As I have shared, I am at the Parkside Basics Conference this week. Here are some of my thoughts from the first day's sessions that took place yesterday.
Breakout Session -- Daniel Henderson
The conference started with a bang for me. I chose to attend a breakout session entitled, "Seven Vital Truths about a Culture of Prayer." I have been feeling recently that our church does not pray enough. I don't pray enough. This concept of a prayerful dependence upon God is something I'm not sure I sense in my life or the life of our people.
One statement at the beginning of his session really struck me. He said, "Prayerlessness is my declaration of my independence from God." Ouch! When I choose not to pray, I am saying I do not need God. And even when I do seek Him in prayer only when I need things, I am seeking His hands and not Him. Henderson encouraged a culture of prayer that seeks God for God, not because of what He can give. He then continued to give his seven truths about developing a culture of prayer in your church.
1. A Prayer Culture is not a Prayer Program
2. A Prayer Culture Always Emanates from the Epicenter of Church Leadership
3. A Prayer Culture is Fueled by Experience not Explanation
4. A Prayer Culture is Rooted in Clarity and Conviction about Community
5. A Prayer Culture is Sustained by the Right Motives
6. A Prayer Culture is a Key to Supernatural Mission Achievement
7. A Prayer Culture is more a Crock Pot than a Microwave
He encouraged that prayer is not simply another ministry in your church, but it is something that the leaders of the church should make sure permeates every ministry of the church. There were many helpful thoughts in this session that I will go back to in the next few weeks.
Main Session -- Alistair Begg
I have loved the ministry of Alistair Begg. He has blessed me tremendously in the past years through his teaching and writing ministry. He opened the first main session by reading Ecclesiastes 1 and then encouraging pastors to preach the book of Ecclesiastes. He noted that his talk was not going to be an exposition, so I'm not going to critique him on it in that way. But he did say he is going to do an exposition on a portion of the book in the last session. I really look forward to that.
It wasn't an exposition, but a reminder that preaching this book is needed. To be honest, I failed to see the purpose of his sermon. Maybe there are some in the audience that need to be encouraged to preach through the book of Ecclesiastes, but not me. If there are, then I'm certainly glad he preached it. But I don't need that motivation. I get it. I know it speaks to the audience today. I get that it is extremely relevant to the world in which we are living. I have preached through this book before and I look forward to preaching through it again.
There was one thing he said that impacted me. He made mention that too often, preachers talk about the gospel, but do not present the gospel. That's a helpful warning to me. It is not just enough to talk about gospel truths, but I need to make sure to turn that gospel truth toward the listeners, asking for a response from them.
Parkside does a wonderful job with the mealtime at this conference. As is usual, the group of guys I am with end up sitting with some people we do not know. I had the privilege to sit with two men from West Virginia, two men from Ireland, and one from Norway. Yep, three of the guys at my table were from across the pond. It was encouraging to hear their stories of how the gospel transformed their life and how God is using them today.
One funny note. The two gentleman from Ireland made the note that it is unfortunate that Alistair Begg has lost his accent. Huh? If that's the case, I'd hate to hear what he used to sound like.
Main Session -- Christopher Ash
The main session ended with Christopher Ash preaching through Psalm 74. Again, a very unique selection of a biblical text to preach through for a pastors conference. He noted that the Psalm begins with Grief (vs. 1-11), then notes the author's Belief (vs. 12-17), and ends in Pleading (vs. 18-23). I suppose that some of the men might be in that place of grief in their ministry. Some are finding themselves holding onto, in belief, the One who breaks the heads of the sea monsters. And some are pleading with God to continue. I see that and trust it landed where the Spirit of God wanted it to land.
Probably the most helpful part of his sermon was at the beginning when he explained the job of the teacher of Psalms. He explained how the one who teaches Psalms should . . .
1. Teach the Lyrics - He needs to help make the words understandable.
2. Teach the Tune - He needs to help people feel the meaning in their heart.
3. Teach the Want-To - He needs to help them want what it wants.
I like that and will come back to this during the summer months as I preach through several Psalms as part of my "Summer in the Psalms" series.
If you think of it, pray for the many pastors and church leaders who will be taking in a full day of conference today. If you are interested, you can find the schedule and link for live stream HERE.