Colour Conference 2015: BE FOUND

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill.

[Tweet “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. #colourconference2015”]


Photo Credit: Rachel Lemons Aitken
Photo Credit: Rachel Lemons Aitken

I’m a recent transplant to Australia from the USA.  Last year, I remember being in a friend’s house with a group of women who were raving about this Colour Conference at Hillsong Church.

You know how women shop.  They see their girlfriends with a cute bag or haircut or new outfit and immediately they ask, “Girl, where did you get that?”

So at my friend’s house that day, as the women were going back and forth about this Conference, I had the urge to just interject, “Girl!  Where did you get that?”   I wanted to see what Colour was all about.


***Spoiler Alert!  If you have yet to attend Colour 2015 in a city outside of Sydney, don’t read on!  It’ll take away some of the surprises.  If you’re like I was and have no clue what Colour is, read on, my friend.  You’re in for an amazing ride!***


Colour Conference

Moving to a new country, as I was just turning 30, hasn’t always been the easiest.  Everyone is set in their friend groups.  They have people they’ve known for donkey years (like my use of Aussie lingo?) since elementary school, high school and college.  These are people they’ve had significant moments with, and I get it.  I have those people too, only they live 15,000 km (over 9,300 mi) away.

Hearing about this Colour Conference — this gathering of girlfriends — sounded intriguing.  My wonderful hubby saw a glint of interest in my eye and immediately booked me a ticket.  (The Conference sells out almost a year in advance)

Let me tell you, in the week leading up to Colour my life went absolutely berserk — I mean nutso-off-the-wall crazy!

I had work deadline after deadline after deadline.  There was a wedding on that weekend and many other things.  It seemed the atmosphere around me was set-up for me to skip out on this weekend of spiritual renewal.

Without knowing my situation, a friend text me and said, “Hey Rachel, hope you’re getting a lot done so your FRIDAY is free for Colour!”  It was the perfect push I needed to make sure I got in gear so I could go, and now I’m glad I did.  I’m not a groupie type of person.  I don’t like doing things because everyone else is doing them.  That being said, I genuinely had an amazing experience at Colour.

Having an Encounter with Jesus

I found Colour to be a great burst of energy for my spiritual life.  I had a beautiful encounter with Jesus, and isn’t that what we long for as Christians – to have encounters, new encounters, in different ways, in different places with Jesus?  Don’t we long to see Him as He truly is?

That weekend I had an encounter Jesus.  That weekend, I was FOUND.

(If you didn’t catch it,  BE FOUND. was the theme of the Conference.)

I want to share a few of the really standout moments for me.  If I were to give a play-by-play of the whole Conference, I’d write a 10,000 word blog post, but I want you to have a glimpse of the beauty that I experience at Colour Conference 2015 – Conference 2 at the Hills Campus in Sydney.  Not everyone in my church circle agrees with everything about Colour Conference (or Hillsong in general) and I found that to be true of another blogger who wrote about her experience, but I can say, I had an encounter with Jesus.  In fact, I believe if you walk through life with your ears open, you will hear Him in various situations.

What’s Your Name?

There was a truly masterful production at the beginning of the event.  It absolutely captured my attention.  It told the story of a girl named Alice (of the Alice and Wonderland variety) who found a great and wondrous book.  The book had beautiful stories and in it she found her identity.  Then, many distractions came along and Alice stopped reading the book; she lost her name and her identity.  It wasn’t until she was reunited with the book and with the author of the book that she rediscovered who she was.

A friend of mine said she didn’t like a secular story being mixed with a spiritual story, but I absolutely loved this analogy.  How often do things distract us and take us from our path?  How often do we lose our names and our identities in the things of this world?

Garden Check with Bobbie Houston

Photo Credit: http://on.fb.me/1xLw5zW
Photo Credit: http://on.fb.me/1xLw5zW

In the opening message, Pr. Bobbie Houston, co-pastor of Hillsong with her husband Brian, preached a powerful sermon that asked a question that I am pondering for my own life.  Since many women attend Colour year after year, she posed the question, “Where have you seen growth in your garden?  Have you experienced any spiritual growth in your life from last year to this one?  What an important question to ask ourselves as Christians.  Bobbie challenged us to be endlessly found in God’s words, His shadow and His footsteps.

She said, when God speaks to you, hold those words dear.  They’re your lifeline.

She then gave a warning that the enemy

  1. Introduces doubt
  2. Attacks trust
  3. Makes us question God’s love

His purpose is to destroy our relationship with God and others and destroy our God-given creativity.

Most importantly, she talked about dreaming.  This is significant to me because lately, I believe God has been speaking to me about my dreams.  He’s been talking to me about bringing my dreams to reality.  Bobbie said, “Find a new dream when God has fulfilled your former dream.” What are you dreaming?  Has God fulfilled a dream in your life?  Find a new dream!

She challenged us from Hebrews 12:1-2

  • Endure – stay in a place beyond an expected point of time
  • Don’t be distracted, stay focused.  We have no time to lose the path, like Alice did.  Stay the path.

Finally, she spoke on connectedness and its important.  We’re not meant to do this journey of life alone.  Our identity needs to be as daughters of the King of Kings.  Everything else can go away, but this is the part of our identity that’s here to stay.  We were then asked, what is it that I don’t want to take home from Colour.  

Even now, as I type this from my notes, I realise that I forgot about this moment at the Conference all together.

We were challenged to stand up if there was something we didn’t want to take with us from Colour.  I have something in my life that I’ve been struggling with for the past few months and in that moment, I asked God if I could leave it there at Colour.  Since that point until now, I don’t think I’ve truly given it over to God so it’s great that I’m revising my notes and remembering that that’s what I asked God to help me do.  I pray that God will remind me and continue to take control of that issue in my life!

Sheila Walsh

Rachel Lemons Aitken
Photo Credit: Rachel Lemons Aitken

I loved Sheila’s slight Scottish accent.  It was just enough for me to appreciate it and not too much that my American mind couldn’t sort through it.  There was so much depth in her message and her testimony.  In fact, I was listening too intently to take many notes, but I did manage to write a couple of things.  She spoke about the desperate woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5:25.  She said there’s a difference between hanging around Jesus and touching Him in faith.  The big standout message for me was that the biggest mess in your life can be a doorway to your biggest message.  God wants us to worship him in truth, with nothing hidden.

My Beautiful Breakfast

My breakfast may seem to have nothing to do with Colour, but my husband got up and made it for me before I left out on Saturday morning and it made a world of difference to my day!  I’m all about getting my calories.

Photo Credit: Rachel Lemons Aitken
Photo Credit: Rachel Lemons Aitken

Slow Burning Faith – DawnCheré Wilkerson

DawnCheré, my fellow American, had a powerful sermon on Saturday about slow-burning faith.  She said, “True faith is exemplified in faithfulness.  When you are reminded of the faithfulness of God, it will fill you with faith.”

[Tweet “True faith is exemplified in faithfulness. When you are reminded of the faithfulness of God, it will fill you with faith.”]

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She talked about our faith being like dynamite, with a slow-burning fuse that will eventually explode.  It was obvious this message resonated with so many people there.

Let’s Talk Sisterhood – Manhood

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Photo Credit: Rachel Lemons Aitken

One great feature of this Conference for me was that there was a segment that aimed to help women understand men better and to minister to them more effectively and live with them in greater harmony.  Brian Houston spoke a frank message, which was followed by a panel discussion.

When Brian got on stage the women, I think, sort of leaned in.  It could have been because Bobbie and Brian have star-like status in the Christian church, but I think it’s also because women seem to be excited to talk about men when they’re in the midst of women.  Strange, huh?  (As a side note, I noticed the phrase “Lean In” was used a lot, especially by Bobbie Houston.  It reminds me of the title of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.)

Anyway, I was interested.  I thought, hey, maybe this will give me some insight into my husband, and I’m sure that was the point of the whole session.  During that time, we talked about how to understand men better.  One very good point Brian made was that sometimes, men look at where they are and often it’s not where they thought they would be at that particular age, or it might be where they expected but doesn’t feel the way they expected it to and it can mess with their heads.  I think that’s pretty insightful.  He talked a bit about mateship (come on now, this is Australia; men have mates, not buddies or boys or roll dogs or aces…they have mates!).  His main points were men should live outwardly or generously, worshipfully and peaceably.

The Colour Gift

As a first-timer, I wasn’t aware we’d be getting a gift.  Well, similar to Oprah’s show, we did all receive something and the women were almost as excited as if Oprah said….”You’re getting……..A NEW CAAAAAAAAARRRRR!”  Only we didn’t get new cars!  We got…a Bible.

IMG_1030
Photo Credit: Rachel Lemons Aitken

Why do I think this was a great gift?  It was given to us to give to someone else, and how much sense does that make?  Everyone there would likely have a Bible.  Preaching to the choir, right?  This Bible has quotes, photos and study guides aimed at men.  Awesome giveaway at a women’s conference –  a place where people sometimes thinks women are either being super over-the-top girly or men-bashing.  There was none of the above and this giveaway proved it.

I’m sure it’s available for you at their bookstore, which touches on the business side of things, but I’ll talk about that in a bit.

Christine Caine 

Photo Credit: http://on.fb.me/1HdLKaP
Photo Credit: http://on.fb.me/1HdLKaP

The real knockout speaker of the weekend was the powerhouse, Christine Caine.  She warned before starting that she only speaks hard, fast and continuously, and she was right!  She shared a bit of her story of growing up in Blacktown, where she was unwanted, unnamed and a mess.

She spoke on Isaiah 54, and to this day, I still hear women I know talking about her sermon and the promise and power it has for their lives and ministries.  The focus of her sermon was on verse 2.  She talked about how we need elbow room for our growing family, meaning the church.  She said God was speaking into our lives and saying, I can’t fit what I want to do in the space you have for me.  There’s not enough room there for what I want to do.  How big can you dream and imagine?  Is your heart taken up with too much of you that there’s not enough room for me?  Is your heart too enamoured with other things?  Were you after me or the stuff?

Her message, delivery, timing and conviction were all very powerful and I felt her message carried a huge promise from God for my life.

The Music

If you know Hillsong, you know its music.  It’s a standard now in Christian churches, circles, conferences, radios, videos…it’s ubiquitous.  Omnipresent even.  It was at times surreal to hear songs that I’ve loved worshipping to, live and in person.  It’s powerful to be standing in the midst of so many people praising God.

On the other hand, at times, the music was so loud that I felt it reverberating in my soul.  I felt my bones shaking and my liver quivering.  The bass and the drums were still beating inside of me long after I left.  I chalked that up to being part of the experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not from a very quiet church; I grew up in African-American churches and in comparison to lots of other styles of worship, they like to praise and sing and make a JOYFUL noise.  Even still I haven’t been anywhere where the music was so LOUD.  It’s not really a complaint on my part, because I took it all in as part of the experience.  It is quite different from how I do church, but I don’t believe that God only shows up in the context of my experience.  That’s self-centred and narcissistic, in my humble opinion.

All in all, I loved the musical experience.

Business & Communications

As someone with a business background, who now works in communications, I couldn’t help but think, “If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.”  Haha! Ok.  So I don’t see Colour as a cash cow for Hillsong, but I do think of the cash flow from it.  It was mentioned that they don’t break even on the event, but I wonder if that factors in merchandise and the offering they took up each nite.

I’ve heard people describe the event as being “slick” and a “production.”  To some churches it might seem so, in comparison to the way they do church.  What I see in all of this is a commitment to excellence.  With a church that big, in many ways not having a bit of a “production” could produce chaos.  I admire the organisation and the excellence that you sense when you’re there.  Obviously, I can’t hear the conversations and read the minds of those that are driving the organisation.  I do believe there would be some savvy minds involved who are able to think through cash flow for the church and how it sustains itself and its staff.  No matter how you slice it, I doubt they’re hurting for money between music, books, conferences, merchandise and offering.  Even still, a bigger church has greater costs to operate.

That being said, they have a real commitment to service through their partnership with organisations, like Compassion and the Colour Sisterhood 500 Project, and many others.

During one presentation, the various projects they’re partnering with in various countries were mentioned.  Mo’ money mo’ problems isn’t always true when you have something useful to do with the money.

As for the communications, they’re totally on point.  With registration all set for 2016, along with accompanying e-mails carrying the brand, the communications is admirable and as a comms professional, I’m inspired and was jotting notes along the way.

Pre-Event e-mail, fit with the 2015 branding, which was repeated at the event
Pre-Event e-mail, fit with the 2015 branding, which was repeated at the event

 

Pre-e-mail event. Featuring the 2015 event branding, which matched the envelope received in the mail with the registration badge
Pre-e-mail event. Featuring the 2015 event branding, which matched the envelope received in the mail with the registration badge

 

Conference Schedule of Events and Information
Conference Schedule of Events and Information

 

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2016 Brochure
E-mail post event, prompting 2016 registration, fit with the 2016 branding
E-mail post event, prompting 2016 registration, fit with the 2016 branding

 

The Send-Off to Colour 2015 Cape Town

A big part of the Colour experience is doing a big wave to send the Conference off from location to location.  This wave sent it from Sydney to Cape Town.  Watch those flags fly high!

Preview of Colour 2016

2016 will be a celebration of 20 years of the Colour Conference.  Promotion and registration took place in full force at the Conference.  I think the branding is beautiful.  I absolutely love the gold foiling, especially for a big celebratory year!

After all of that do you still want more?

Wow!  Well, I just gave you a mouthful, but if you still want to know more about Colour there are lots of places you can get info.

The Colour Sisterhood Instagram Account

The Colour Sisterhood Facebook Page

The Colour Conference Website

The 24liveblog (live blog rundown from the event)

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