Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 Banner Conference Report #1

What's the Banner conference all about? The clue is in the little logo of George Whitefield that adorns the cover of many Banner titles. The Banner Ministers' Conference is all about preaching Christ by the power of the Spirit to the glory of God. Preachers need to sit under preaching, preaching that will move us to worship out triune God and stir us to serve him with ever greater zeal and effectiveness. It is also good to have fellowship with men who are engaged in the great work of gospel ministry.

I travelled up with Paul Oliver and his father Robert. We chatted for most of the way, talking about music, books, putting the Evangelical world to rights and stuff. The Protestant Truth Society had a stand at the conference, which was manned by myself and fellow worker Stephen Holland. Jeremy Brooks, our Director of Ministries attended the conference on Tuesday. Here is the first part of my conference report:

The Gospel

In a succinct and engaging  message, Wyn Hughes drew our attention to Romans 1:16, encouraging us to be thrilled afresh with the Gospel because: 1) It is about salvation. 2) It is the power of God unto salvation. 3) It is for everyone who believes.

The Throne

Liam Goligher gave three addresses on Revelation 4 & 5. In the first he focused on the throne of God as depicted in Revelation 4. It was a powerful message, informed by insightful exegesis, and delivered with passion and authority. We were confronted with the sovereign majesty of the God whom we serve. Next Goligher considered the "book of destiny" of Revelation 5, which Jesus alone was worthy to open and so bring to pass God's purposes of judgement and salvation. Finally the preacher attempted to apply some of the teaching of these chapters in terms of "Knowing God as Creator and Redeemer", "Worshipping God as Creator and Redeemer" and "Serving God as Creator and Redeemer". It has to be said that Goligher was stronger on exegesis and theology than application, which tended to be rather generalised and lacked bite. Also some unwise unscripted remarks detracted from what he had to say. Preachers with an "unusual sense of humour" take note. His suggestion that Reformed Baptists ain't really Reformed didn't exactly endear Goligher to that fraternity. How to make friends and influence people? Not.  

The Mission

Veteran missionary and theological educator O Palmer-Robertson commended Matthew Henry's Method of Prayer. The famous Bible commentator devised a method of prayer using Scripture language, which OPR is in the process of updating. The avuncular and genial preacher led us in prayer after Henry's biblically enriched method. A booklet of updated excperts from Henry's work, prepared by OPR was made avaliable. I plan on using it in my own prayer times.

I had never heard of William Hoppe Murray (born 1866) and judging from the lack of response from the conference when OPR asked if anyone knew of the pioneer missionary, hardly anyone else has either. The missionary-theologian made good this lacuna with a stirring talk on Being a Missionary in Out Times: William Hoppe Murray's Tenfold Challenge. The Scotsman served in Malawi. He was:

1) A pioneer, spending 43 years in lion and leopard infested Malawi.
2) A preacher, who trained indigenous believers to preach to their own people.
3) An educator, teaching evangelism, nursing, preaching and founding schools for children.
4) An administrator. He led his missionary society for 38 years, he was a hospital director and founder of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. In 1912 there were only 4,000 believers in Malawi, by the time Hoppe Murray finished his work there were 60,000. The CCAP was a disciplined grouping, with 1/50 church members under discipline.
5) An author, writing five books and contributing to a magazine.
6) A farmer.
7) A diplomat, negotiating with the UK government. His diplomatic bent made him a little undiscerning on theological matters as with his involvement in the 1928 World Council of Churches Missionary Meeting.
8) A medical doctor.
9) An evangelist. Today there are 800,000 Malawian Christians.
10) A Bible translator, exclusively dedicating four years of his life to the task of making the Word of God available in the native language.

The "tenfold challenge" was can we be doing more for the Lord, engaging in multifaceted ministry at home or on the mission field?

OPR concluded with some remarks on Hoppe Murray's character. He showed perseverance in his 43 years as a missionary. He was brave, once confronting armed slave traders with a gun in order to recover the kidnapped daughter of Christian friends. The missionary had a keen sense of humour. A colleague fell off his donkey, ending up all covered with mud. Hoppe Murray quipped, "Tell us you're not hurt so we can laugh." He was a man of prayer who sought God's blessing on all his endeavors and stressed that prayer is the most important part of the work. The pioneer was a humble man who wanted no public recognition for all his labours, exemplifying John 12:24.

In his final address OPR preached on Matthew 24:14, "The Gospel for All Nations".

1) What is the mystery of the Gospel?

In biblical terms a "mystery" is a truth that was once concealed and is now revealed. At the heart of the mystery of the gospel is the message concerning Jesus the promised Messiah who redeemed Jew and Gentile who trust in him by his death and resurrection. Part of the mystery is how people from all round the world came to follow Jesus, the Jewish Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. In Jesus' parables the Kingdom of God is described as growing from small beginnings, eg. Matthew 13:13-32 cf. Daniel 4:20-22, Ezekiel 31:1-6, where Gentile kingdoms are depicted in similar language and Ezekiel 17:22-24 for Israel. Paul never got over the mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Kingdom of God on equal terms as the Jews, Ephesians 3:1-6. Peter too came to see this, Acts 10 & 11.  In Christ salvation is by grace not race.

2) The gospel promises fulfilled

The gospel of Christ for all nations fulfils the promises made to Abraham, Genesis 12:1-3, 22:18. All of God's promised made to Abraham  belong to all of God's children whether Jew or Gentile. The blessing of land and seed are ours, Romans 4:11-12 & 13. But the "land" promise is now the new creation, not Canaan. All believers are Abraham's "seed" in Christ, Galatians 3:29. Note that in Galatians one is made a "seed" of Abraham through faith in Christ, so contrary to what OPR gently implied, proof for paedobaptism can't be found here. More helpfully the preacher took a forthright stand against premillennialist Zionism saying that if Romans 9-11 had been better understood, then 9/11 might not have happened. The preacher condemned the unjust treatment of Palestinians by the State of Israel, singling out the "security wall" for special criticism. The "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile has been torn down in the gospel and they are putting it back up! Premil-inspired US foreign policy has been disastrous for the Middle East.

3) How shall the gospel spread?

The gospel shall be preached!

It was a real joy to sit under the challenging and invigorating ministry of OPR. I can't remember him being as good as he was this year when I last heard him preaching some time ago on Joel at Banner. Like a good wine he has improved with age. Living proof of Psalm 92:12-15.

I'll break off the report at this point. Watch this space for more thoughts on this year's Banner conference. 


Jonathan Hunt said...

Reformed Baptists aren't really 'reformed' and we need to get over it. I never use the term of myself anyway.

I found LG witty and engaging. His first talk was the best, and they tailed off a little after that.

Exiled Preacher said...

Good to see you at Banner J.

Agree with you on 2nd point re LG.

But Presbys can't lay exclusive claim to being Reformed, especially as being Reformed means always reforming our theology and practice in the light of the Word, which is what "Reformed" Baptists did with their 1689 revision of WCF.

Gary Brady said...

Technically the Reformed includes all those who trace their heritage back to the Reformation (including Amyraldians or Arminians to some extent). LG suggested Baptists have only started calling themselves RBs in recent years, which may be so but the equivalent term Particular Baptist goes right back to the 17th Century. It's shame he's in a Baptist church.