After over 41 years of ministry, 40 years as an itinerant minister and 38 years as a Pastor. I am very concerned about why we gather together to attend conferences, conventions, summits and, as well as some gospel concerts.
Even though I have been a speaker in many of these gatherings for the last 39 years, it concerns me about the motives for gathering together the Body of Christ in many of these special meetings.
I sponsored a convention/conference for 23 years. 10 of those 23 years, we even paid the hotel bills for the pastors and leaders who came. Our purpose in gathering together was to be a time of refreshing for leaders and the people of their staff and congregations. It was to be an oasis for pastors and leaders.
We would not even let the pastors open the doors of their cars. We wanted to serve the leaders in the Body of Christ and treat them as kings and queens. We served a full meal after each service with no charge. All the pastors and leaders had to do was get to the convention. We took care of everything else. It was to be a replenishing time and a time of refreshing.
We, of course had expenses, but our church bore the majority of those expenses as a ministry to others. We raised an offering in each service, but with no pressure to give and no manipulation to give.
There were other churches and groups that I was associated with, that had the same spirit of service in their gatherings. But some where along the recent history of the church the motives began to change.
I remember, when a constituent was in moral trouble, and another older minister and myself, advised this pastor not to have his annual gathering this particular year and work on getting himself right before the Lord, and allowing healing to come to his wife and family. He said, I can't cancel my annual meeting, because 20% of our yearly income comes from the money we raise during that annual gathering. I then recognized that many leaders' motive for gathering together had drastically changed.
After 23 years, I stopped having our annual convention/conference because I couldn't submit to the Hollywood spirit that had started to prevail in having meetings and gatherings. You had to almost pay singers more than preachers to speak. The speakers were charging outlandish fees of several thousand dollars in order to speak. There were many added expenses of first class airline tickets for the speakers and entourages, demands of 5 star hotels, insurance coverage, etc. Choice of speakers was based on popularity and personality, and not on who had a Word from the Lord for the gathering. The lady with the pink hair chose who were the popular speakers and we were supposed to submit to her choices and those she had on her television program, whether they had a Word from God or not. I couldn't submit to that digression of God's original instruction in us gathering together, so I stopped gathering together after 23 years.
Today, in many circles, those leaders who are featured at many gatherings are chose on the basis of their ability to raise an offering -- not their anointing or their having a present Word from God that is relevant to the times.
Why do we gather people together these days? It breaks my heart to see how much we have digressed in our gatherings. May we return back to "Gathering Together Unto Him."
Dr. Jeff Edwards