Have you heard of Jennie Allen and IF? I hadn’t. So last year when yarn artisan and fellow sub Katie told me about the gathering of women in Zeeland for a Livestream event from Texas, I was skeptical. When you take a bunch of women anywhere, put them in the same room together and THEN have speakers (from who knows where, believing who knows what) talk, someone is going to be offended, or else the speaker will have her theology wrong and I will have a choice to make: leave or speak up.
So I looked up their statement of faith. I read how they began. Words like “all” and “unleashing” and “discipleship” and “calling” made me uneasy. They can be tossed around easily enough, but those ethereal words actually have meaning when you bring them back down to earth. That rubber-meets-road meaning was the fly in my ointment and only way to de-fly my ointment was to go and hear for myself.
It was a no-brainer, actually. The event was being held less than a mile from our house, AND I would get to know this amazing woman better? Yes, please!
The women who planned our local event, IF: Zeeland, did an amazing job! Dinner was provided when we got there at 5:30 Friday night. I had subbed all day unexpectedly and I was exhausted. Delicious food was a good way to begin the night.
A goody bag was waiting for each woman as she found her seat: a pen, a journal, a necklace with IF stamped into a charm, some tissues, and of course, chocolate.
Sessions 1, 2 & 3 flew past. The theme was about Jesus’ life: What IF we lived like Jesus?
Each of the speakers was funny, real, and bold. You knew by the end of her time that her struggles weren’t just hard but the tools God was using to shape her and use her. It sounds basic, but that’s what I needed to be reminded. My struggles don’t discount me. They push me to my knees so I’m in a position to be used.
As my journal attests, I wrote and wrote (still testing what I was hearing), but the defining moment came when an Anglican pastor couple took the stage. They spoke about the theology of suffering. How the visual of the breaking of bread as Christ’s body arrests us and reminds us that suffering isn’t a separate part of our beliefs but central to it all. As beautiful and deep as they were, the defining moment was when I realized that an Anglican pastor was speaking to my heart.
If I could sit across from another woman and know that we both believe in Jesus, the only Son of God, who lived a perfect life, born of a virgin, died on the cross, rose from the dead, the only payment for our sin, and that we can do nothing to earn grace, the church she goes to isn’t the obstacle I thought. We may not completely agree on every piece of doctrine, but I can embrace her as a sister.
THAT is the drive behind the IF Gathering. What IF women were using their God-given gifts for God’s kingdom instead of comparing and dividing? The balance can be tricky and sometimes messy. Doctrine does matter, but how we treat our sisters matters more.
I heard women in a FaceBook Theology group call the IF Gathering a witches coven. A group of witches is called a “gathering” so they must be a cult of witches. Bizarre logic. Obviously, I left that group, mainly because the common thread in the questions posted was an “us against them” mentality. I don’t want to be known for that. Instead of picking apart titles and semantics, we should be seeing common ground.
You love Jesus?! Hey, so do I! Let’s love Him together. If we happen to disagree at some point, I will give you grace and not walk away.
So tonight is the start of IF Gathering 2017 – and I cannot wait! The theme this year is Acts and the early church. God’s been digging around in my heart and pruning the last couple weeks. I know He will continue tonight and tomorrow as I sit with my sisters at IF: Zeeland.
If you love Jesus and even if you’re not sure, come join us!
Here’s the link to register!