I suspect pastors have attended conferences as long as there have been pastors (Acts 20:17ff). Early this morning, I jumped in the car with Chris Jones and Chris Pitts and headed south for the bi-annual Together for the Gospel (T4G) conference held in Louisville, Kentucky, where we will meet up with Thad Yessa. I do not attend many pastors’ conferences, but I have attended this one since its inception in 2006. I want to express my thanks to the church for making it possible for me to attend. Your supply of the funding and your encouragement to attend an event like this makes it possible for me to go.
What Happens at a Pastors’ Conference?
As you can imagine, there is talking and a lot of it. Organizers expect 10,000-12,000 attendees. Bringing thousands of pastors together in a confined space nearly guarantees more words flying than at a middle school girls’ sleepover. As we connect with old friends and make new ones, we catch up on family and reminisce about the “good ol’ days,” but most of our conversation is about our Lord, His Word and His church.
Our churches vary in size and location. Some pastors serve by themselves while others have a multi-staff ministry. Most are from the United States, but pastors come from numerous countries. Many are Baptist, and all are orthodox in doctrine. We talk doctrine and debate topics of recent authors and well-known pastors. Most of the conversation, however, returns to common ground. We all want to know how we can help the people we serve grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). And we want to know what we can do to fulfill our Lord’s commission to make disciples both locally and globally.
We want to see our churches full of growing believers and new converts. Most pastors I meet really love people, have no agenda other than helping people, and are not satisfied with the current state of the ministry. They want to accomplish more for Christ. Most pastors serve churches of 75-100 people. Most pastors keep plugging away week after week, and most pastors consider themselves inadequate for the job and woefully underperforming. It just goes with the territory. I think for all of us who attend a gathering like T4G, we come away thinking, hoping, and more committed to the work God has given to us and to the people we serve. Your investment should pay dividends.
The Preaching Is the Thing
Not all gatherings are like this one, but at this conference, preachers listen to preaching. All told we will attend 9 general sessions where we will hear John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and others preach God’s Word. Between the general sessions, we will take in 5 panel discussions addressing a wide-range of ministry issues, and we will attend a breakout session covering a specific topic of interest for each of us. Do the math, 15 occasions to hear God’s Word in three days.
We Need Preaching
Most pastors I know listen to preachers online or via podcast, while others read sermons from pastors long since with the Lord. While helpful, there is nothing like listening to the Word of God preached in a live setting. Because we are usually the ones preaching, we don’t often have the privilege of listening to preaching.
The preaching challenges us. We are mere men who need the ministry of the Word to stir our consciences. Like all other Christians, we benefit from the preaching of God’s Word. By the Word, the Holy Spirit exposes our sin, reveals our motives, addresses our pride, and stirs us to action.
The preaching encourages us. You might be surprised to know of the insecurities of many pastors. We wonder if we are doing anything of any lasting value. We wonder if we are doing the right thing for our churches. We wonder if we are giving to our families the spiritual leadership we hope all husbands and fathers give to their families. When a preacher shows us Jesus’s ongoing work, he reminds us we are not responsible for the success. We are responsible for our faithfulness to our Lord.
The preaching sharpens us. The men we hear model biblical preaching. We learn again how to approach God’s Word and how to preach it. We don’t try to mimic John MacArthur in the pulpit, but we do try to learn from his delivery how to preach God’s Word. In addition, we hear truth from the Word that prompts us to pastoral care and to consider ideas to strengthen the church.
So, thank you for praying for me while I am gone. Conferences are great, but in some ways they are like summer church camp. Conferences are not reality; the work of the local church is reality. When we pastors return to our ministries, it’s time to get back to the work of the Word and the Gospel.
As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.