Monday, August 20, 2012

Aber 2012 report

Conrad Mbewe
So, that was Aber 2012. Another year, another rich time of ministry and fellowship for which to thank God. 

On the Sunday we heard two messages by Geoff Thomas on the mortification of sin. Helpful stuff, rooted in sound theology, well structured and searchingly applied. Not without humour too, especially the preacher's impression Usain Bolt's 'lightning' gesture. 

Conrad Mbewe gave four stirring expositions of 1 Timothy 3:16 (Tuesday-Friday). Some African preachers tend to be rather anecdotal rather than textual and theological in style. Not Mbewe. His preaching was characterised by a fine mix of exegetical insight, theological clarity and doxological passion. His final sermon on Christ being 'believed on in the nations and received up into glory' raised us to the heights. How we sang, Great is the gospel of our glorious God!

The evening sessions were pretty good too. Aber veteran Neville Rees kicked things off on Monday evening with a well-delivered evangelistic message on Mark 5:15. All singing, all dancing Art Azurdia III (no wonder he's lost weight) gave two messages on Matthew 5:10-12 (Tuesday) and Matthew 5:13 (Thursday) respectively. What he had to say on facing persecution and being the 'salt of the earth' was timely and challenging. Lindsay Brown spoke on Psalm 73 (Wednesday). His sermon was full of anecdotes and stories, maybe a few too many, but he succeeded in explaining and applying the main message of the psalm in  pastorally helpful way. Brian Edwards brought things to a fitting conclusion on Friday night with a panoramic sermon on Revelation 21:22. Great stuff, despite his sub-Reformed counsel that unbelievers should ask God to write their names in the Lamb's Book of life, only then to find that he already had. As Calvin insisted, Christ is the 'mirror of our election'. We can only know that our names are written in the Book of Life once we have believed in Jesus. That Edwards had us sing two hymns from 'his' book, Praise! seemed a little indulgent, but they were great hymns none the less (numbers 906 & 968 in P!). 

Aber is a 'no frills' conference that thrives on the powerful proclamation of the Word, the heartfelt singing of God's praises and warm fellowship between friends old and new. All is grounded in a deep spirit of prayerful dependence upon the Lord. Aside from the main meetings in Aber Uni's Great Hall there was  full programme of 'extras' for people of all ages, young and old. As in previous years open air witness meetings took place on Sunday and Tuesday afternoons at the seafront, with an extra session on Thursday. Encouragingly, a man who stopped to ask questions at Tuesday's open air came along to the evening meetings in the Great Hall.  There was even a 'Pastors' Wives Lunch', which Sarah attended and enjoyed, especially the free chocolate.

But there is nothing flash or glitzy about Aber. The only gaudy and outlandish things about the conference were the brightly coloured shirts sported by Geoff Thomas as he attended the main meetings. If you are after 'preaching pure and simple' that will do your soul good, then Aber's for you. Next year's dates are 10-17 August 2013, main  speaker Alistair Begg. 

You can order recordings of the week's ministry (DVD, CD & MP3 from EMW, here). 


Anonymous said...

"Some African preachers..." Hmm. This makes them different from some Welsh preachers. Or some English preachers. Or some American preachers. Or...

Guy Davies said...

In some respects, yes. For cultural reasons African preachers tend to be better at handling narrative texts. For that reason Don Carson (perhaps unfairly) said, "I can think of only three or four African pastors who can expound Romans well."

Speaking to British ministers who are helping to train Africans to preach the Word confirms this. They tend to have an idea on which they want to preach, gather some stories to illustrate it and then find a Bible text that more or less fits what they have to say.

Conrad Mbewe is a glorious exception to this tendency and I pray his ministry will have a big impact on other African preachers.