Ministry Expo and Conference: Courageous Christianity
What a day it was! For those who are unaware, our newspaper, Wisconsin Christian News, hosts a Ministry Expo and Conference every year in Central Wisconsin. We began doing these events in 2003, three years after we started publishing the newspaper. At first, we held the Expo in churches, but for the past ten years, it’s been at a public shopping mall, where we have been able to present an amazing, strong, positive and powerful Christian presence in a public, commercial venue. So rather than simply “preaching to the choir,” sequestered somewhere in a church or private location behind closed doors, we have been able to not only bless committed believers in Christ, but also minister to the unsaved, simply because we are OUTSIDE the church, out there in public.
The idea of the Expo is to help promote the work of various ministries from throughout Wisconsin — and even from other states. The ministries come and set up exhibit booths and people get to know about their work and interact with them in person. Visitors get valuable information and tons of excellent resources to use themselves and to share with others. The ministries also have an opportunity to MINISTER, then, to those who attend — once again, the saved and the unsaved alike. There are Christian camps, retreat centers, pregnancy crisis centers, homeless shelters, jail ministries, prayer ministries, youth ministries, homeschool ministries, educational outreach ministries, pro life and pro family groups, and many more.
The Conference part of the event includes well known speakers on the topics that are most important for us, as Christians to learn and know about, regarding the most urgent and important things we are facing in our world today…. things that the vast majority of pastors will never preach on because they are not “politically correct.” We center the Conference around a specific theme each year. This year’s “theme” was “Reviving the Remnant by Revealing the Truth.” Our speakers included Usama Dakdok, from The Straight Way of Grace Ministries — dealing with the truth about Islam. We also had, as a speaker, Peter LaBarbera, who is president of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality. Peter spoke on the topic of “The Homosexual Agenda.” Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Council was there as well, with one of the most convicting and passionate presentations of the day regarding “The Foundation of the Family.”
Then there was Coach Dave Daubenmire, from Hebron, Ohio. Coach Dave is a former football coach who was sued by the ACLU for praying with his football team before the games. The day before the case was to go to trial back in 1999, the ACLU gave up, dropped the case and offered an out-of-court settlement. It was then that Dave laid down his job as a football coach and began coaching God’s remnant believers to be bold, courageous leaders in the spiritual culture war that is raging all around us. He teaches believers how to be Godly men and women of courage, unafraid to engage in spiritual battle and push back against the rushing tide of those who seek to “fundamentally change America” and the world into a wholly secular, Godless society. Coach Dave now coaches GOD’s “team,” raises up disciples, mentors men, and shows them how to fight as Christian soldiers for Jesus.
Another speaker at our Conference this year was Pastor Matt Trewhella, author of the book “The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates.” Pastor Matt is also founder of Missionaries to the Preborn, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since Pastor Matt began fighting the crime of abortion in 1990, six of the eight abortion clinics in Milwaukee have shut down, countless hundreds of babies have been rescued from death and scores of people have been converted to Christ, including parents of the babies, government officials and prison inmates.
Pastor Terry Fischer was our final speaker of the day. Terry is a former building contractor who was saved years ago and called by God to step out in faith and begin full time ministry work. Today, he heads up The Church In Wisconsin, located in the Milwaukee area. His topic was “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” and he gave a powerful message of salvation in Christ and unity among remnant believers.
At the end of the day, we were blessed to have a musical concert performed by the MPK Christian Celtic Band, lead by Pastor Ron Johnson and his wife Deb, and band members consisting of their children and other family members. The MPK Band has been a favorite at our event for years, and their performance includes original songs as well as history lessons, the Gospel message and traditional Scottish and Irish music. Truly delightful and enjoyed by all.
Truly, this was the best lineup of speakers, topics and sacred music we have ever assembled. But the description of the event does not do justice to the experience of the day…. nor the challenges that were involved in putting this year’s Expo and Conference together. As I said, we have been doing this for the past ten years at a public shopping mall, and have never had any problems or troubles. But things have changed drastically in our American culture, and this year we encountered it in living color.
We do a great deal of advertising and promotion in a lot of different ways each year, to get the word out that our event is coming up, who will be speaking, what the topics will be and the purpose of this outreach ministry. Part of our promotion includes hanging large color posters in the mall a few weeks ahead of time to let area residents and mall shoppers know when the Expo will be taking place and what will be featured.
We did that again this year, as usual. But within a week, I was contacted by mall staff to tell me that someone had come in and ripped down all of our posters. One was found stuffed down a toilet in the public restroom. My wife and I returned to re-hang them a week before the event, and that same day, as we always have done in years past, we placed a great many outdoor signs and advertising placards around the outside of the mall, and on the streets and roads leading up to the mall. We also hung our (very expensive) 40-foot-long banner over the main entrance of the mall.
Two days later, we received another phone call from mall staff. Our signage had all been either stolen or destroyed once again, including our large, expensive banner. And this time, the vandals and thieves did physical damage to the mall itself as well, prying up concrete floor tiles to try to crawl underneath security gates while the mall was closed, and when that did not work, they broke the gates themselves down and came in and destroyed more of our promotional materials and signage.
Meanwhile, I was receiving threats of mob violence to take place during our event. While these protestors did not identify themselves, I believe the threats came from homosexual groups in the area who wanted to stop our event from happening, or cause as much trouble to our exhibitors, guests and speakers as possible. We had to take these threats seriously. Mall maintenance crews were instructed to make sure trash cans were always kept empty, so protestors could not start fires in them, as we have seen them do across the country — rioting, looting and burning. Because of these threats, I felt it was wise to hire off-duty police officers to be on hand in case of trouble, and the County Sheriff’s office also sent three squads of officers to keep the peace, in case a mob were to descend on the event and wreak havoc. We also had six private security guards of our own on hand, just in case.
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