Wednesday, January 13, 2010

#110-Large Gatherings

In my district alone I can name almost 20, annual yearly large scale gatherings. The UPC itself puts on several national events every year. I know of no other movement or organization quite as infatuated as gathering its membership and rallying the troops as Apo/Pento culture.

Most of these events usually follow the same structure and possess similar characteristics/attendees.

When the WPF spun off of the UPC the first thing they did was establish their annual yearly meetings, including P.E.A.K (*snicker*), SUMMIT (the national conference), as well as coastal conferences, bible conferences, men’s and women’s conferences, dog’s conferences, break dancing conferences, Ultimate Fighting conferences.. oh wait.. Sorry I got carried away.

But seriously, what is the infatuation with conferences in ‘costal culture? This post isn’t meant to lampoon the gatherings, just to inquire why we’re so obsessed with getting together?

It appears the organizers of these gatherings have goals in mind for them, which seldom get carried out, but almost always turned into a more cookie cutter gathering, complete with a dreadful amount of attention focused on socializing in the halls and lobbies outside the halls where the services are held, invasion of local restaurants, turning hotels into social scenes and lastly but certainly not least-bringing fashion to the forefront of everyone’s attention.

Like I said, I don’t believe these are the goals for the convocations but they almost always turn into these type of events.

Take IBC Music Fest for example.
The premise for the conference is incredibly great in theory: to provide churches the network connections and resources needed to up the ante in their respective music programs.
But who goes? About 30% of the attendees are in a music related ministry. The other 70% are there looking to meet future spouses, show off new clothes, take in the social scene, or most commonly-simply to converse.

I admit even I, who can’t play or sing a note, went for three years in a row, and admittedly had a lot of fun, but in hindsight I can’t figure out for the life of my what I did or why I went! I know I was drawn to the social aspect more than the purpose of the conference.

I bite my tongue (or more accurately, my fingers) as I write this because much could be said about these conferences perpetuating the problem of the Apo culture being turned into more of a social network than a religious movement, but I’ll leave that to the commenter’s, because carrying out some sort of vendetta against this type of thinking isn’t the goal of Joel in creating this blog.

So maybe someone could enlighten me? How did we wind up so obsessed with these formal get togethers? How did we go from dressing up for Jesus to dressing up for wife/husband hunting? How did the lobby get more crowded than the altar?

Perhaps I’m just being cynical. I like to think I’m being pragmatic but a cynic rarely sees their own cynicism.


  1. you are so right! the lobbies are always more crowded!!!!! lololololol =0

  2. Unashamedly, most of these are about fellowship. And why not? I would also challenge the notion that Apos/Pennies have more conferences than other groups. Many mainstream Charismatic, Baptist, Non-Denom groups all have their share of meetings. Most large churches in the US have a couple big conferences each year - you do the math!

  3. Regarding the fashion show element of it, unfortunately, that's also true, whether people admit it or not. I think that's the really weird part.

  4. I would actually challenge the idea the Apos/Pentes have more conferences than other denominations. Have you seen a recent copy of Group magazine? On just about every page there is an ad for some new, off-the-chain, earth shaking conference or gathering.

    There are many among us who make the rounds like cowboys in the rodeo circuit. However, there are those of us who are only able to attend one or two of these 'gatherings' a year and it's a highlight for us each year.

    I do agree, wholeheartedly, that many of these gatherings dissolve into nights of social networking. Paris can't hold a candle to the fashion runways of these meetings, either! I've seen some simply ludicrous stuff in my day.

    When I take my youth group to our HYC I explain that we are going for fellowship but more importantly for spiritual growth. I make them sit in areas where distractions are limited, and refrain them from walking around once the altar service has begun. I'm not shelling out hard-earned money for them to run around and talk with friends. They can do that at youth camp!

    So I would encourage the author not to bemoan the number of conferences and gatherings but rather the lack of passion and purpose that many of those in attendance lack.

  5. "I make them sit in areas where distractions are limited, and refrain them from walking around once the altar service has begun"

    Wow. Gestapo Christianity.

  6. I love this blog! I have to say, though; why snicker at P.E.A.K? I've been both years and have always been deeply blessed by the powerful moves of God. :]

  7. Amen Jake! I just went last year (2009) for the first time. It was so powerful! No one was out in the lobbies, they were in the altar! Honestly, I think the fashion is way too much. It IS getting to be like a runway show at some conferences but that's their choice. If it's modest & doesn't stop them from worshipping, then why tell them to stop? Most stuff they wear is actually cute.