Last week I had the magnificent privilege of attending the 2016 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders. This conference took place in Minneapolis, MN and was my first legit conference away from Iowa. The theme of this conference centered around the topic of Christian suffering and persecution and was simply entitled, “Joy Set Before Us”. In a nutshell, we were admonished by a fellow pastor’s words from almost 2,000 years ago: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice…” (1 Peter 4:12-13a). Indeed, opposition to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is growing in our culture, but we can stand firm in the grace of God, knowing (as Dr. John Piper phrased it): “Life is hard. God is good. [But] glory is coming.”
Back from such a trip, I am indeed full and fed. In fact, I have come back to my pastorate here at Prairie Flower Baptist Church with a greater zeal for pastoral ministry, a greater love for my people, and a firmer commitment to the location that God has placed me in. This short conference (I am sure) will continue to resonate through the months and years to come. I learned so much from my time in Minneapolis. Below are some of the nuggets I gleaned.
From the Director of Sovereign Grace Music, Bob Kauflin:
- When it comes to music in the church…we rush toward methodology, but what we need is more and better theology.
- Leading congregational worship is at first a pastoral function before it is a musician’s function.
- Crowds do not equal disciples.
- In a worship service: The normal things are the main things.
- Prepare for more than a song service. Pray that God works in people’s lives.
From the Preaching Pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church, Juan Sanchez:
- The Church is to display the Wisdom of God and proclaim the Gospel of God.
- The path to glory is always suffering.
- A pastor/elder is to preach the Word, encourage church membership, develop a culture of discipleship & evangelism, and develop a culture of biblical manhood and womanhood.
- Articles of Faith = What We Believe. Biblical Principles of Church Membership = What We Expect.
- Be like the Chief Shepherd. That is, be humble.
From Scholar/Theologian, D.A. Carson:
- The fundamental cause and effect answer in this world is God and Satan.
- The historical and current persecution of the Church is rooted in Satanic rage under the sovereignty of God.
- “It’s not the intensity of our faith, but the object of our faith that saves.”
- Bold declaration of truth, mingled with courtesy, is needed as we approach and interact with our godless culture.
- “Don’t flinch on the absolutes of Scripture.”
From Dr. John Piper:
- As a local church pastor: Be all in. Be all in with your will, emotions, and body. This is the kind of pastor that can truly help a church through suffering.
- A pastor’s eternal perspective: Life is short. Crown is BIG.
- The aim of all pastoral ministry: Helping your people be so satisfied in God, that when suffering takes away everything, they have all they need.
- True love is being so enthralled by the Supreme Treasure of the Universe that you want others to have it with you.
- The cultural cost of Christianity is about to outweigh its cultural benefit…brace yourself for opposition.
From the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Jason Meyer:
- The point of suffering is the glory of Christ.
- In suffering, God’s greatest story (i.e. the death and resurrection of Jesus) is played out in our lives.
- Why be surprised by suffering? Do you really think you’ll be treated better than Jesus?!
- A church that would rather die than disown Christ is indestructible.
- Ultimate Proof of Faith: Not turning from Christ even when everyone turns from us.
From the Pastor of Renovation Church in Atlanta, Leonce Crump:
- Fearless proclamation of the Gospel is the direct result of having been with a faithful God (Acts 4:13).
- By what means do we maintain our fearlessness and faithfulness?
- Cosmic Vision – It’s all about bold proclamation of the Gospel…
- Holy Conviction – Not man-made confidence, but Holy Spirit conviction…
- Humble Heart – The opposite of a prideful heart…
- His One Side Note: Lusts/Idols in ministry include…nickels, noses, and expansion. Guard your heart!
And, yes, this is but a sampling of all the great nuggets I gleaned from the conference. But a few distinct thoughts before I end this blog post:
- Most of the quotes above are summarized and in my own words.
- The primary Scripture texts used in the preaching and teaching sessions were taken from 1 Peter 1-5, Revelation 12, Philippines 1, and Acts 4. Great resources for further study.
- For better and further Bible reading and study be sure to download the free app entitled, “Blue Letter Bible”. It’s online, in-depth, and totally free! It actually has a decent amount of commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and even a Hebrew/Greek interlinear. Check it out!