12 hours of non-stop theological and evangelical action.
That is probably the best way to sum up the first day of the First Five Years conference being hosted in Fort Worth. We had the opportunity to worship through song, be encouraged through fellowship and be encouraged through seven speakers over the first day. And the speakers came in many new faces mostly unknowns if you will, along with some who you wouldn’t expect at a IX Marks conference, such as Paige Patterson, and of course the headliner of the evening, Mark Dever.
Now for many when they go to conferences they’re more drawn to the names rather than the substance. This conference on the other hand was headlined by many who would probably be considered unknowns, but when you hear the Word preached you are reminded that it is not about the size of their congregation or the size of their ‘platform’ it is their commitment to their local congregations and love for fellow pastors that make them worth having at a conference, especially for young pastor who may struggle with the desire to be famous. That is most likely why the first word we heard was an encouragement to keep the Lord’s Word at the center of how we do ministry from 1 Kings 13. A text that reminded us that if the Lord’s word is clear there is no other man worth listening to, even if he claims to be speaking on behalf of God. No man no matter how seasoned in ministry has authority apart from the Word of God and any advice we receive should be tested against the Scriptures first and foremost.
This was just the beginning.
Now I don’t have the time or energy to unpack all that was in day one but two major highlights from the preaching that I found especially edifying was first the need for churches and pastors to never go at it alone. We have brothers and sisters around us in ministry who we can labor with for the gospel. This is an important reminder that we do not own the gospel. It is the Lord’s gospel, He is the one who has given it to His people and calls us to labor well in our mission. In this way we are encouraged to pray for other churches in our community that the Lord’s name will be made great in them. We are reminded that we must seek to make much of God and one of those ways is through communicating and encouraging brothers and sisters from other churches. We must remember that we don’t compete with one another, we labor together.
The second talk I wanted to highlight was Mark Dever’s evening session on the importance of church discipleship. Over the course of the final talk Mark walked through 16 points on the need and work of discipling well in our churches. First, he pointed out that discipleship is not an option in the church it is the life blood of a spiritually growing church. This is driven by the fact that we disciple one another by making much of Christ in our interpersonal church relationships. This is a key aspect that he helped to hammer home. We must take time to observe how much we speak about God in our lives. Is He saturating our conversations. When we speak with brothers and sisters is it more often about the mundane things of the world or about things of lasting value. Do we genuinely care about the spiritual health and vitality of each other or only the basic and in some way superficial things?
Again, not that we can’t talk about the general nature of life, but if that is the primary thing that identify us to one another and not the gospel than we are no more than a glorified social club. This is especially true when we discus one on one discipleship relationships. Do we only disciple people that are like us? Do we only spend time with people who are within our age bracket or maybe younger (giving us some form of superficial authority)? Do we make sure that we are loving people from across the whole church body? His is but a small sample of a much longer talk and next week I hope to post a more concise review of the second day and highlight some of the great things that took place.