I had the privilege of attending an excellent and edifying pastor’s conference last week. The conference is hosted by Sovereign Grace Ministries and is primarily a conference for pastors of Sovereign Grace Churches. The conference, as stated on their website is “intended to equip you to lead and build your church on the foundation of God’s Word, establishing the role of Scripture and its authority in our lives and the lives of those we are called to pastor.”
I have been blessed, on more than one occasion, to be the recipient of Sovereign Grace Ministries’ hospitality to attend various events they have organized. Pastor Tim Kerr, the lead pastor of Sovereign Grace Church Toronto, has been a mentor to me as I pursue my calling to be a pastor. He graciously invited me to this conference and I was happy to attend.
The following post is a brief summary of some of the things I learned or found compelling.
Session 1 – Jeff Purswell
Jeff Purswell is, among other things such as being the Dean of Sovereign Grace Pastors College, an excellent expositor and preacher. Jeff preached from Psalm 46. I really appreciated Jeff’s sermon particularly for the example it gave of what a solid sermon looks like. Jeff’s preaching included a captivating introduction, sound exegesis, intriguing illustrations, a concrete connection to Christ, and a call for application. This was an excellent start to the conference.
Session 2 – Mark Prater
Mark Prater is the Executive Director of Sovereign Grace Ministries. Along with Tim Kerr, Mark has extended to me a hallmark of Sovereign Grace Ministries: gracious, hospitable fellowship. I am grateful for this and have benefitted tremendously as a result of this relationship. Mark preached on 1 Timothy 6 and challenged the pastors present with the charge that Paul gave to Timothy. My takeaway from this sermon came from practical applications Mark articulated. Specifically, Mark’s challenge to “build and lead racially and ethnically diverse churches” struck upon a topic I have been thinking about lately. What this looks like and how this is accomplished are questions we must answer. Mark’s challenged reminded me of this important area of future study and prayer.
Breakout Session – Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell, and others
This panel discussion was titled Leveraging Leadership through Sunday Morning Planning & Implementation. The bulk of information conveyed pertained to the goal of applying God’s Word to our services. The Holy Spirit grows the church by the Word and we must look for ways to bring the Word to bear when we meet. There was some good teaching and discussion but what I really appreciated from this session was the evidence that assured me that what we are doing at our services at West London Alliance Church is solid and sensible. I didn’t necessarily doubt this, but our services and how they are planned are similar to what strong churches across North America are doing. We have a structure that will facilitate bringing God’s Word to press on our people.
Session 3 – C. J. Mahaney
C. J. Mahaney, Senior Pastor for Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, has had a significant impact in my faith through his books and his preaching. It was great to be able to hear him preach live. His sermon provided me with the most practical and helpful instruction for pastoring that I received at this conference. The topic of the sermon was The Pastor and Suffering. If these messages are made available on the internet, I will definitely be re-listening to and recommending this sermon. To summarize the most significant point for me, consider this line from C. J.: “The purpose of suffering is seen, not in its cause, but in its goals and results.” That line hardly does justice to how it was proclaimed in that meeting. But that line, and the whole sermon, will not quickly be forgotten.
Session 4 & 5 – Kevin DeYoung
Kevin DeYoung has been the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church since August 2004. He is a prolific writer whose books are often labelled the “Go To” book on whatever topic he writes about. In Session 4 he looked at Acts 20:17-36 and admonished us pastors with four compelling exhortations: 1) do not shrink from suffering, 2) do not shrink from declaring the full counsel of God, 3) be careful in regards to sin, and 4) be caring in regards to the flock. In Session 5, Kevin preached from Matthew 7:28-29. Focusing on Christ and his authority, we were encouraged to lead with authority. The background for much of this talk were two books that DeYoung wrote; Taking God at His Word and What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?. This sermon was very motivating for me and I was encouraged to endeavor to “lift up Christ from my pulpit, my platform, in prayers, and in songs.”
Session 6 – Dave Taylor
Dave Taylor, lead pastor of the Sovereign Grace Church in Sydney, delivered a rousing sermon on mission from Romans 10. For the sake of brevity, let me share one point from the sermon that had many memorable ones. Taylor used the phrase “Christian ghetto” when he talked about the Gospel’s charge. This intentionally shocking phrase was dropped as Taylor admonished the pastors not to live our lives insulated and isolated from a dying world. This was a striking point for me as I contemplate a call to the ministry and the possibility of full-time ministry. I value my relationships with those who aren’t Christians, and as Taylor preached this point I committed myself to intentionally maintain and initiate these types of relationships wherever God leads my occupationally.
These summaries are a small sample of many wonderful things heard and experience at sovereign Grace Pastors Conference 2015. I am grateful to be part of a church that values development in its staff; this was a beneficial week for me. I am also grateful for Tim Kerr and Sovereign Grace Ministries who demonstrate the unity of Christ’s body in tangible ways. I look forward, by God’s grace and the Spirit’s empowering presence, to implement and apply much of what I received at this conference.