It was her first time at the conference but, just like that, she had picked up on what it was all about. It was like church on steroids – like your local congregation if it grew strong and grew quick. And in reality, that local congregation is the true strength of a conference which exists as a reminder that the family God invites us into is much greater than any of us could imagine.
Walking into an arena with 25,000 people buzzing with excitement can be daunting, but not when that arena feels like home. And I think that is a key aspect of the family of God: the fact that it really is a family, encompassing breadth and diversity, as well as faults and foibles. As a Hillsong staff member said, "In a big church there are more opportunities to get offended… because there are more people!"
But despite some momentary mishaps and probably the occasional private meltdown, this year's conference was marked by God's grace – literally, as He stretched rainbows over the arena throughout Thursday and blessed us with beautiful weather the rest of the week.
Delegates from 72 different countries gathered together, embodying what Jesus said in Luke 13, that "people will come from the east and west, and from north and south, and sit and feast at the table in the kingdom of God. And indeed some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last".
And despite hosting some of the world's best known speakers, the ones more worthy of note are the faithful volunteers who put the week together and kept it running smoothly. Some took a week off work and volunteered to serve those attending the conference, a generous and often sacrificial gift.
Because it's not just a conference... It's the church.
Grace Mathew is a Sydney-based writer and speaker.
Garce's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/grace-mathew.html