Conference Summary - Iron Sharpens Iron
I had the pleasure of attending the Iron Sharpens Iron National Mens Conference this past Saturday. The venue was the First Cathedral in Bloomfield, Connecticut.
Iron Sharpens Iron began in 2001 as Vision New England, a regional ministry designed to equip New England churches to minister to men. Their third conference was themed "Iron Sharpens Iron," and that has become the permenent name for the ministry. This year there will be over 30 ISI conferences taking place across the country. ISI does not run all of those conference, rather, they train and equip local and regional networks to do them.
The Hartford area is actually the home to ISI, and so the conference I attended was actually their "home" conference, hosted by ISI president Brian Doyle. First Cathedral in Bloomfield, Connecticut is an amazing facility, with a beautiful sanctuary that seats around three thousand. This conference was sold out fairly early on, so every seat was taken. The conference also used the space of two churches across the street from the cathedral for breakout sessions.
The morning opened with a time of worship. The guest worship leader was Anthony Evans Jr, a well-known gospel artist who toured with Kirk Franklin early in his career. (More on Anthony later.)
The morning keynote speaker was Dr. Tony Evans. Besides being Anthoy's father, Dr. Evans is a internationally known speaker and pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. His remarks were thoughtful and inspiring. A great way to start the day off.
There were varous breakout sessions during the morning. Each participant had the opportunity to chose one morning session. This was a difficult process, as there were at least three that I wanted to go to. In the end, I chose one called Managing Money in Turbulent Times, which was presented by Dave Scobey of Crown Ministries. There were some seminars designed for specific groups - one for pastors; one for youth (Emerging Men) called The Patriot Way, given by New England Patriots chaplain Don Davis; several by Focus on the Family and several by various vendors present at the conference.
After a lunch break, there was another round of seminars. Again you could pick one, and this time the choice was harder. There were two that I really wanted to go to. The one I chose was called Living a Lifestyle of Authentic Worship, given by Anthony Evans. it turned out to be a very real and intimate chat session about life, worship and music. After a short time of testamony, Anthony basically opened the session up for conversation, answering questions with an incredible amount of candor and, well, authenticity. The conversation drifted around worship, the music industry, his horses, an old girlfriend, a mirror in his house, his father, personal worship, college, and his friend Jeremy Camp. Nothing was off the table. One thing he said that stood out: Someone asked him what he thought worship meant. He though for a moment, and then drew a big circle with his arm. "Worship," he said "is everything in your life pointing back to God." I'm glad I picked that session.
There were again, session forcused for different groups. The one for youth was called Get in the Game, given by Washington Redskins running back Jonathan Evans. (What is it about those Evans boys?)
The afternoon session again started with worship. Anthony led again with some local musicians. But then, he did one more song. The musicians left the stage, and he came out front and started singing an a capella rendition of "It is Well With My Soul." Three thousand-plus men singing this old hymn - it was amazing. (The guys sitting next to me must've been in a choir - they were singing the echoes in perfect four-part harmony.)
The afternoon speaker was retired Army lieutenant general Jerry Boykin. General Boykin was a founding member of Delta Force, and a lifelong Christian. He wove an amazing testimony from his home in North Carolina, through Egypt, Iran, Grenada, Panama, Columbia and Washington D.C.; about times of soaring hope and a real crisis of faith. I plan on getting his book, Never Surrender.
All in all, it was a great day, and a great time of fellowship with twelve other men from Gospel Light. I would recommend to any men who live near one of the many conference venues to give this one a look and attend.