Today begins IX Marks’ First Five Years Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Adam attended the conference held last year in South Carolina, and this year I have the privilege of attending as I wrap up my fourth year of full-time ministry to the people of Riverside. I am incredibly grateful to my elders for allowing me the time off to come and be refreshed.
Over the next two days’ pastors from around the country will gather here in Texas to be encouraged and convicted to love their families, churches, and communities well for the cause of Christ. I will be posting a couple blogs to wrap up what I have learned and been encouraged by over the next few days, but today I wanted to briefly explain why conferences like these are important to pastors, especially those in independent denominations or churches.
Pastors can be encouraged by the fellowship and testimonies of others.
One of the great things about conference like these are that as a young minister they give us opportunities to share stories and prayers with other men working hard in the trenches of church ministry. Sometimes we can get so stuck in our own heads and focused on what is going on in our own churches that we forget to see the big picture of what God is doing in other churches just like our own. Sometimes you even run into pastors from your own communities. Last year at a revitalization conference while in a hunt for pre-conference coffee another pastor and I went on an exploration of DC looking for a good coffee place before the conference began, about 10 minutes into our journey we discovered we actually serve about 30 minutes apart and even graduated from the same small Bible college (though in different years). I was encouraged to hear what the Lord was doing in his life and the lives of the people he served. It was also great to receive some wonderful counsel and direction in my own personal life and ministry, from a man who had been in a similar situation not long before. It is connections like these that can make conferences so beneficial.
Now of course many guys will point out you can have this in your community, just pick up the phone and contact other pastors and hang out. Well for most pastors in their early years that’s exactly what we do, only to quickly find that that same desire for community among pastors is not as easy to find as many would hope, especially in many Reformed and Baptist circles. But if you are reading this blog than clearly you know that pastors working together and praying for each other and ministering together in different congregations in the same community is not impossible. Unfortunately, not everyone has those relationships and these conference help to build and create those relationships. While also giving opportunities for pastors to reconnect with friends who serve in different parts of the country.
Pastors are refreshed by the word of God preached and celebrated.
We get to hear the Word Preached. In case you are wondering sometimes it is hard to fit listening to the word of God preached into our pastoral schedules, and trust me there is nothing compared to sitting with other believers hearing the Word preached, podcasts just can’t compare to the real thing. Conferences like these allow pastors to join together to hear the Word preached by Godly men and applied to our lives of ministry in practical and God directing ways. In the case of FFY it’s a two-day experience under the Word of God. I learn so much when the Word of God is opened and preached in power through the work of the Spirit. While some practical aspects and plenary panels are encouraging, at the end of the day it is the preached word of God that is the fuel these conferences offer and give. Sometimes we begin to see ministry in a new light; sometimes it is a reminder to not lose sight of the reality of the work of God in the midst of your own struggles; and sometimes it opens you up to things you have been missing in your ministry or personal life that the Lord needs to take over leadership. The Word of God divides, convicts, and directs and in a conference like this it is two straight days of the Spirt and the preached Word at work.
Now as a pastor in an Elder led church I have the privilege of having time off to be able to hear the Word preached from godly men in my own congregation, this year I will have been given roughly 12 weeks out of the pulpit and in that time have been allowed to be encouraged by hearing the Word from my elders along with fellow staff members and at the end of this week a fellow minister, Matt Noble (fellow Publican), who will be covering our pulpit. Unfortunately, many pastors don’t have either the elders, pastoral relationships or the staff to be able to leave the pulpit for a week and just sit as a member of the church body and be encouraged. While we love to preach the Word it is also energizing to hear the Word preached. This week I am looking forward to hearing much from the Word.
So stay tuned Thursday for my wrap up of the first day.