Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Basics Conference 2012, Day One

The Basics Conference for pastors began yesterday afternoon. Upon arriving, I was able to get registered with ease and then catch up with a few friends. After looking over the couple books they gave us (which I already have, anyone want a copy of THIS), I made my way to the room of the first break out session.

Breakout Session: On Being A Pastor by Alistair Begg
There were probably just over a hundred men or so in this session. Begg spent the first half of the session giving some well-informed advice for pastoral ministry and then the last half he opened up for questions. The advice he gave was very timely for me. He gave nine pitfalls that seem to come with the job of being a pastor.
  1. Prayerlessness - He was referring to the lack of prayer in our private lives. If we pray more in public than in private, there is probably something wrong.
  2. A Gap Between Life and Doctrine - Do we live what we say we believe? And even more worrisome is the widening of that gap the longer you are in pastoral ministry.
  3. Inflated Ego - He mentioned that a good wife and good colleagues can help with this.
  4. Despondency - This is the opposite of the last one. This is the guy who thinks that nothing is good about him. It is the Elijah syndrome, that he is the last righteous guy around doing it right. He made the point that often, fatigue can lead to this.
  5. Jealousy - Especially at pastors conferences. Jealousy at others gifts and abilities and opportunities.
  6. Laziness - He said that everyone is afraid of burn-out when they should be afraid of rust-out.
  7. Misplaced Affections - He mentioned it becomes easy to love the work and not the Lord of the work.
  8. Aimlessness - This is the drifting away from a real calling or purpose in ministry.
  9. Fads - Ideas will come and go.

It was helpful for me in several fronts. For one, I was really challenged to think about my prayer life. It is easy for me to simply define prayer as constant communion with my Father in an informal sense and then not take the time to have some formality with Him. The other one that I could see is an easy pitfall for me is an inflated ego. I need to constantly remember who I am and what God has called me to do. And that it is Him who does the work, not me. It's not about me, but Him. If that is true, then why should I ever be proud about anything I am able to accomplish?

Main Session: An Exposition for Expositors, pt. 1 by Alistair Begg
The theme of the conference is Acts 6:4, "We will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." That is what Begg took as his task for the first session (and the second one on Wednesday morning). He began by making the point that there is nothing more important for the pastor than the prayerful feeding of the flock of God by the Word of God. He who does not feed the flock in the preaching and teaching of God's Word is NOT a pastor.

Acts 6:1 begins by saying, "In these days..." He spent considerable time showing what days these were. Starting in Acts 1, he begins to show the early history of the early church. They prayed. They were persecuted. They prayed some more. And amid all of that, they taught the truth of Jesus Christ. He made the point that at the beginning of the church, the Evil One tried to beat the early Christians through persecutions. But that seemed to make them stronger. Persecution lead to prayer which led to preaching which led to growth in the church.

If persecution wasn't going to work to stop the work, the next attempt by the Evil One was going to be distractions. Enter Acts 6 and the problem of being distracted by taking care of the widows and their need for food. The response by the leaders was clear and inflexible. Their main calling was to preach the truth of Jesus Christ. They were not demeaning in this as it was communicated to the widows. But nothing was going to allow them (and nothing should get in the way of the pastor) from preaching the Word of God.

The evidence of the gospel (taking care of widows for example) is not the gospel. It is not enough to stop preaching the gospel and simply say that we should just take care of people. The gospel must be verbalized. So what did they do? They delegated to make sure that the work of widow caring continued, but they committed themselves to what they were called to do.

This was a very helpful sermon as I have been at the church now for over a year. When I first arrived, I said the main thing I wanted to establish was a strong preaching ministry. Over time, even this short time, I can see how many things have crept in to distract me from this. This was a good focus moment for me.

Main Session: The Shepherd Who Preaches by Voddie Baucham
As I mentioned yesterday, I was very unfamiliar about Baucham. This was the first time that I have had the opportunity to listen to him preach. And I think I am better for having been there. He began his message by saying that the preacher preaches. It is what he does, what he thinks, what he desires. It is who he is. He said that when the preacher listens to other preachers, he wishes that he was up there preaching. Amen to that! I get that.

While he referred to much of the book of Titus in his message, the focal point was Titus 1:9, which says, "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict." The pastor is to hold firm to the trustworthy word he was taught. Not the false word he was taught, but to the gospel word he was taught through the message of the apostles.

He mentioned that the gospel message should shape us as preachers. That is why the man is called to be a man of character in vs. 6-8 before he is called to preach in vs. 9. Truth produces character and then the man is to proclaim the truth.

Probably the most encouraging part of the day was when Baucham said that we should be constantly talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ in every sermon. As we unfold every portion of Scripture, we should be showing how it teaches the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said that we should not just talk about the gospel, but we need to share the contents of the gospel every time we preach. We should preach it until everyone is tired of hearing it and then preach it some more. We should keep saying it because maybe at some point it will click for someone in your church. 

That was helpful for me as I have been preaching through 1 Kings and each week, I seem to be coming back to the gospel. Even last week, I felt like I was just being repetitious too much. It's always about how glorious Jesus is than the temple or sacrifices or even King Solomon. But I guess, that's the point. Keep preaching the gospel until people are tired of hearing it and then preach it some more.

That was day one at the Basics Conference. Today will be another busy day. If you are not attending, but want to watch the live sessions, you can do so by going HERE. This is the schedule for the main sessions today:

9:15 am - Main Session, Mark Dever
11:00 am - Main Session, Voddie Baucham
7:00 pm - Main Session, Mark Dever

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