I didn’t know what to expect with my first Declare Conference. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was supposed to be there. That I was supposed to speak. That I was going to have divine appointments. These things I knew.
What I didn’t know was that I would finally experience the beginnings of a tribe, an illusive longing I’ve had for many, many years.
What I didn’t know was that I had all but given up on dreaming. I had gotten so bogged down by disappointment that I’d forgotten to hope.
What I didn’t know was that God was going to gently restore my lost courage. I think that’s going to be a work in progress for a while.
I love when God surprises me. Declare was full of these surprising moments. I was surprised at the instant kinship I observed around me, and that it was occurring among so many who were strangers to one another. The past three years I’ve grown so accustomed to being the outsider, often merely observing kinship among others, that my next major surprise was that I was welcomed into it, no questions asked. Just being in the room qualified me for being loved and accepted. Every interaction I had was a God-encounter, whether it was a hello or someone offering to pray with me. I was surprised to find this outside of “church walls.”
I was surprised by the total lack of competition at Declare. The spirit of unity and togetherness was palpable. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced anything like it at a conference. You can usually tell who are the “most important” people in a room. I didn’t feel that at Declare. Everyone was sitting at the same table, so to speak. I encountered no jockeying for position or power. There was a oneness in purpose and heart all weekend that I know made our Father smile.
I was surprised at how much I learned. Declare strikes this amazing balance between the philosophic and the practical, and all of it points to Jesus. I came away with pages and pages of notes on podcasting, pointers for how to work more efficiently, questions to probe my motives, and wisdom that points me to the Lord. Whether we were engaging in personal stories, hearing from a sponsor, or learning about best practices, it was clear that everything was ultimately about Jesus and sharing His love with a hurting world.
Like all good things, it’s going to take some time for me to fully absorb all my “take-aways” from Declare. But the main thing I received at Declare was a new group of friends, coworkers for the Gospel. I don’t know what God has in store for us. I am resting in His arms, waiting with hopeful expectation for what He brings next.