|Banner speakers and grandees|
The theme of this year's Banner Conference was 'The Sufferings of this Present Time' and in one way or another most speakers addressed the theme of suffering and the Ministry. My notes are a little threadbare and patchy and can't really give much sense of the power of the messages delivered, but there we are. Such as I have I give unto you. I wasn't intending to take any notes at the start of the conference, but my urge to scribble things down grew as it unfolded. They are a bit staccato in style, reproduced with light editing from jottings on a Notes app on my phone. These reports (a 3 part series probably) don't strictly follow the programme as it developed over the four days of the conference. They are grouped together by speaker.
Hywel Jones, who was Principal at the London Theological Seminary at the time I studied there (1988-90) was meant to be giving the opening and closing addresses, but due to ill health in his family he had to pull out. Instead the conference was topped and tailed by son-in-law and father-in-law double act, Gary Brady and Geoff Thomas.
Gary spoke on 1 Peter 2:7, 'Christ, Precious to Believers', setting up the conference well by drawing our attention to the preciousness of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Geoff's finale was on Romans 3:23, 'The Plight of Man and the Power of God'. In a searching message, the veteran Aber preacher showed us that: 1. Sin is inward. Reaching to the very core of our being and producing the sinful desires that manifest themselves in sinful conduct, 2. Sin lords it over our lives. Like a snake charmer who thought he had control of his boa constrictor, only for it to choke the living daylights out of him. 3. Affects every part of us. We are totally depraved by sin. Not that we are as bad as could be, but that the whole of our personality is affected by sin; our intellect, and even the conscience. 4. The wages of sin is death. God's judgement on a sinful world. ISA atrocities. Moral corruption of Western culture. The history of our personal sinfulness. Only Jesus can save us from sin. The message was a powerful reminder of why we have been called to preach the gospel, and why we are in desperate need of that message ourselves.
Stuart Olyott gave two addresses.
Address 1: 'Yes, it is hard, sometimes very hard, but . . . Paul’s testimony (2 Corinthians 11-12)'. Stuart spoke on Paul's record of his sufferings in these chapters by way of contrast to the trouble free 'super apostles'. We should ordinarily Refrain from speaking of our sufferings. Paul was reluctant to do so, and only did for the benefit of others, not to have a good moan. We should Reflect that our sufferings are nowhere near as bad as Paul's as listed in these chapters. Finally we should Refuse to give the impression that we are spiritual supermen who know little of trials and suffering. Grace is made perfect in weakness.
Address 2: 'Yes, it is hard, sometimes very hard, but . . . Paul’s counsel (2 Corinthians 4)'. Now the preacher walked us though the chapter under the headings: Wow look at what 2 Corinthians 4:1-6 has to say about Christ, the Gospel, the devil, conversion and true gospel preaching. Ow, 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 tells us that the treasure of the gospel is in jars of clay, proclaimed by weak human beings. Vs. 7 explains why. in vs, 8-12 Paul has a list of contrasting parallels. Ministers are under pressure. Prep deadlines. Pastoral responsibilities. We can't do it, but Jesus can. The life of Jesus is manifested in us. Finally, Now, we believe and therefore speak (vs 13-18), what we believe, vs. 14. Inward renewal despite outward decay, vs. 16. Seen in elderly Christians whose minds have gone, yet they respond to Scripture and hymns. Our troubles are put into perspective by eternity, vs. 17-18.
Classic Olyott. Clear and easy to follow messages, shot through with insight, humour and telling application. Best joke. He was accused of being a modernist by a Premil while ministering in Switzerland because of his Amil views. 'The Lord bless Premillenialists...with understanding.'
Next up, some notes on addresses given by Kevin DeYoung and Mike Reeves.