The Coke County Ministry Conference

By Curtis K. Shelburn: Local columnist

By far the most helpful ministry seminar I ever go to is one I try to faithfully attend twice a year at Robert Lee, Texas. I call it the Coke County Ministry Conference.

The setting, the speakers, my fellow attendees—every aspect of this conference is truly remarkable.

You should see the place. A five-star hotel, white-coated waiters scurrying around to attend to your every need, gourmet food and drink. And at the various sessions, speakers from some amazing churches share their eye-popping insights into how you, too, if you just buy their latest church growth books on such topics as Seven Steps to Becoming a Mega-church Rock Star Pastor, can steer your course straight down the road to inclusion in the Ecclesiastical Book of Who’s Who.

Just spending a few days at that conference recharges my batteries, reminds me of why I do what I do, and helps me fill up in that amazing atmosphere with renewed vigor and life and thanksgiving to God.

And that last paragraph is true. Most of the rest of what I’ve written in this column isn’t.

The “conference” is indeed in Robert Lee, Coke County, Texas. I think it’s a pretty impressive community. Like most of the truly greatest and best parts of our nation, it’s part of the rural and small part. I guess pretty much everybody there is somebody. I’ve not yet bumped into anyone there who felt much need to over-awe or waste much time trying to be impressive.

Sorry, no five-star hotels there. But my Granddaddy & Grandmother Key’s old home is there, and that’s where the “conference” is held. I never walk into that house without wondering how it could have been so large when I was a child and so small now. I don’t even have a private room there. I usually sleep on the floor in the living room on a blow-up mattress.

The attendees and speakers are one and the same. Actually, four and the same. My three brothers and me. All pastors. For great churches, I think. But not the mega-kind. Between us we’ve written a few books and scads of sermons, but none that will point anyone to star-dom, ecclesiastical or otherwise.

Gourmet food? Some fine tube steaks (hot dogs) and even some pretty impressive real steaks, cooked over a bed of coals and, occasionally, on my “gourmet” flat-tipped shovel over our fire-pit.

We’re all four a bit touched in the head, or so our wives think. One of my brothers just got back from a trip to Paris (as in, France). He said he found himself sitting in the plane thinking that if he wasn’t with his wife and grandkids, he’d really rather be going to Robert Lee.

Maybe that just goes to show that our wives are right. Or maybe it just shows that God’s best and deepest blessings can be with us anywhere.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at ckshel@aol.com