The Nation

The need for booth spaces in religious conventions

By Paul Chika Emekwulu

In India, a village school recently started a model school program that is worthy of emulation, worthy of emulation because no one individual can represent the experience of us all on this planet, your level of wealth, education, or social status notwithstanding. A vital component of the program is inviting guest speakers with different backgrounds to the school to motivate and empower students.  These speakers range from local artists, auto mechanics, teachers, nurses, computer programmers, publishers, writers, comedians, medical doctors, engineers, politicians etc. When you get empowered, it now becomes a responsibility for you to extend your empowered selves to others. Why is it so important to discuss this?  We can learn from here and compare it to what happens at religious conventions.
In other to preserve direct experience, it can exist in many storage forms: CDs, books, audio tapes, movies, documentaries, and so on.  Direct experience is very empowering, like anointing makes a difference, is not negotiable, cannot be compromïsed and nobody can take it away from you. Without direct experience, your knowledge of the spiritual world could be limited. As your knowledge of these things deepens, your understanding of the Scriptures comes more to life.  Some people have been chosen by God to go through these experiences and bring the lessons so learned to the rest of us.  If that is so, you are highly honored.  We all do not have to undergo through the same experience.  The rest of us have to, by faith, believe those who did.
Those with direct experience of these things should be given the opportunity to share them without any restrictions. We benefit very immensely from other people’s direct experiences. There have to be avenues to share these things. These avenues include religious gatherings such as conventions/conferences, retreats etc.  As many as there are different individuals, so there are different circumstances.  These circumstances represent different perspectives, and different perspectives turn into different experiences and these different experiences result to different testimonies, and these different testimonies end up empowering people differently.  Ńow, this raises a question: Who as an individual can represent all these different experiences and consequently, testimonies?  The answer is none.  Booth spaces should be allowed at these conventions or religious retreats at a reasonable cost. Why? This is to accommodate different perspectives. This allows cross-fertilization of experiences. By not allowing and encouraging booth spaces we are indirectly discouraging cross-fertilization of ideas, we are depriving ourselves of other people’s direct spiritual experiences or testimonies. Then where is iron sharpening iron? (Proverbs 27:17). Then, how are we encouraging others?  Are we all going to go through the same experience? Of course not!  Exactly! We all do not have to undergo through the same experience. Is one experience equal to another experience?  Of course not!  Direct spiritual experience is not a preserve of a particular set or group of people, direct spiritual experience doesn’t discriminate based on age, race, color, religion, vocation, occupation and what have you.  Of course that is another way of saying that God doesn’t discriminate on these things based on any of those things.
If we continue along this line, then testimony doesn’t make sense anymore (Psalm 96:3, Psalm 105:1b), if we continue along this line, empowerment is meaningless, if we continue along this line how can we empower ourselves let alone extending our empowered selves to other children of God?  In other words, if we continue this way, where is the edification?  Doing so further means that testimony should be reserved for again, a particular group of people. It is only through both our individual and collective effort that the edification of the church can be ächieved (1 Cor. 14:3, 12:4-11, Romans 15:2, Ephesians 4:12).  When you have a worthwhile story, you are empowered.  That time your story is no more just your story anymore. It is for your next door neighbor, it is for other Christians.  When you are blessed, you are empowered and when you are empowered, you are blessed. When you are blessed it now becomes your responsibility to testify, that is how your blessing gets to other people.
The word of God says: “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed?  Of course, not!” (Mark 4:21, Luke 11:33).  Jesus continued by saying:  “A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine.”  Jesus, while saying this, knows that light which is goodness dispels darkness which is evil.  These are the two forces that control the world we live in and of course neutralizing the word of the enemy is one of the reasons why Christ came to this world (1 John 3:8).  In 2 Peter 2:19, the word of God says:  “Because of that experience we have even greater confidence in the message being proclaimed by the prophets.”. This portrays the significance of second level of direct experience which takes us to a level of more understanding. Such news (testimonies), such understanding should be shared.  How about this from one of my sisters?  “He who has no experience doesn’t have any message.” When you have an experience, you have a message; when you have a message, you have a testimony; when you have a testimony, you have been blessed and placed in a position to encourage others, and when others are encouraged, the church has been edified. (1 Cor. 14:3, 12:4-11).

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