5 Tips for Crossing the River

I haven’t written on my blog for a couple of weeks because I traveled to Nashville to attend Lipscomb University’s “Summer Celebration“. For me, this conference provides an annual spiritual high. But each year I struggle to implement into my life and ministry the excellent ideas and lessons I hear. If you also have this struggle, here are some ideas…

This week’s blog title comes from the above passages. The 2014 Summer Celebration adopted the book of Joshua as its theme. In Numbers 32 we read that a couple of tribes wanted to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan river. The problem is that Jericho and the Promised Land lies to the west of the Jordan. Were these tribes going to bail and separate themselves from their countrymen?

Moses reached an agreement with them that they would leave their families and livestock on the eastern bank, but their fighting men would cross with the rest of the nation and fight for the land of others.

In Joshua 22 after the major cities in the Promised Land have been defeated, Joshua releases these tribes to return to their families. As Joshua releases them, he gives them this warning:

“Return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

WP_20140701_004[1]Joshua understood the risk that after being on mission for God with the encouragement and presence of fellow believers the isolation of the eastern bank could lead them to forget their commitment to God and to their neighbours. Joshua understood that with the dramatic battles behind them and the celebrations of corporate worship fading that the “everyday-ness” of every day could lead to complacency and a loss of awareness of God’s presence and involvement in the world. So….

love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Those of us blessed with the opportunities to attend spiritual workshops, conventions, camps, or maybe those who experience powerful Sunday worship service know that we also encounter the struggle of maintaining that God-focus as we return to our desks, our homes, our pews, and our communities.

So here are 5 tips for making a successful reentry to everyday life after experiencing a time of intense spiritual learning and encouragement. Lets work to ensure that we can pass on to others the inspiration which we received, and that we can turn dreams into reality.

1.Plan to Find Applications: If you attend a workshop, or church service, expecting the presenter to apply the material to your life or ministry for you, then you’ll come away disappointed. Each listener needs to accept responsibility for filtering the presentation for the elements that pertain the most to their life circumstances. If you don’t accept this task you will return home with a lot of great information, but nothing to do with it.

2. Don’t Let the Schedule Enslave You: At this year’s Summer Celebration I passed up some great sessions because they weren’t the highest priority for my ministry or personal walk with God. At one point I deliberately skipped a class session so that I could followup with the presenter of the class that just finished. I decided that discussing my concerns and questions about ministry in multiracial churches with this guy took priority over sitting in another class on a less pertinent topic.

3. Review Your Notes: I’m not sure how many people today actually take notes at workshops. But if you do… when you get back to normality… Make time to look back over them. At Lipscomb I had the opportunity to attend at least 12 classes and 5 keynote sessions. There is no way I’ll naturally remember all those points if I don’t refresh my memory. It’s not that I need to remember everything I wrote down, but I want to make sure I remember what’s important. There’s many a vital idea, or Scripture verse, or principle that could transform a ministry or a life that lies buried in a stack of conference workbooks.

4. Tell Someone Else: You come home fired up by a powerful presentation on a subject you feel passionate about. It was a great session with wonderful information and motivational stories. Now the time arrives for you to take ownership. Have coffee with a friend and make and effort to describe the high points of the conference. This exercise of verbally explaining ideas, teachings, or applications provides a great gauge to how well we understand the concepts. Often we’ll find that we need to do some more research or problem solving before we can communicate our passions clearly. We were inspired by big picture concepts and visions, but we need to develop greater clarity on how the details work and how all the dots connect.

5. Don’t Underestimate Relationships: Hopefully, you met some new people or reconnected with old friends at this particular conference. These are people who shared the experience with you and heard some, or many, of the same speakers you heard. Don’t wait another twelve months to discover what they did with the teaching they received.  Contact them while they still remember who you are!  Promptly reach out to them (facebook, twitter, email, phone call) and begin a conversation that will last at least a year. The lessons they learn as they integrate their conference experience into their lives may be the practical encouragement you need to make the changes you need to make in your life or ministry.

If you have some additional habits that you’ve found helpful in maximising the benefit of spiritual workshops, I’d love to hear them in the comment section below.

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