Posted by: Rodney Shaw | March 1, 2009

Why I Don’t Go To Conferences

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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© Rodney Shaw and 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Rodney Shaw and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. “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.)”

    I’ve read a few of those articles, and all I can say is, “Amen!”

  2. Bro, Bo, Doc, Rev…whatever you prefer (how’s that for postmodern?) I like my name, myself. Strange how many of my colleagues choke when trying to say it, unless they attach the necessary “Brother” in front of it. But that’s not the point…

    You’re not alone in disliking conferences, not by a long shot. I attended them because of our Apostolic cultural expectations while I was young in the ministry, and was absolutely miserable. I never enjoyed them as much as the guys around me seemed to, and it left me mystified as to why. “Is there something wrong with me? Do I hate people? Why do I feel so ill at ease?”

    I was in my mid-30s before I screwed up enough courage to simply stay home and leave the conference thing to those who seem to love it best. Around this same time I learned the label that best identifies my conference aversion;


    Wow! I was set free! Free to dislike conferences as heartily as others professed to enjoy them. Free to not attend as frequently as others insisted on attending. Free to connect and fellowship with brothers and the Body in new, less formal, less structured ways. And wonder of wonders, I’m still saved!

    Bro. Shaw, there are more of us out there than the “others” may think. 🙂

  3. Didn’t get to finish my comment..oops! Anyway, it is expensive to attend. I agree with Brian and David. We have often commented that if these churches/groups were pouring the money and energy that they use to host conferences into their own churches and communities..I wonder what kind of impact they would have on the people God has called them to minister to.

    If you want to network, try TWITTER. I get fabulous ideas and it’s a lot more economical. Just my three cents.

  4. I am dying laughing. As pastors of a church, we get postcards and fliers on a weekly basis inviting us to conferences all over the nation. First, who has the finances to attend all these conferences? Most of them are not regional, and even if they were, it is EXPENSIVE

  5. Excellent article, RS. I guess my only question is, What is COAC?!

    I guess I must really be out of touch, because at least you KNOW about this conference. I’ve never even heard of it, much less received an invitation to it.

    Keep up the excellent swordsmanship.


  6. I am the son of Rev. Denver Stanford, Sr. I have thought the same thing as you. However I am a Web Programmer. I have had the chance to go to conferences for programmers. I see the same thought process. However the older I get and the less I go the more I realize what is good about going.

    The reason to go to a conference is to get away from the normal and to hear others preach to you. To meet and make new friends that have the same thoughts and feelings as you. To see new ideas of things that are done differently else where.

    If you go expecting you are going to change then you are going to be disappointed. However you will change but the change will be small. You might see an idea that you do not use right away.

    You might meet a new friend and email back and forth and this might help you one day when you are feeling down. We are the hands, feet, lips of God on earth. We all need each other.

    Oh and by the way I try to make one conference on the web programming side a year. No I do not go to them all. I do not always learn a lot. I do network and get new friends. I find that I can email and talk to them when I am down.

    This is my opinion anyway.

    Nathan Stanford

  7. Roberto!! It’s so good to hear from you. I’m up here in Indiana on the frozen tundra and that always makes me think of you and the old days. And yes, he’s quite the provocative fellow isn’t he? Give Gayle a hug for me.

  8. Mike! It is so good to read your post.
    From what I read on this blog (all pages) he is getting spanked often and I think more is coming because of what he wrote in the Herald and Forward.
    See ya (ya’ll) at the end of the year.

  9. Hey Bobby! I won’t hide behind a secret name when I want to chastise Rodney Shaw. I’ll just go to his office and spank him. He and I go at it all the time but when the day is done we are still very good friends. This “Diakonos” must know me though.

    Who are you Doc?

  10. Great response, Brother Frizzell.

    I, Diakonos, am not Mike East. I had to chuckle, though, when I read this possibility because I have heard him say “Doc” and have been called Doc by him many times.

  11. I changed my name from Robert to Bobby because that is what I was called in Texas.

    I am wondering if Diakonos is Mike East – “Doc” was one of Mike’s favorite words when addressing someone.

    Anyway, there are pros and cons to attending conferences.
    One is to check our spirit with each other somewhere around Prov 27:17.
    I think that the scripture discusses fellowship (Acts 2:42)

    “No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
    This is a quotation from John Donne (1572-1631)

    How true!
    Regardless, I enjoy most of the fellowship and conferences I have attended, which have been few due to my geographical location.
    I should admit there has been some things in conferences that I wish were not spoken but this is life, this is the Church, and we need each other.
    If we do not need each other and the influence of each of the 5-fold ministry, then why did the Lord Jesus give us the diversity of ministry?
    Why does anyone travel to another location to minister the Word of God?

    The humor of this post is understood and taken as humor only, not as a justifiable reason to avoid those in the body who might disagree with me in any area of life.

    When you become a public figure, whether it is in position, author, or what is termed successful, you become open for shots. Deer hunting season is open on you who are of fame.

    Go to conferences and discover your brother and yourself. (you will have more to write about!)

    In peace and gentle love.
    Your gruff CT/NYC, biker, Ranger, now born again Christian who truly likes and appreciates you.

  12. Doc,

    Funny post. Maybe you just really don’t like being around people and so you trash conferences because you feel uncomfortable around a bunch of extroverts glad handing each other.

  13. This was refreshing. I thought I was the only one out of my mind about conferences. I love the reference to “Bo.” My name is Brian, not BO. BO is usually an indication of an over-confident minister, or a forgetful minister who can’t quite recall your name.

    Great thoughts. You have a kindred conference-loathing friend here.

  14. AMEN!!!!!!!!!! I say we take the money and the time it takes to have a conference, and use it to actually win the lost, rather than going to conferences, that talk about it.

    Also, what would happen if we bragged about God, as much as we do about “big” conference speakers? Just a thought…..

    Keep it up brother Shaw; I am totally digging this blog!

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