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reFocus Conference (I)

Yesterday afternoon I hopped on a flight to Chicago so I could get to reFocus, Moody Bible Institute’s pastors’ conference. This is going to be a slightly different experience for me, I think. It is bound to be a different than the “average” conference I go to at any rate. It’s a long story as to how I got here, but it involves a) being asked to lead a breakout session b) learning that my book was being going to be a giveaway for each of the 1200 or so men in attendance and c) [long story]. These factors, combined with my curiosity to see this ministry in action, have brought me to the Windy City.

All the way until Thursday I’ll be bringing updates once or twice a day as I’m able. You’ll probably know some of the speakers while others, well, perhaps not so much. The list of keynotes includes John MacArthur, John Piper, Voddie Baucham, Michael Easley, Flip Flippen, Ken Davis, Chip Ingram, Henry Blackaby and Crawford Loritts. (What are the chances that at one conference you’ll find both a Flip and a Chip on the list of speakers?)

The conference is held on the Moody Bible Institute campus. I had pictured it in my mind as a suburban kind of campus but it is actually right in the heart of Chicago. We are being quartered in one of the college dorms, a rather tall downtown kind of building. We worship and listen to the addresses in the auditorium, eat in the cafeteria and go to breakout sessions in the classrooms. I guess it’s not entirely unlike being back in a college environment.

There is a general session to start each day and this is followed by a breakout or track session. There is another general session before lunch and then two more breakout or track sessions in the afternoon. There is one final general session to close the day and it runs from around 7 to 9 PM. Some of the breakout sessions are led by speakers who in many other contexts would be keynotes—J.P. Moreland, Andy Crouch and Jerry Jenkins being just a few. There are three tracks the pastors here can take—transformational preaching; missions; and justice and compassion. More on that another day.

A humorous little side note. In the guide they hand to everyone as they register, there is a list of each of the breakout sessions. For each of the speakers they have a single line to describe his qualifications. “Pastor of Grace Bible Church.” “Author with Moody Books.” “Professor, Biola University.” Mine is the exception. It says “Self-employed Web Designer.” I’m not sure that this stands as a qualification necessary to speak to pastors!