Torrey Conference a privilege, part of long-standing tradition

David Talley, chair of the biblical and theological studies department, shares how the Torrey Conference is part of a long-standing tradition of church meetings.

Why have a Bible conference in the middle of La Mirada, which is full of churches we are encouraged to attend and serve … on the campus of Biola University, where we are required to take 30 units of Bible and theology, with chapel service opportunities throughout the week, which we are required to attend a certain number and with a plethora of discipleship groups, floor Bible studies and prayer times, which are available throughout the week? Why?

Church meetings seen as a privilege in history

There was a time, and I am old enough to remember it well, when churches and other Christian organizations were expected to have such meetings … and Christians were expected, even delighted, to attend. In any given month, in any given week and on any given day, there was a meeting taking place somewhere, where any good Christian could climb into her Sunday-go-to-meetin’ dress or strap on his Sunday-go-to-meetin’ tie and well-polished shoes and find a good ole church meetin’ to attend. All a person had to do was drive down the road and it would be easy to find the lighted marquee sign with a catchy slogan like “Hell ain’t found here, we preachin’ heaven tonight” announcing a Revival Meetin’ usually with loud gospel music already blaring through the open doors at the end of a gravel parking lot, with dandelions sprinkled around, inviting any willing soul, especially sinners, to drop in for some serious hell-fire-and-brimstone preaching. As soon as they quit serving dinner at the diner down the road, those dandelions would be trampled on by the tires of the cars that would fill that parking lot as people filed into a standing room only meeting.

If that meeting was not to one’s liking, just a little further down the road, one was certain to find a Bible conference, usually much more sophisticated than the Revival Meetin’. At this location, one would find another invitation, usually on a well-lit marquee sign, announcing an inspiring week of teaching on the end times — “eschatology” would be the word used if the town was more educated. No loud music blaring here, but once again it would be standing room only because on the well-lit marquee sign were the words, “TONIGHT: ‘The Pre-Tribulational Rapture IS What God Believes’ TOMORROW NIGHT: ‘The Bible’s Teaching on the 70 Weeks of Daniel.’” Who could resist?

But still, if one was not inclined to attend even the Bible conference or did not happen to have a Bible in the car — you must have a Bible to walk through the back doors of any church to attend a Bible conference or they would assume you should be at the Revival Meetin’ — then surely down the road just a few more blocks before you hit the city limits, one could find a prayer meeting. Usually these were more sparsely attended. No marquee sign here. No loud music. There was not necessarily a lot of prayer either. But there were pew Bibles. Usually attending a prayer meeting such as this meant singing some hymns, listening to a 35-minute Bible study, taking prayer requests for another 20 minutes, where people would shake their heads and moan with compassion with each request of hardship or physical malady and then praying together for the remaining few minutes because the meeting needed to end at 8 p.m., to cap off a good evening of being with God’s people.

Teaching of God’s word central to Biola’s roots

We may laugh at the above scenarios, and I even share them with many concerns. However, the body of Christ has experienced a loss of sorts because these kinds of times have lost significance in the contemporary church. Biola University has a Bible conference because, in many ways, our roots go deep into the world I just described above. We have a long-standing tradition, and the teaching of God’s word is central to who we are. It may be old-fashioned by contemporary standards, but for a community like Biola University to still believe that there is value in setting aside the normal routine of classes to bring a university-wide focus on the study of God’s word is rare, and it is a privilege. It gives evidence to what really matters to our leadership, which should make us proud, and it provides us an opportunity for us to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, which should make us grateful.

The church in Iran can only dream of what we can actually experience in these few days we set aside to focus on God’s word. Their attempts to do something like this potentially bring persecution to their lives, yet they gladly risk it. Biola’s commitment to give you this privilege can feel like “persecution” to many of you. Strange, isn’t it? May the Lord grant you gratitude for all the opportunities you have been granted to grow in your understanding of his word and in your love for him. May you be blessed in these days you have been given to attend a Bible conference.

I would advise you to bring your Bible … after all, it is a Bible conference. Maybe someone could put a well-lit marquee sign out front?

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