Leicester 2015 – A Word from Our Speakers
The theme for this year’s Leicester Ministers’ Conference is ‘The Sufferings of this Present Time’. To whet your appetite, some of our speakers here introduce the messages they will be bringing . . .
Gary Brady is pastor of Childs Hill Baptist Church in London, and will bring the opening message of the conference.
‘Unto you therefore which believe he is precious’ (1 Peter 2:7).
This is the text we will turn to at the beginning of the conference. It is the first text that C. H. Spurgeon ever preached in a formal church setting. As so much in that remarkable life, the circumstances were unusual. He was asked to walk out to a village near Cambridge accompanying a young man he supposed would preach that evening. On the way he discovered that the man had no intention of preaching or any ability to do so, and so Spurgeon himself had to preach.
Writing of the text many years later he said,
if a raw recruit could speak upon anything, surely this theme would suit him. If one were dying this would be the text; if one were distracted with a thousand cares this would be the text.
The reason he said that is
because its teaching is experimental – its meaning wells up from the inner consciousness, and needs neither a clear brain nor an eloquent tongue. To the believer it is not a thing which somebody else has taught him; it is a matter of fact, which he knows within his own soul, that Christ is precious to him, and he can bear testimony concerning it although not always such bold testimony as he could wish.
John Newton was one who did boldly testify to it many years before, writing of Jesus as his Shepherd, Husband, Friend; his Prophet, Priest and King; his Lord, his Life, his Way, his End.
Such truths are too easily lost in the midst of busy ministries and we need to be reminded what the short-lived Andrew Gray discovered in the early seventeenth century, that ‘Christ’s preciousness to the believer is the foundation of our faith’.
Kevin DeYoung is the minister of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, USA, and we look forward to his first visit to the conference, where he will give three addresses.
Ministry would be simple if weren’t for all the people. I have a friend who often reminds me that it would be easier to work with animals. People have problems, and problems cause pain.
None of us can endure in ministry (let alone thrive) without a good theology of suffering: both for the suffering we will witness and the suffering we will experience. Thankfully, we worship a Suffering Servant. By looking to Christ and abiding in Christ, we find our best example and deepest comfort. Jesus is our hope in the midst of injustice. He is our intercessor in the midst of pain. He is the Impassible one who suffers for our sakes.
In other words, the richest theology is able to meet our deepest need. As we preach Christ to others, let us not forget to first preach Christ — with all his benefits — to our own souls.
Stuart Olyott has pastored churches in the UK and Switzerland. Before his ‘semi-retirement’, he was Pastoral Director of the Evangelical Movement of Wales. He has spoken at the conference on several occasions.
The Christian ministry is hard, sometimes very hard, but none of us has had it as hard as the Apostle Paul did. In 2 Corinthians chapters 11 and 12 he tells us about his difficulties, how he behaved in them, and how the Lord dealt with him through them. In doing this, he reveals some of the reasons why the Lord leads us along such a hard path and what he expects from us as we walk it.
If we take Paul’s teaching to heart, we will not faint along the way. Further counsel is given to us in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, where we are given fuller light about being hard pressed, but not crushed; and about the fact that there is no need for any minister of the gospel to give up through discouragement.
We are ministering in dark days. Many servants of Christ feel that their burdens have become unbearable. It is our prayer that these two studies will restore in us a daily realism enlivened with biblical optimism.
Alan Davey brings a missionary perspective to the conference subject. In 2005 he left Christ Church, Deeside, North Wales to minister in Bordeaux, France.
‘To proclaim my name; to suffer for my name.’
When the risen Christ sent Ananias to welcome the blind Saul of Tarsus into his people he said, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name’ (Acts 9:15-16 ESV). Later, Paul would write of the sufferings that accompanied his ministry in a list that takes our breath away.
Generations of servants of the same risen Christ have travelled the world over the centuries bearing the same message of salvation and ready to suffer for their service. Some went to a martyr’s death. Others died of disease before their first letter reached home. Some endured long decades of solitary service with little or no perceptible fruit for their labours. Their heroism and commitment still encourage us today.
But what about those who work today in cross-cultural mission? We measure our journeys in hours or days rather than months. By the grace of the risen Christ, many diseases have been eradicated. Other infections are fairly easily treated, though more difficult problems may need a swift evacuation home for treatment. We no longer speak of the first letter home in this age of emails and video-conferencing.
So does a commitment to cross-cultural mission still entail a certain degree of suffering? And if so what are the special pressures we face today, and how best can churches and Christians at home encourage, help, strengthen, and support those who are engaged in carrying the name of Christ before the nations?
Jeff Kingswood is the minister of Grace Presbyterian Church, Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, and will preach on the final morning of the conference.
The Bruised Bride: ‘Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you’ (1 Peter 4:12 ESV).
When we as Reformed Christians think of the marks of the true church our minds often go to the Belgic Confession’s Article 29 and these words:
It practices the pure preaching of the gospel. It maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them. It exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins.
While none of us would quibble with those defining characteristics, ought we to consider the apostolic witness that suffering is also a hallmark of authentic Christianity? Should we be asking why the church in the West has by and large escaped wholesale persecution? The history of the early church is one of martyrdom and it continues to be the history of the church in Africa, the Middle East, in Central and South America, and in Asia. Christians die all sorts of horrific deaths just for being Christians.
The fall of the Soviet Empire did not end the persecution of the church of Christ on earth. More Christians perished for their faith in the twentieth century than in any century before. That is the ordeal God’s faithful people have faced through the ages. Peter says that we shouldn’t be surprised because if we have really listened to the apostle’s teachings about Jesus we would have realised that taking the name of Jesus Christ would mean being hated by the world. That is what Jesus tells his disciples in John 15. Jesus says to the disciples that the world will hate them because the world first hated and continues to hate Jesus Christ.
As persecution seems more and more prevalent, and an increasing reality for Christ’s church in the West, how do we prepare our people to face it, comfort those enduring it, and accept it as a very real, and even good part of Christian living?
Geoff Thomas has been pastor of Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberwystwyth, since 1965. He is a frequent speaker at conferences throughout the world, and is giving the closing address at Leicester.
The purpose of the final message of any conference is to reaffirm the great truths of the divine diagnosis of man’s lost condition and the mighty deliverance that has been accomplished by the sent one, Christ Jesus, and to preach it with all one’s heart, freshly, so that the congregation is like a man who digs a hole in a field and discovers great treasure. The purpose of the final message is to send every preacher back home singing the praises of Jesus Christ with all the assurance of a new convert.
And as the poor man whose calling is to seek by grace to do this, I will be thankful for your prayers, for myself especially, but also for all the speakers, because without Jesus Christ we can do nothing.
An Oasis for Ministers of the Gospel
Banner trustee Ian Hamilton talks about the Banner ministers’ conferences, and tells us of the oasis of encouragement and spiritual food that ministers of the gospel need and find at the conference. We hope you will consider joining us this year.
Will you be there? Will you pray?
If you are already booked for the conference, we do hope this will encourage you to pray for the ministry during the week, and to come expecting the Lord’s blessing.
If you have not booked yet, maybe this will stir your interest. There is still time to book!
Learn more about joining us in Leicester, 13-16 April.
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