Posted: 10 August 2014
Oxygen Conference...an opportunity for church leaders to take 4 days out to breath in the goodness of God. This could not have come at a better time for Jules and I as last Monday, having dropped the kids off in Berry for 4 days, we walked out of our place into our local cafe (Salt), picked up our FW and XFW, and walked another 2 mins to Australian Technology Park where Oxygen '14 was being held. This was to be 4 days of breathing in God's goodness, and already having the opportuntity provided by our church to free us up to attend this was a great breath of fresh air. So here are some thoughts and reflections on the amazing week Jules and I had...
Ok...walking only 2 mins from our home was probably one of the greatest benefits we had in the conference being held at ATP, but the venue was amazing. The space of the old Workshop is huge, inviting us into a place where we felt the 'bigness' of this event, and they had used the space really well with a good bookshop and mutilple information stalls highlighting different ministries happening in our city. With over 2000 seats laid out, the clear video projectors helping us see what was happening on stage was great! Everytime a Pastor goes to his venue they dream that their church could fill it.
The conference was divided up into Plenary Sessions, Elective Sessions, and Workshops. With a line up of Don Carson, John Lennox, Brian Chapell, Paul David Tripp, Francis Chan, Nancie Guthrie, and Katherine Neilson, we were just completely spoilt! And we got mostly was we expected...Don Carson with clear exegesis, John Lennox with biblical insights that I feel like I would never of seen otherwise, Brian Chapell preaching with such clarity and wisdom, and Paul Tripp repeatingly yelling that my heart is the problem (love that guy!). But the suprises were Francis Chan and Nancy Guthrie, who quickly became Julie's and my favorite speakers of the conference.
Nancy Guthrie spoke on the first day during our elective on Disciple-Making. Her topic...handling grief as a pastor. WOW! Im not sure if it was her incredible testimony or lovable american confidence, but Jules and I walked away changed. She spoke with such deep insight, love, genuniness, humor, candor, and care that encouraged us so very deeply in our own souls. Jules and I managed to catch her and her husband David briefly for a quiet chat before one of the sessions which we found a real delight and priviledge. Their love for King Jesus was so evident and their trust in him was a deep witness to His goodness over us all.
Francis Chan was a surprise. A really good surprise. Before the conference I had read his books, seen his videos, and honestly thought he was a little harsh and reactionary. But the joy of the conference was seeing Francis as the only speaker who I think truly understood the essense of the conference...to help pastors breath. Though doing the classic 'I had a sermon prepared but God has something else for us', he spoke deep words of simple encouragement that put our lives back into a Christ-centered perspective. To be a shepherd is to be a dependant and joyful sheep, and to grow in the Christian life is to be a branch calling for resources from the true Vine, was much needed words. His humor and candor was so refreshing also. Jules and I also saw him in the Disciple-Making elective to which he shared his testimony as a pastor and we got to see into his life with greater clarity. We came away so energised to lead our family in the Gospel at all costs. Loved it!
Trevor Hodge lead a huge team on stage including Sovereign Grace's Music Director Bob Kauflin, making the worship at Oxygen incredible. Good songs with a few new recommendations (the Creed by Hillsong), and Bob Kauflin showing us all how to lead worship well, made it such a great God-Centered time of praise! I loved that the band (except for the drummer) all stood up as it felt that they were with us all not just serving us, and seeing them all sing was just great! For a predominantly conservative bunch, the praise was a real joy!
This typically is where I find my weakness...big crowds. But Jules and I found it a great time to connect with old friends, pray with brothers and sisters of whom we have done ministry with before, say hi to the stranger and brother/sister sitting next to us, and to have a cheeky beer on Tuesday night with others from Vine Church.
What I think seperates Oxygen Conference from the rest is that you feel really spoilt. Over the conference we received 5 new books to which we were so very thankful for. Ironically we received a book on productivity which is an area of weakness for me, of which I have just finished reading and have found it amazing! We also got copies of Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin that I can give to our Worship Leaders at Vine which is great. And they even snuck in a John Piper book to which I am always thankful for!
Thankyou Vine Church for freeing Jules and I up for this conference. We came away so challenged with the radical call for a Gospel-centered life but a deep trust that Gods love and faithfulness is more than enough for us to live out His mission. KCC did a wonderful job with this conference, and I hope they continue to do it bi-yearly. The speakers were great, good range of elective topics, the workshops were brief but little gems, and even if you went to what seems a dud, the rest of the conference made up for it. We'll be back for sure!