Saturday, February 14, 2015

Intelligent Faith Conference Report -Cedar Rapids, IA

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!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Coming soon! Intelligent Faith Conference

In 2008 Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was hit with one of the worst floods ever in the United States. You might not have heard about it, because, unlike Katrina, Iowans didn’t whine and expect the government to come and rescue them. More than 5,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and there was $3 billion in damage to buildings and crops. From that great flood sprang a unity among the churches in Cedar Rapids. A Christian organization called “Serve the City” was created that united dozens of churches and ministries, and has continued to be the focal point for prayer and evangelism in the Cedar Rapids area.

Last fall I ran into a fellow at church, and told him about the campus apologetics (“defense of the Christian faith”) ministry of Ratio Christi, and how I’ve been speaking at apologetics conferences both in the U.S. and around the world. He was from Cedar Rapids, and he told me about a man, Charles Daugherty, who was the head of Serve the City, and who was the “go to guy” who might want to see an “Intelligent Faith” conference in Cedar Rapids. I looked up Charles online and sent him an email.

Two days later I received an email from Charles and another man who is studying apologetics, and they essentially said my email was an answer to prayer. I had conversations with Charles and sent him information on how to organize an apologetics conference. He took that information to his leaders at Serve the City, and they were all excited to have Cedar Rapids host an event. I was asked to be one of three keynote speakers, and helped them arrange for two others—J. Warner Wallace and Frank Turek, both nationally-known Christian apologists. Jim Wallace is a retired cold-case homicide detective and author of the book Cold Case Christianity. Frank Turek is co-author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, and heads up an organization called “Cross-Examined.”

The Intelligent Faith Conference begins tomorrow, February 6, and goes through Saturday, February 7. Last I checked there were about 600 registered, and they are expecting more to sign up at the event. On Sunday I’ve been asked to preach at River of Life Church’s Sunday morning service in Cedar Rapids. It should be a great jammed packed weekend.

Please pray for effectiveness in my speaking this weekend. Cedar Rapids is listed by the Barna Group as one of the least “Bible Friendly” areas in the country (95th out of 100, below Las Vegas). There is a great opportunity to see Christianity blossom in Cedar Rapids, including reaching the campuses with their own chapters of Ratio Christi. The committee wants the apologetics conference to be an annual event. So much has come from that one idea from a guy I met at church. The Lord works in strange and wonderful ways.

Thanks for your support for Rolling Stone Ministries and Ratio Christi.