Written by: Jerry Newman
I love The Experience Conference! You know, after 32 years in ministry, I have attended a great amount of conferences, but nothing like the Experience Conference. Why do I love this conference so much? Well it started when I signed-up to attend the first conference 5 years ago. About 2 months before I arrived, Paul Smith (a member of the steering committee) called me to ask how he could pray for me. He showed a great deal of interest in my life and ministry, prayed with me, and told me he would continue to do so. In fact, since then Paul has become a friend and I assume he is still praying for me these 1825 days since that first phone call. What is really a blessing for me is, now, I also pray for Paul.
In arriving at the conference in Orlando and a group of worship pastors (from the steering committee) were there to greet me and once again, they prayed for me. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with emotion. You see, in my life as a pastor I spend a great deal of time praying for others, but rarely does anyone take the time to stop and pray for me.
Colossians 1:9 states: “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”
You know, that prayer-time with Paul Smith five years ago created in me a love for this conference. As you consider attending the conference this year in Orlando, know that there is a group of us praying for you. The minute you sign-up, we as a committee and staff, personalize that prayer and pray for you by name. Our prayer is that you will “Experience” the presence of God and take something away from the conference that will revitalize your life and ministry. We also pray you develop new friendships with people you can count on in difficult times and times of rejoicing.
I want you to know that while you are attending the conference, we are there to help you. Galatians 6:2 says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Personally, I am troubled at the statistics of discouragement in ministry. According to recent statistics, 1500 pastors leave the ministry permanently every month in the United States. 80% of pastors and 85% of their spouses feel discouraged in their roles. 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor. Over 50% of pastor’s spouses feel that their spouse entering the ministry was the most destructive thing that ever happened to their family. One out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister. 97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused or hurt by trusted friends. 94% of pastor’s families feel the pressure of ministry and church-life. 70% of pastors have no close friends. 90% of pastor’s report working 55 to 75 hours a week. 7000 churches close the doors each year. The Experience Conference cares about you! We want you to know that all of us are available to spend time with you discussing difficulties in your ministry you may be facing. Also, for more difficult issues there are professional counselors available to talk to you. You know, your spouse needs the Experience Conference as much as you do. They feel the pressure of ministry as much as you do. It would not hurt your kids to come as well. I am a pastor’s kid and know how much a conference like this would have encouraged me.
So in a nut-shell here it is. We love each of you, pray for you, care about your lives, family, and ministries. We desire to see you leave the Experience Conference ready to go home and continue your God-given, called purpose.