Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has the distinction of being the site of the worst flooding to hit the United States in 50 years (2008 flood) and for being in the bottom five areas in the country when rated for “Bible Friendliness.” What does a community like Cedar Rapids need? A flood of truth.
That is exactly what happened last weekend at the Intelligent Faith Conference held in Cedar Rapids. We were hoping for 400 attendees for their first apologetics conference. However the total number of attendees was around 900! For a first-time event, the turnout bordered on miraculous. There is a hunger for truth in Cedar Rapids.
Friday night Laurie’s niece Ashley and her friend Wesley opened the conference with leading worship. I was the “lead off” speaker, followed by retired “cold-case” homicide detective J. Warner Wallace (author of “Cold Case Christianity”), and then popular speaker Frank Turek (author of “I don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”). Several ministries and colleges had booths outside the main sanctuary, and during breaks there was tremendous interaction, with a buzz about understanding and proclaiming an “intelligent” Christianity to the world.
On Saturday morning after worship, I did part two of my message, “Reaching Our Brave New Secular World” (“How to make a case for Christianity”). Jim Wallace displayed his tactical Kevlar vest and demonstrated how the techniques used in investigating a cold-case homicide can be applied to show that the Gospel record has the elements of reliability. Frank Turek talked about how truth can be known, and from that how God and Jesus’ resurrection can be known through evidence and reason. The main conference ended with the three of us as a panel responding to questions from the audience. The conference wrapped up after lunch with speakers having concurrent individual sessions in breakout rooms.
That evening Laurie and I joined the other the speakers and the STC leaders for dinner at Amana Colonies where we reviewed the success of the conference, and went over ideas and suggestions for next year. Everyone was amazed at how well the event came together and impressed with the numbers that attended.
Each speaker had the privilege of speaking at a local Cedar Rapids church on Sunday morning. I spoke at River of Life Ministries. Despite being almost totally spent from the conference, I was refreshed by the welcome and worship at River of Life, where I spoke on “The Trouble With Disciples.” I received many compliments about the message. It was humbling. Laurie and I felt truly blessed to be in that congregation with lively worship. We look forward to returning to Cedar Rapids.
One of the nice things about the Cedar Rapids conference was that Laurie and I could drive there in three hours from our home at Lake Panorama. Jim and Frank had to pack up and climb aboard airplanes to get back to their homes. One of the challenges of speaking nationally and internationally is spending so much time in airports and on airplanes. It is part of the calling, so we thank God for the open doors of opportunity in the U.S. and around the world, and look forward to where He will lead us next!