I didn't attend the If:Gathering in person; I watched online and I followed along on Twitter. I had been excited for it; it had the promise and potential of something, though I wasn't exactly sure what. I'd heard that it was going to be "different", especially since the leadership had done away with the ticket price and instead did a "pay what you can" option for payment. Other than that, nobody knew very much about it, and that kind of intrigued me.
When I watched the conference, I saw speakers who are very well known, such as:
Overall, I don't remember who I watched, but from what I saw they gave inspirational talks, and did a great job. But for me, there wasn't much new there. I have heard inspirational talks. I have given inspirational talks. And for those of us who were watching online, there were interviews with people such as Annie Lobert (Hookers for Jesus) and a singer who had been on American Idol (I'm sorry; I can't remember her name; if you know who it is please tell me and I'll edit).
There were interviews where people were asked what they like on their pizza or what color they like to decorate with.
One of my biggest frustrations is that I have attended so, so many women's groups that are all about building relationships and sometimes I think that it is overkill. And now I'll probably be in front of the firing squad for that because building relationships is all about what church/church groups is about. I have gone to moms and women's groups for a long time and have done crafts and sang songs and built relationships. It is tiring. I had a discussion about this with one of my pastors a couple of months ago, and I felt horrible for expressing that, at first, until I was assured that it was ok to feel that way. He described it as getting a lot of one type of food and nothing of another. There wasn't anything wrong with those activities; I was just getting too much of them.
And from what I understand, at the ending of IF:Gathering, we were left with this:
That time you had everyone's attention and your big creative idea was… let's read our Bibles. #IFgathering http://t.co/Dt1UBrdgpX
— Jennie Allen (@JennieAllen) February 10, 2014
and then If:Equip http://www.ifequip.com/ was launched, where women can read their Bibles together every day, asking these questions:
if we believe these words to be true…then
what does this mean about god?
what does this mean about you?
what does this mean about the world?
I read my Bible a lot (thought not as much as I used to). And our church is currently going through "The Story" http://www.thestory.com/home and I lead discussion each week on it. But the main point of reading our Bibles, it seems, is not really to study it. I have written about this before:
"I feel like often, we just assume most Christians will get bored with this type of study, because it doesn't always bring out the "application" that we think we all need. Don't get me wrong; application is important, however, I feel as if we try so hard to make everything in the Bible automatically apply to our own personal lives that we actually miss out on what is in the Bible."
--From When Bible Study Isn't Bible Study
"When I actually studied Galatians, rather than gave it a cursory read, asking "what's in it for me?", I was able to look at a bigger picture, I was able to come up with a myriad of ideas that I want to explore further through conversations, more reading, and through writing. I don't get that out of "Bible Application Time"." --From Celebration of Discipline: An Experiment in Study
I don't always feel equipped by reading my Bible. It doesn't tell me how to go about evaluating seminaries and their programs, it doesn't tell me what opportunities are out there for me if I want to start working again, it doesn't tell me how to read it or any of the background or theology that I want to know, it doesn't teach me how to read Hebrew and Greek. I am not really in a place spiritually where I need to figure out my gifts, rather, I am in a place where I am looking for open doors so that I can actually use them.
And so I found If:Gathering lacking for me. I am so thankful that it was uplifting and encouraging and a blessing for thousands of women and I hope that it will continue to happen and continue to do this for women. And I'll continue to look for my place, too.
To read about some great experiences at IF:Gathering, visit these (and if you know of others, feel free to add the links in the comments):