Yesterday was the last day of the Basics Conference for pastors at Parkside Church. If you are a pastor, I would highly recommend that you attend this event next year. It is a great time of teaching. A great time of encouragement. A great time of worship. And it is a great time to be challenged.
The morning began with me going to another Logos training session that was put on by a friend that I went to Moody with, Bobby Moss. It was good to see him and to learn from him on how to use this incredible software that I have purchased. I feel like I have not even touched the surface of it and am thinking about attending one of the Camp Logos later this year.
Main Session - Q & A, All Speakers
Some of the best times at conferences like this is when they offer a Question and Answer time. This was no exception. Here is a list of most of the questions that were answered during this time.
Pastoral Prayers - One of the questions had to do with the pastoral prayers during the church service. Alistair Begg said that one of his mentors actually wrote out every one of his prayers and then categorized them afterward. His purpose in that was to ensure that there would be a variety of prayers prayed during the worship service. But he also stated that the best preparation for pastoral prayers in the preparation of the soul of the person who prays.
Church Discipline - Mark Dever answered a question about church discipline by saying that if you have never done it, don't go home and do it. He explained that there should be months if not years of instructing the congregation on the necessity of it. In addition, he said that if a church is sloppy on membership, discipline will also be sloppy.
Same-Sex Marriage - This was the question that everyone wanted to hear answered, and the one that took much of the time. Usually in Q&A times, each question has a short answer, but they took great length in answering this one. The main question was how to address this issue with your congregation. It might be helpful to separate the conversation at this point:
- Alistair Begg - He noted that you communicate it with difficulty. He expressed that nobody has the right to reinvent marriage. After the conversation was passed around once, he did get more specific, especially about the biological nature of same-sex marriage. He said that he would share more things with a group of pastors than he would his church. In honor of him, because of that, I will not share what he shared.
- Voddie Baucham - He said that he would not go out of his way to address it, but he would not shy away from the issue when it comes up in the preaching of God's Word. That is the advantage of preaching book by book. He did make one very helpful distinction. He said that we need to remember that the homosexual movement is the enemy (or at least they have made us the enemy), but that the individual persons who are homosexual are not. We need to love them and share Christ with them, not see them as an enemy.
- Mark Dever - I was so glad to hear from him on this issue. Partly because of where he is located and partly because I knew he would have given this some very serious thoughts. He began by saying that we have a strong responsibility to be very clear on the issue. It is a sin. But it is a sin that can be repented of ("such were some of you, 1 Cor. 6). He said that sexual identity is now seen similar to ethnic identity, as something that cannot be changed. These are both in opposition to religious identity. One of the really helpful things he mentioned is that our culture has always been messed up. We cannot act as if our society is finally now corrupt. We have always had really sinful things in our culture. As well, we need not to think in terms of legal = moral and illegal = immoral. Or vise-versa. There are many immoral things that will never be illegal (for instance, pride). But when all is said and done, our job as pastors is to prepare our churches to think in terms of our country is not heaven. This is not our Best Life Now. And that we can still preach the gospel in prison, if it comes to that.
What Preacher Would You Want To Sit Under - This was a very unique question. All three men were asked if they could take a season and sit under any preacher's ministry, who would it be. Mark Dever began by saying Charles Spurgeon. Alistar Begg said that he would choose Thomas Watson or Charles Simeon (one reason was that Simeon was in his church for 54 years). Voddie Baucham said that he would pick Spurgeon or Edwards. But if he were to choose a contemporary, he would want to sit under Mark Dever's ministry.
After some time to reflect on this, I think I would choose Dever as well. From the time I have had to interact with him (which is very limited), there seems to be a real genuineness about this man. While some of the A-List speakers that you hear seem to bleed pride, he seems to exude true humility. Everything that he does is for a reason. He is very deliberate. And he has thought through the issues, but is willing to hear the other side of the arguments. I have really grown to appreciate him and his ministry.
Main Session: An Exposition for Expositors, pt. 2 by Alistair Begg
Begg finished off what he started on Monday afternoon by talking about the pastors duty to prayer and the word of God from Acts 6. He began by stating as fact, that too much pressure is placed upon some pastors by their congregations to do everything that it causes them to leave the ministry. When in reality, their main calling is to pray and preach the Word of God. One of the cures for this problem is to help everyone in the church to realize that if they are a Christian, they are involved in full-time Christian ministry. The real ministry is not some guy locked in his office for hours upon end or somebody who goes overseas to do what nobody really knows . . . the real ministry is people using their gifts and abilities everyday in the life of the church.
Prayer - He once again emphasized that the man of God must pray privately; for Himself and by himself. But then he also must pray corporately. He spent considerably less time on this point than the next one, partly I would guess, because it had been talked about at length over the few days.
Preaching - He admitted at first that the "word of God" in Acts 6 is not exclusive to preaching. It certainly includes more than that. But it does not include less that it. So he focused on preaching. I have heard Begg say this before, but he emphasized "teaching the Bible by teaching the Bible." What he means, of course, is that the source of any message by the pastor is the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone. Until we come to understand the "there and then" we should be hesitant to talk about the "here and now." That is helpful to remember.
Then he gave a few helpful reminders to preachers. First, we should remember that believers and unbelievers will be in our services at the same time. So as best as we can, avoid assuming everyone understands the Christian lingo that we choose to use. Second, make sure that we distinguish between religion and the gospel. Third, declare simultaneously the justice of God and the love of God. Fourth, many won't be asking if it is true, they will be asking if it is relevant. As preachers, we must be showing them what it means and why it matters. Fifth, teach through books of the Bible.
There was so much more that he said, but I do not have time to articulate it all. In the end, he used a nautical illustration to state that Prayer and the Word of God are the two ballasts that keep the ship of the church afloat. We must use them. They work.