When I was a younger man with a much sharper memory I used to make extensive notes of the Banner conference addresses. Partly with a view to posting blog reports. Now I'm older and can't retain so much I don't take any notes at all. I prefer to regard the messages as ministry that preaches to my soul, rather than lectures for which I should make notes.
Which is a bit of a problem when it comes to writing up a report. If you want outlines and stand-out sayings, Gary Brady has done a good job of live-blogging on Heavenly Worldliness. Beyond even Gary's efforts, Banner have kindly posted videos of the addresses online. So, what I'll try and do here is jot down what I found especially helpful, challenging and encouraging about this year's event. Based on my dodgy memory.
The overarching theme was 'Ministers of Christ'. What came home to me was...
The privilege of Ministry
We are called to preach the word of God so that sinners are saved and believers built up. We have a wonderful message to proclaim, good news of what God has done to rescue and renew human beings by his Son and through his Spirit. What a calling; to 'preach the word'. Iain Murray issued a plea for evangelistic preaching, from Luke 5:1-11. Are we 'fishers of men', or simply preachers to the converted? Steven Lawson directed us to various aspects of the preaching-pastoral ministry in his three addresses. What he had to say was challenging and punchy. Some found him a bit too direct and confrontational. But with privilege comes responsibility and preachers will be held to account by the Lord Jesus for the way in which we have served him. I for one needed to hear Paul's words in 1 Timothy 4:12-16, 2 Timothy 2:15-16 & 2 Timothy 4:1-5 powerfully explained and applied. Yes, troubled pastors need to be soothed, but we also need to be stirred up to fulfill our ministries with faithfulness and zeal.
The pains of Ministry
Warren Peel set before us the example of Epaphras as described in Colossians 1:7-8 & 4:13, emphasising, as did Lawson the need for painstaking toil in ministry as we labour in giving pastoral care and the preaching of the word. Some are given to toil away in very difficult circumstances, which may give rise to despondency. Bill Hughes helped us to deal with discouragement in his helpful messages on Numbers 21 and Exodus 6. How God dealt with Moses is an object lesson for us on resilience in ministry when the going is tough.
The joy and fear of Ministry
Mike Reeves spoke on 'Spurgeon and the Christian Life' and 'Bunyan: The Minister's Fear of God'. In the first address Reeves drew a helpful connection between Spurgeon's joyful personality and his theology. He wasn't just a jolly old fellow, but a man who knew deep, soul-restoring joy in the Lord. Joy makes Ministers approachable to their people. Spurgeon wanted men whose 'door mat' said 'Welcome', not 'Beware of the Dog'. Bunyan's insightful handling of the fear of God helped us see the close connection between reverence for God and enjoyment of his goodness, Nehemiah 1:11, Isaiah 11:3, Jeremiah 32:39-40.
Prayer in Ministry
In his opening sermon Geoff Thomas spoke on the how the Lord opened Lydia's heart in Acts 16:14. The fact that only the Lord can do this, and that he does so though his word compels us to God-dependent prayer. In his closing address Warren Peel once more drew our attention to Epaphras in this regard, Colossians 4:12. Ministry is a 'task unfinished that drives us to our knees'.
As ever, it was good to catch up with old friends and also to meet new people. On Wednesday evening we had our regular 'Taffia' meeting of men with Welsh connections. Geoff Thomas interviewed Steve Lawson on his life story and ministry experiences, which was fascinating and a real encouragement.
I only bought one book, but it was a biggie, Sinclair Ferguson's Some Pastors and Teachers, which I very much look forward to reading, having benefited from Ferguson's ministry at past Banner Ministers' Conferences.
I left the conference feeling reinvigorated refocused and refreshed. View the messages online. Whether or not you are in pastoral ministry, they will do you good.
Next year's conference is planned for 8-11 April. Speakers: Ed Donnelly, Stephen Curry, Derek Thomas, Lindsay Brown & John Benton.