Every year I get the question: “You going to COAC?” It is a rhetorical question, because no one who is anyone would answer the question negatively. Everyone goes to COAC (Conference on Apostolic Conferences). It’s huge! Districts plan their calendars around it. People schedule vacations around it. When I say no, they look at me like a cockroach on a wedding cake. (I borrowed that line from Crucial Confrontations.) You would think I just confessed to being a Democrat or a Preterist. They whimper a little bit and then run off as if I scolded them. Sometimes they mutter under their breath, things like “backslidden,” “reprobate,” and “infidel.” I think I heard “liberal” once. I think they think I am unclean . . . and contagious.
I know I am the odd one out, but I don’t do conferences. I go to my denominational conferences, one district and one national, but that’s it. And this bothers some people. Conferences are part of their spirituality, a mark of apostolicity. For me not to go means . . . well, I may not be saved. If by some stretch of grace I am saved, I will have no reward, for I have built on wood, hay, and stubble. Surely everyone knows what Jesus said: “Inasmuch as you did not attend conferences with these my brethren, you did not attended conferences with me.”
You would think I was on my death bed and they were trying to coax me into a Bible study before it was too late. It’s that urgent for them. But my heart is hardened.
I must admit it is a lonely week while everyone is at COAC. No one answers their cell phones or replies to my e-mail. When I call a fellow minister’s office, the third-string receptionist (all the staff go with their pastors to COAC) says, “I’m sorry. He is at COAC this week,” in a tone that reeks of What kind of buffoon are you? This is usually my first clue that COAC is in session. Otherwise, I can never remember the dates.
Now this is no reflection on COAC or any other conference—East Coast, West Coast, Holy Roller Coast, Gospel Arts & Science, National Something-or-Another (which really isn’t national). If the free market has taught us anything it has taught us that goods and services which dominate the market do so for a reason. If these conferences weren’t any good, they would have gone in the tank a long time ago. So this has nothing to do with the conferences; it has everything to do with my pathology.
And I have questions. Do people actually go home and live differently after attending a conference? My unscientific research says no. (I have conducted surveys.) And if I go to a conference, will I have to buy a new suit? How much does it cost to attend? Who will take care of my church while I am gone? Will there be lots of men with hair spray? (I don’t have that much hair.) Will they call me “Bo” (or is it Beau, or Bow)? Will people act like I am their long-lost friend only to mumble, “Who was that” when I walk away? Or even worse, will they recognize me from my picture in magazines I edit and ask me to publish the great article they just wrote which was transcribed from the great sermon they just preached? (This is the worst kind of article, and they are in abundance.)
Maybe I should go someday. It just sounds like a nightmare: hordes of people, crammed in a room on an emotional roller coaster, hour after hour, staying in overpriced and over-rated hotels, fighting for seats in restaurants way past dinner time, only to get up early and do it all over again, only to go home totally exhausted and try to catch up on everything I got behind on while at the conference, which will prevent me from implementing anything I heard at the conference. You’ve got to help me understand this.
Each year I hear that COAC was better than ever. I think I’ll wait a few more years. By then, it will be out of this world!
Upcoming post: “Racism and Holiness”
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