“The way to increase faith is to apply to ourselves God’s promise in his word and sacraments, by hearing the word, praying, meditation, conference, and the like.”
–Ezekiel Culverwell (italics mine)
For the past couple of months, our midweek devotional has explored the idea of conference. It is an idea and practice that is deeply rooted in the history of the church. It is a key, but sometimes neglected, component of spiritual formation. What is conference? Conference is a spiritual discipline that involves two to ten people getting together to discuss a variety of spiritual topics. This discussion might occur in a small group setting, for example, in someone’s home. It also might occur right after church, when two believers gather to share comforting and challenging words together.
Conference is really about advancing the interests of Jesus Christ in the life of another believer. Sometimes this requires boldness. Always it requires love. Conference shares some similarities with counseling. David Powlison writes, “Wise counseling is essentially a way of loving another person well. It is a way of speaking what is true and constructive into this person’s life right now.”[i] The goal of conference is similar but broader. There is a mutuality in conference that might or should be absent in a strictly defined counseling session. In conference, all participants gain and our mutually strengthened. Have you surrounded yourself with fellow believers who have your permission and invitation to speak truth into your life? I hope so. Your walk with the Lord will be deepened by the Holy Spirit through these loving counselors.
One of my favorite pastors, George Swinnock, noted a practice among certain monks: “Ferus on Matthew affirms, that it was the practice of the monks to meet together once in a week, and to acquaint each other with their temptations, the means of resistance, and the issue thereof. I believe, if Christians were more open-hearted in declaring to one another the state of their souls, their experiences in point of loss or gain in spirituals, and sense of God’s favour or anger, &c., it would much tend, not only to the honour of God, but also to the defeating of our great enemy, and our own mutual advantage.”[ii] Are you willing to be open-hearted with a few other believers about the state of your soul? If so, then put your seatbelt on, because you are on the fast track to exciting spiritual growth! Have a blessed week and we will see you on Sunday!
Love in Christ,
- Don’t forget to ask me about a free Puritan Paperback (if you are interested and you know you are.)
[i] David Powlison, Speaking Truth in Love: Counsel in Community. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2005, 5. (italics his)
[ii] George Swinnock, The Works of…Vol. 2, 349.