantly surprised."
I couldn't have said it better myself. It was easy to look at the pictures of all white, trendy women on the promotional materials and to feel a little "meh." It is hard for me to get excited about women's conferences, because I am basically looking for a place of spiritual depth, theology, diversity, of passion for the whole gospel, where the Holy Spirit moves, and anything else just doesn't feel worth the time, effort and funds it takes to get there.
But then the IF:Gathering did the amazing thing, simulcasting their broadcast not only into churches across the country and around the world, but into our homes. For free. Did you catch the free part?
(It was a special joy to see all the photos and videos from women all over the country: moms at home with babies, friends around the table, churches filled with women.)
But besides leveling the playing field and offering the conference for free by donation, they did so many things right. I just sat there in my pajamas giving praise to God as I watched women preach with conviction, pray with boldness and fire, and sing with joy and unabashed praise. At one point I got down on my face on the carpet, praised God and wept.
The ezers (strong powers, Genesis 2:18) were in the house, and they kicked some proverbial butt. It felt like a Reclaiming Eve extravaganza.
Here are three reasons I'll be tuning in again next year:
- Diversity. There's a saying that you "vote by your hiring." IF voted by assembling a crew of diverse woman, then inviting Pastor Latasha Morrison to lead a live panel on bridging the racial divide with ladies of different skin colors and backgrounds. Afterward the comment was made, "I feel like we were just a part of something that could change generations." But the conference did one better: they had LaTasha create a .pdf for churches and individuals called the "bridge-building guide," a free way to lead groups into discussions on how to raise up reconciliation in our midst. You can get your own copy by filling in the info. at this link. As 90% of Christian churches are segregated, my husband and I have been moved to reconciliation and diversity in our own lives. To the point that we've chosen a church to attend that is diverse and is moving toward greater diversity—this is what the gospel of Jesus looks like. Jesus is beautifully writing this into our soul-DNA.
- IF is not a performance. One of the first things Jennie Allen said was "this is not a performance. We're making much of God, and we want God more for our generation." Speaker after speaker challenged and preached:
- "The great thing about God being your heavenly Father is that it's his responsibility to get it through to you. That's what a Father does." -Jo Saxton
- "We live out God's Kingdom to the same fullness that we believe in it." -Jen Hatmaker
- "We need a generation that loves the word, that knows the word...that is full of the word of God." -Christine Caine
- Some honest, heartbreaking stories were shared, including the story of April Smith who lost her two young boys last year in an Arkansas tornado. Every woman who shared pointed back to the faith walk that we take as we wrestle daily, not by sight but by faith.
- IF wants to do good in the world. Through partnerships and opportunities that uplift women and children around the world, IF models what the whole gospel looks like. They unabashedly proclaim Jesus and encourage us to bow to his lordship while also freeing people to flourish through the love of Christ. They also offer a free daily Bible study and a resource called IF: Table that encourages you to gather women around the table in your home for a meal and fellowship each month.
Finally, women speakers, who make up a paltry three percent at some church conferences, are given a voice at IF. While the church is trying to catch up to utilizing women as more than "token" speakers at large conferences, IF leads the way in giving them a platform and empowering women to speak up and serve wherever they are planted.
If you haven't done it yet, I hope you'll check out the IF: Gathering. It has my two thumbs, way up.
Your turn: Did you watch or attend IF? If so, what was your response?