HUNTERSVILLE - When 400 leaders from 26 Lake Norman churches gathered for the First Love Leadership Conference the weekend of Jan. 31 at Lake Forest Church, they didn’t just sit in their seats taking notes.

People from many denominations worshipped together, ate together, and served together. They assembled 650 hygiene kits together and got snowed on by 800 balloons together. 

They also laughed together at lawyer jokes from the main speaker, Bob Goff, who is an attorney and the author of the New York Times bestseller "Love Does." Goff also founded Restore International, which has brought to trial more than 200 cases of injustice in Uganda. While his profession is serious, his manner is winsome and disarming.

In the back of his New York Times bestseller, Goff actually put his cell number, and he answers, in person, whenever strangers call. He fields more than 50 calls a day.

One time when the organizers of one of his speaking engagements sent a limo to pick him up, Goff asked the driver, who was about to retire, if he had ever ridden in the back of a limo. When the driver said no, Goff switched places with him.

As Goff was introduced, 800 balloons were dropped from the ceiling to welcome him. He immediately pulled out his cell phone, took a photo and tweeted it. 

Goff spoke about extravagant and whimsical love that responds with bold action, not just words.

“We need to quit figuring out who’s wrong,” Goff said, “We need to quit trying to be right and just love people to the feet of Jesus.” 

After hearing Goff’s stories of loving people, from limo drivers to witch doctors, conference attendees put love into practice by assembling 650 personal hygiene kits for the Ada Jenkins Center and Room in the Inn, writing thank you notes to 150 teachers at Blythe Elementary School and putting together sack meals for kids in the Huntington Green neighborhood.

“We wanted to provide a couple of simple hands-on opportunities to do something loving,” said Chris Thompson of Radiant Life.

The conference was the fourth annual leadership weekend put on by the Lake Norman Church Leadership Network, which is made up of leaders from Grace Covenant, Lake Forest, Church of the Good Shepherd, Radiant Life, and Liberation Ministries. These churches paid the costs of this free training weekend.

Other churches attending the conference included Journey, First Baptist Huntersville, Bethel Presbyterian, Ramah Presbyterian, Davidson United Methodist, Life Fellowship, Vineyard, The Cove, Independence Hills Baptist, and Gethsemane Baptist.

Matt Dawson of Journey Church said, “I love when we understand how we are companions in the mission, not competitors.”