But first, what IS IF?
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about all this IF stuff the last few months, so I’d thought I would take a stab at attempting to explain IF to you all and why I continue to pursue it.
A disclaimer is needed here FYI, so that if after you read this and you still don’t “get it,” that is okay. Because, I think even the IF Leadership team itself is still figuring IF out. But it is too good not to experience just because it is hard to explain…much like the mysterious ways of the gospel and of God himself that cannot be completely understood but certainly can be experienced.
Officially, IF is the product of a vision given Jennie Allen seven years ago. It was a clear direction from God for her to gather, equip, and unleash women of her generation. Well, the only problem was that she was a stay-at-home mom of little ones in suburban Texas…but she knew this was real and therefore she was called to obey.
Flash forward to last fall, when 1200 seats for a conference in Austin TX sold out in minutes. Now, mind you, NO speakers were announced, NO schedule explained, NO worship leaders named, just the very simple premise “If God is real, then what?” A few key women mentioned IF, Jen Hatmaker, Ann Voskamp, and Jennie, but it was simply a blip in their own ministry, speaking, and blogging discourse.
Yet women flocked to Austin TX. Then the ones who didn’t get tickets or couldn’t simply go, hosted or attended an IF:Local live webcast of the event in homes across the country and the globe. As in an estimated 150,000 of them. The organizational elements, even the cost, was spirit led, spirit trusted. The planners simply said, since God is in this, He will provide. The cost of IF was stated, but all tickets and livestream host sites, were purchased by spirit led donations rather than a fixed price. Some gave little, some gave much. The most refreshing thing to me was the revelation at the end of the conference that all those who walked on stage were not paid but had volunteered their time because this message, this gathering, was more important than their own financial gain. Now that is credibility in my book.
I heard about IF via Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook page last year. I then curiously researched Jennie Allen for I hadn’t actually heard of her before. When IF:Local was offered after the sell out, I immediately signed up to host even though I had no clue what If actually was…but my spirit had been stirred.
Around that same time, a friend and I started a small bible study of a few women in my home to provide relationship, accountability, and prayer. We chose to kickstart the group with Jennie Allen’s study “Stuck” which I had found while googling IF and Jennie. If you haven’t checked out her bible studies, you should. The format she utilizes to engage truth, relationship, and individual spiritual growth is unique and needed. Yes, needed. You see, it is not a fill in the blank approach to spiritual growth. She brings scripture smack dab into your struggles, your sin, your hurts, your calling and provides a framework to live out God’s word. There are projects for homework…faith in action. Not good with words? Great, there are even pages for drawing assignments to visualize various lessons or emotions throughout the study (my stick figures rocked). Then she adds discussion cards that engage conversation from your real life, centralized around key scriptures. I loved it. Our group loved it. It was new, refreshing, and valuable. We were left primed and ready for IF:Local when February finally rolled around.
Leading into the week ahead of hosting IF, I had a brief breakdown of sessions, meal breaks and a list of a few women who would likely be on stage at some point in Austin. Well, and of course, Jennie Allen’s trademark discussion cards for each session of the weekend. I cleaned my house. Put out a few IF inspired decorations. Borrowed a bigger tv. Even borrowed a laptop that was compatible to plug in to the borrowed tv. Then lovingly prepped some good ole spaghetti casserole. Then over the Friday evening and Saturday day, we had up to eight women lounging on my sofas or enjoying a meal together. We worshipped. We listened. We prayed. We broke bread together. We learned. We encouraged one another. We confessed. But, in my opinion, many of us tasted something divine and urgent all at the same time. This was not a conference of “how to”s, or specific issues such as parenting or marriage. It was a gathering of women eager to engage the question, “If God is real, then what?” and then how the answer to that question should impact of lives now, not later.
Live stream test of borrowed TV and laptop
Officially, this is IF:
“We exist to gather, equip and unleash the next generation of women to live out their purpose.”
Simple enough right?
Or from IF:Gathering.com:
There is a restlessness among the next generation of women, who fear more than anything – wasting their lives. We want to harness their hunger and passion by providing space to be equipped to pursue their God-given dreams.
The IF:Gathering is a fresh, deep, honest space for a new generation of women to wrestle with the essential question: IF God is real… THEN what?
I asked those who experienced the IF:Gathering in my home to define IF. It is tough, but maybe that is a good thing.
From my peeps:
“hmmm….I don’t even know how to define IF. Just that it is the beginning of truly believing what God has said He will do!”
“I would say it is a movement of women who want to see themselves and others truly act on what they say they believe. It’s about loving God and going to the next step by loving others, with however God gifts and equips us. That means at its core is knowing God and knowing ourselves so that we can reach the world.”
“IF: is a tribe of woman who long for intimacy with Jesus. We want to love well and live radically, bringing God’s Kingdom into our families and our spheres of influence. It’s an organic community energized by winsome, mostly under 40 women through an annual gathering, monthly table in-home dinners and daily on-line Scripture reading. IF: community values God’s Word, community, authenticity, vulnerability. Stop comparing and criticizing and get in the race!”
For me, IF is leading women who know Jesus in a way we have been longing for and we didn’t even know it until now. IF strips away labels, denominations, race, geography, and even marital status down to what actually matters… Jesus and eternity. At the end of the day, of our relatively short lives, that IS all that truly matters. So, if many of us women believe God is real, like actually who He says He is, then what???
What should our days, minutes, and seconds look like? I took so much from the teaching that weekend, but what stuck and continues to influence my thoughts and actions are three things: GIFTS, URGENCY, and FREEDOM.
IF gathered women to hear that God redeems our past. He forgives. IF you believe in God, and that Jesus truly was His Son, fully God and fully man, lived sinless while on this earth, died, and rose again…THEN WHAT?
Do I wallow in my sin? No. If I trust Jesus’ work on the cross and believe He is who He said He was, then IT IS FINISHED. Sin continues. Forgiveness continues as long as I walk on this planet, but it is my choice to stew and stir about in sins that I have confessed. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we often choose to live delivered by Christ’s blood, but not free. But that is indeed a choice. And after IF, I am choosing to live free from the burdens of my sins that have been forgiven.
Along with this freedom, came the new sense of urgency after experiencing IF. Yes, of course I’ve experienced the typical church pulpit fear based “Jesus is coming, get ready” activation before. Or for you “the middle” fans, “get your business done” motivation to act. But, more specifically, what, as individuals created in God’s image with unique, divine gifts that are purposed for the big C church, are we to be doing, NOW? Like, really, right now. I understand the concept of “seasons of life” where we simply have more or less time for certain things in our life. I get that. Yes, having a nursing newborn verses empty nesting paints two very different time pictures (and sleep amounts). But, what I don’t think God had in mind was that the perfect, beautiful, unique, Kingdom-purposed gift He knit into you should be put on hold, erased, or covered up to be used at a later more “convenient” time. Because, in reality, what time do we actually have? Our kids need us. Our husbands need us. But, what IF we actually are better moms, wives, daughters, and sisters when we are utilizing our gifts? It may look different at different times in our lives and we may have to cut things that are not our calling, but IF engaged me to not shelf my gift for a later date…
You see, IF also revealed to me that as we grow up and “mature,” somehow adulthood builds in the lie that things that we are good at and enjoy doing do not have a place in the adult world. Only chefs cook. Only professionally trained musicians make music. Only seminary graduates teach bible. Only professional athletes can use their physical talent to reach charities and do good works in the community. We might claim a gift, but then we tack a big BUT right after it to prevent us from using it, especially as part of the body of Christ.
What IF, we got honest, maybe even a tiny bit prideful, for just a moment and looked at our lives (especially our younger selves) and admitted we actually know what we are good at. And bonus, we love it too! God didn’t gift you with a gift that you hate to use. You might have a not so fun to use talent, but that might not be God’s divine spiritual gift to be used for His glory and kingdom. Ironically, as mentioned by several at the IF:Gathering, if you ask those around you, or especially those who knew you as a child, they often can immediately name your gift or giftS. If you are unsure, give it a try. Ask a few people in your circle, and see if after what they say, you didn’t maybe have a little “I know, but…” reaction.
I needed to hear that in my living room that weekend in February. Most women need to hear that. What change could happen in this world if just one generation, completely tapped into their gifts and used them for a divine calling and Jesus’ name? Seriously, that is revolutionary. Culture shifting. What some might even call an awakening. IF woke my gifts, for that I am thankful and am now passionate about sharing IF with others because of it.
IF also created community. We now gather via Facebook to discuss IF:Equip bible readings. We gather around the table once a month for IF:Table. For one woman at my IF:Local Gathering, this experience created missional community that she had been missing and longing for. That group of women, not that I knew all of them well by any means before IF, are now activated independently to live out our callings and to “run our marked race” together.
Our first IF:Table
See, I bet you’re still wondering what IF is. Honestly, the best way to understand IF is to experience IF. That’s how it was for me and the women who gathered in my home. You can purchase the video and audio download here for $25. Not bad for over 7 hours of kick you in the pants, biblical teaching from women who are crusading this culture with a love for Jesus and of people.
Truly, all generations, denominations, race, single, divorced, married, former stripper, American Idol contestant, the critically ill, they are all represented on the IF stage. Because God’s church is big. And He is creatively beautiful. Therefore, when we gather as women following Jesus, we should all be boldly and lovingly welcomed at the table because of His name, work, and resurrection not by our measured differences or insecurities. IF represented this better than I have ever experienced myself before and it filled my soul.
For some samples from IF:Gathering, check out the Vimeo page. Especially carve 15 minutes out especially for Kristin Armstrong’s chat with Jennie. It may make you cry.
Join the conversation. Subscribe to IF:Equip. Host an IF:Table. Listen and share the IF:Gathering teachings with those who need to hear them. Save the date for next year’s IF:Gathering Feb 6-7 2015. Donate to IF to create more opportunities for this big God sized vision to grow and spread throughout my and your generation of women.
God is moving. He is calling up His daughters out of sleepy, over-worked, over-scheduled, social media comparing, works based faith to live free and expand His church for His glory and His name alone. And I simply don’t want to miss it.
I don’t want you to miss it.
For you, in your home, your community, your story, your gifts, your people, simply answer this:
If God is real, then…
Jesus is Better (Another IF take away…Austin Stone Worship)