A Unique Kind of Conference

I attended a conference March 23-25th in Los Angeles, California which was something of an anomaly. Let me take a few moments and give you a heads up – because it is one of the best I’ve had the privilege of participating in.

The conference is titled “Wineskins” and occurs twice a year; once in the spring and again in the fall. It is sponsored by The Church of the Servant King who reside in the Gardena area of LA in intentional community. They have faithfully and missionally incarnated the good news of Jesus in this area for nearly thirty years.

The only similarity this conference has with others I’ve attended is that they invite someone from the outside to be the main speaker. This Wineskins, the speaker was Lee C. Camp, professor at Lipscomb University in Nashville, and author of Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World. (A book I would highly recommend to anyone serious about their faith).

The Conference begins on Friday at 6:00 p.m. and ends around 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Here are some features of Wineskins that make it unique as a conference. 1) They ask that all participants commit to being present for the entire conference. If for some reason an individual is unable or unwilling to make that commitment they are encouraged not to attend. 2) Wineskins limits attendance to 44 people. 3) Spouses are encouraged to pack separately because they will not be rooming together. They have men rooming with other men and women rooming with other women. Even the speaker rooms with others. These three things are done in order to achieve the objectives of koinonia and dialogue amongst the participants. Another unique feature is that the speaker does not receive an honorarium, but his travel and other expenses are covered. The desire is that the speaker is attending more out of a calling or mission than just for monetary reasons.

The speaker is allowed to share on anything he/she chooses. The only criteria for subject matter, is that it challenge and cause the participants to think and ask questions; both on individual and corporate levels.

At the outset, each person is assigned a small group with three others. These groups meet regularly; about 8 or 9 times during the conference to answer pre-scripted questions for the purpose of getting to know one another. Groups are also encouraged to discuss the subject matter the speaker presents at the teaching sessions. And they go to lunch together once during the conference. The small groups, in addition to small number of people in attendance seemed to facilitate “koinonia” at an extremely high level.

As one who has attended multiple church conferences, it was amazing to observe and experience the high degree of participation when a conference is limited to just 44 people. Each person was able to be fully engaged throughout the conference even when time restraints became an issue.

I left the Wineskins knowing I had experienced connection with most of those attending as well as the speaker. And in the process of connecting I learned not only new things, but made new friends who shared in the experience with me. I felt I had experienced something of koinonia as opposed to another big event. Rather than leaving thinking; “been there, done that,” I left thinking, “I’d like to do that again.”


One Response

  1. Sounds like the Wineskins I was a part of.
    Appreciate all your links that encourage & inspire.

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