Scope of pastoral calling fills For the Church conf.
Keynote speakers Jason Allen, H.B. Charles Jr., Ray Ortlund Jr., Owen Strachan, Matt Carter, Jared Wilson and Matt Chandler preached messages centering on the conference's theme, "The Minister's Trust," while Aaron Ivey and Austin Stone Community Church's worship team from Austin, Texas, led attendees in praise and worship songs.
"The trust that is given by God to pastors and ministry leaders to proclaim the Gospel message places the men in these roles within a distinct fraternity," Allen, Midwestern's president, said regarding the conference. In this "greatest of all callings," he said it is "the pastor's responsibility to develop and grow so as to lead the church he serves to develop and grow.
"One of the primary ways Midwestern Seminary fulfills its mission to exist For the Church is to serve and strengthen these church leaders," Allen said. "Our aim at this year's national conference was to provide messages from God's Word and breakout sessions with plenty of practical application which will result in every attendee feeling both the gravity of the Gospel that's been entrusted to him and the gladness of the Gospel's implications for his life."
The minister's preaching
Allen spoke from Acts 17:1-7 in the conference's first session on "The Minister's Preaching" on Monday. The journey of pastoral ministry can bring many challenges and difficulties, he acknowledged, but pastors and ministry leaders must "show up" and press on daily to do God's will.
The apostle Paul and his ministry partner, Silas, endured various trials throughout their ministry, Allen said, but through it all they remained faithful to their calling.
Pastors are to preach through hardship, he said; they are to preach the text and they are to preach for results.
"Let me say, preacher, if you find yourself under siege -- pray. If you find yourself really under siege –- preach," Allen said. "There is a call to the pulpit that calls the minister to it again and again and again. As we go, there is no shame in walking into the pulpit with a limp."
Describing what it means for the pastor to preach for results, Allen said, "Brothers, we do not just state doctrinal truths. We do not just reflect on the significance of the passage. We press it. We look for a response. We call for a response."
The minister's prayer
H.B. Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference, spoke in the afternoon's second session on the model prayer by the Hebrew spiritual leader Nehemiah.
"Faithful ministry demands believing in prayer," Charles said in describing the importance of prayer in a ministry leader's life.
Nehemiah prayed in his most difficult time -- before doing anything else, Charles noted from Nehemiah 1. He added that Nehemiah didn't get results from his prayer because he said the right words the right way.
"God accepted Nehemiah's prayer because God accepted Nehemiah," Charles said.
Nehemiah prayed sincerely, reverently, honestly and confidently, which Charles said were the keys to God answering Nehemiah and are a solid model in modern times as well.
"The minister who prays sincerely prays as a first response, not as a last resort," Charles said. "There is a lot you can to do make a difference after you have prayed, but there is nothing you can do to make the difference until you have prayed."
A ministry leader "should pray with confidence that whatever the need, whatever the situation, God is able," Charles said. "There is nothing too hard for God; there is no burden that God cannot lift; there is no enemy that God cannot defeat; ... there is no sin that God cannot forgive."
The minister's marriage
A minister's marriage, Ray Ortlund Jr. noted, is one of the most compelling statements that can be made because it puts on visible display the mystery of God's love in Christ.
The Bible is all about the story of marriage, said Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, speaking from Gen. 2:18-25, and "that story speaks to our hearts at the most profound level and helps us ministers be prophetic in public and in private."
"If we cave on the meaning of marriage," he said, "we will lose not just one doctrine of the Bible, we will lose the whole point of the entire Bible.... If Jesus really is our true and better bridegroom, then to negotiate over what is so precious to Him is to insult Him at the most personal level imaginable, where His heart for us is the most tender."
God gave people the gift of marriage -- a gift that belongs only to God and can only be defined by God, Ortlund said.
"The reason why people fall in love and get married is that there is a Bridegroom on high who had love in His eyes for sinners, and He came down to gather us together forever," he said. "It is the greatest love story of all time. There is a reason why God created the universe and why history is unfolding itself the way it is. God is telling a love story of time and eternity, and we get to embody it."
The minister's study
The work of the preacher is the most glorious calling to which anyone can be called, Owen Strachan, professor of Christian theology at Midwestern, said in his message on "The Minister's Study." It is the most urgent need of the church and the world, he said, and as such, there is no greater need than for the pastor to study for his preaching.
Strachan, opening the conference's second day, noted five implications for a pastor desiring to study God's Word so he can have a holy longing, much like the angels described in 1 Peter 1:12.
The first implication, he said, is that pastoral ministry is exhilarating; second, the church desperately needs biblical truth; third, there is a need to prepare the church for suffering and glory; fourth, the minister is to work hard in studying God's Word; and last, there is a need for pastors to present the whole counsel of God.
"The minister's study is where the church's health is decided," Strachan said. "If the minister is weak in the study, he'll be a mouse in the pulpit. If the minister is strong in the study, he will be a lion in the pulpit. We want lions, not mice in our pulpits.
"If we have lions in the pulpit, we'll have fearless Christians in the pews. So, we have to train and invest in young men. The future of the church's health depends, and I mean solely, on our ability to raise and equip the next generation of men."
The minister's mission
Matt Carter, speaking on "The Minister's Mission" from Matt. 16:13-18, underscored the need for church leaders to take their congregations from being consumers to being people actively engaged in God's mission in everyday life.
It has never been the biblical design for pastors and ministry leaders to be elevated in Gospel work above those in the pews," said Carter, pastor of preaching and vision at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas.
The question is "What does it look like to call our people to the mission of God?" Carter said, citing gifts given to the church described in Ephesians 4:11 to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.
"We are to train and teach and to equip the people of God so that they will actually walk out the doors of our church, and they go do the work of the ministry in the spheres that God has placed them in in their lives.
"Our job as a pastor, shepherd, teacher and evangelist is not, and never has been, to primarily teach our people just so they can live better lives and know more theology. It is primarily to teach them so that they can be equipped to ... kick down the gates of hell."
Carter added, "The time to engage our people in the mission of God is right now. The time for your church to make a dent in church history is right now. The time to call your people to get in the fight is right now."
The minister's legacy
Stating that pastors must maintain perspective on their place within the ministry, Jared Wilson, director of content strategy and managing editor of the For the Church website, said, "I mean to commend to you a beautiful, faithful nothingness for Christ" in a message on "The Minister's Legacy."
"To have a legacy that eternally matters, you must resign your will to the supremacy of the glory of Christ and trade in your ambitions of personal success for the beauty of the bride of Christ," Wilson said.
To leave a legacy, he said a minister must know what he is, what he is not, and what lasts.
"The Gospel is bigger than me; it is better than me," Wilson said. "Pastor, do you conduct ministry like you are the gospel to your church, as if it is really you who makes the difference? You are not called to be successful; you are called to be faithful.
"If you want to invest your time in something that lasts, give your time to people who can do nothing for you," Wilson said. "They cannot fill a pew; they cannot fill an offering plate; they cannot talk you up to anybody. But they can remind you of the beauty and bigness of Christ's precious church.
"If you want to leave a ministry of eternal resonance, you must not be aimed at your own fame, but submit yourself squarely, resolutely, joyfully for the church," Wilson said. "[W]hen all the history books are burnt up on the last day, the church will remain."
The minister's Gospel
Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, preached from Romans 8 in the conference's final plenary session, painting a picture for pastors of Christ's love and acceptance for them.
Often, however, pastors and ministry leaders are drawn to certain lies, Carter said, such as they are not good enough to be serving where they are, so they try to be someone they're not. Or they consistently need validation from others. Or they are insecure, so they become controlling and manipulative about religious doctrines.
To these lies, Chandler said, "You must find spaces where it is OK to be OK. You must be willing to enter into the Gospel and believe that you are loved by God and He will be enough as your 'Abba' Father -- more than the validation of men and women, more than believing the lie that if you were just a better version of you ... then things will go well."
If a pastor buys into a lie, Chandler said, "you step outside of the protection of the Father and put things on your shoulders that you have not been built to carry."
"He loves you as your heavenly Father, adores you, rejoices over you, and celebrates you," Chandler told pastors. "His grace covers your shortcomings. If you can get this, everything changes."
On Tuesday afternoon, eight workshops and breakout sessions were held on the topics "Preaching Roundtable," a panel discussion led by Allen; "Boots on the Ground: Creating a Missional Culture for your City" led by Dean Inserra, pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla.; "In His Image: Biblical Sexuality in a Post-Christian World" led by Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; "Leadership Development for the Church" led by Charles Smith, Midwestern's vice president for institutional relations, and Kevin Peck, lead pastor at Austin Stone Community Church; "Unfettered Truth: Strategies to Protect Your Church in an Increasingly Hostile Climate" led by Erik Stanley, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom; "Ministry in a Post-Christian Context" led by Drew Dyck, acquisitions editor at Moody Publishing; a two-session women's track led by Jani Ortlund; and "Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Missionary Thomas Johnson" led by Ivey Carter and Christian George, Midwestern Seminary's curator of the Spurgeon Library.
The 2018 For the Church National Conference will take place in Kansas City on Sept. 24-25 on "The Mission and Majesty of the Church." For further information, visit mbts.edu/ftc18.
To view the plenary sessions of the For the Church conference, visit Midwestern's resources page at mbts.edu.