This week on The Exchange, I host Jennie Allen. Jennie is an award-winning and bestselling author of Anything and Restless, as well as the Bible studies Stuck, Chase, and Restless. The founder and visionary for the IF: Gathering, she is a passionate leader following God’s call on her life to catalyze a generation of women to live what they believe. Jennie has a master’s in biblical studies from Dallas Theological Seminary and lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Zac. Together they have been blessed with four children, the youngest of whom was adopted from Rwanda.
Ask author and Bible teacher Jennie Allen how she came to create the most popular interdenominational Christian women's event in years, and she'll stumble to answer.
Ask how she gathered tens of thousands of Christian women—live in Austin, Texas, and online across the globe—around the idea of pursuing spiritual calling, and she won't have the words.
Like the people who witnessed miraculous outcomes in the Bible, all Allen can do to explain the success of last weekend's IF: Gathering is point to the work of the Holy Spirit. "The whole thing has been completely unexpected to me," she said. "It felt like fish and loaves."
The first-time event had a vague premise—If God is real, then what?—and no speaker lineup when announced this fall, but sold out in 42 minutes, forcing organizers to coordinate local watch parties across the U.S. and 22 other countries to accommodate interest.
During the simulcast over the weekend, 40,000-plus locations streamed the women's conference, while 1,200 people attended the event at the Austin Music Hall—pumped with worship songs and decorated with crafty, Pinterest-inspired details: farm tables, mason jars, and strings of twinkling antique lights. #IFGathering trended on Twitter throughout the weekend, ranking among the top hashtags used around the world.
The two-day event featured discussions of calling by women across workplace and ministry settings, plus biblical teachings from women like Christine Caine, international speaker from Hillsong Church; Jen Hatmaker, Christian blogger and author of 7; Ann Voskamp, author ofA Thousand Gifts; and Shelley Giglio, a leader alongside her husband Louie Giglio at Passion City Church.
Here's a bit more about IF: Gathering from their website:
Our 2-day gathering each year brings together women from all over the world to humbly seek God and to equip them to better live out their callings. We seek to model, resource, & empower women so that they create fresh, honest spaces in their local contexts to wrestle with essential questions of faith like: IF God is real… THEN what? We call them IF:Locals. The makeup and mechanics of each IF:Local is unique. There are monthly and annual opportunities to gather with women for prayer, for convening at dinner tables, for processing of Scripture, and for dreaming about what God can do through the laying down of our lives in obedience.
Finally, here's a brief video explaining a bit about IF: Gathering and what they hope to accomplish with the ministry:
I am thankful for Jennie. I really think she and the women who work alongside her with the IF: Gathering are doing a tremendous work for the kingdom of God, especially as it pertains to raising up women leaders in the church.
I hope you will watch at 3pm ET as I talk with Jennie.