Leicester Ministers’ Conference 2007 – Comments
From a Northern Irish minister
I just want to thank you folk at the Banner for this year’s conference. From my point of view, it was one of the best I have been at. When I was listening to Sinclair’s magnificent address on Monday night, I kept saying to myself, ‘Of course, it is so obvious. Why did I not see that?’ But, I guess, that is the sign of a great Bible teacher – he makes things simple and obvious.
I thought John MacArthur was very reassuring. In a mixed denomination, in which Reformed men are regarded as the lunatic fringe, it was encouraging to hear someone articulate publicly what I believe the Bible teaches.
I found Alun McNabb a bit old-fashioned in some things he said, but very helpful and down to earth. Steven Curry was excellent and very encouraging.
Thanks again for a great conference. May the Lord bless you for all your help to ministers through the conference down the years.
A report from Daniel Grimwade1
One of the first things to go into my diary for a given year are dates for the next Banner of Truth ministers’ conference.2 This was my seventh occasion to attend Leicester, and once again it did not disappoint. I have returned to my labours refreshed and helped.
Fellowship: There is something immensely beneficial about being with 350 like-minded men, facing the same challenges, frustrations and opportunities and in the same great work of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. The atmosphere at the Leicester conference is always warm and welcoming.
Food – for our bodies: We are waited upon and fed within an inch of our lives.
Football: During the afternoons there is free time. A group of us younger ministers(and some older ones) spend time on the football pitch. This year it was England vs. the Rest of the World, with the scores 9-4 on the first day and 3-5 on the second.
Food – for our souls: Within this atmosphere of rich fellowship we gather around the Word of God to be stretched, taught and encouraged. Every session was beneficial.
Gerard Hemmings spoke from John 3:16 of the love of God in the gospel. This was followed by a mammoth run through the Bible by Sinclair Ferguson as he demonstrated that Christ is conqueror.
John MacArthur gave three instructive sessions on ‘The Shameful Cross’ from 1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:5. Alun McNabb exhorted us to follow Christ in key areas of life and ministry. Iain Murray spoke on John Newton, and Ian Hamilton reminded us from Ephesians 1:16-23 that we need to know more of God.
The conference ended on a high note as Steven Curry reminded us that the best way not to lose heart in the ministry is to contemplate the sufferings of Christ (Hebrews 12:3).
From the blog of Guy Davies3
The Conference started with a sermon by Gerard Hemmings on “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The preacher probed the trinitarian aspect of God’s love and then focused on John 3:16 for a reflection on the wonders of God’s self-giving love for a fallen world. This was a wonderful way to begin the conference. Gerard’s message was aptly illustrated and well applied. It was a reminder that we carry out our ministries against the background of a God who so loved the world.
Sinclair Ferguson spoke in the evening on Christ the Conqueror. He began by saying that his text was the whole Bible. Then he conducted a little Bible Quiz:
1. Why did the Son of God appear?
2. What did Christ do to the principalities and powers at the cross?
3. Why did Christ partake of flesh and blood?
(Answers found in 1 John 3:8, Colossians 2:15 & Hebrews 2:14 respectively).
Ferguson argued that the triumph of Christ is at the epicentre of the gospel. This is what motivated the early church to take the Christian massage to the nations. If the preacher fastened onto one particular text, it was Genesis 3:15. Ferguson proceeded to trace the theme of the ‘seed of the woman’ triumphing over the ‘seed of the serpent’ throughout the whole Bible. This was a thrilling exercise in panoramic redemptive-historical preaching. Fresh light was shed on Old Testament history from Cain and Abel to the book of Esther as the epic conflict developed.
With the coming of Christ, the Seed of the woman, the war became all the more intense. Christ confronted and defeated Satan in the temptations in the wilderness (Luke 4). Jesus bound the strong man and spoiled his goods by casting out demons. ‘Why’ asked Ferguson ‘do we find unprecedented demonic activity in the gospels? Why was Jesus confronted by a man possessed by a legion of demons?’ The answer is that in the Gospels we have the account of the last battle in the age-old conflict between Christ and the devil. Satan tried to deflect Christ from the cross (Matthew 16). When that strategy failed, the devil schemed to have Jesus crucified in such a demoralising way that it would crush him. Satan entered Judas who betrayed his Master. The devil stirred up the leaders of Jesus’ own people to cry out for his blood. But Christ triumphed over Satan by his death and resurrection. He is Christus Victor. But we cannot have Christus Victor without Christus Propitiator. Jesus triumphed over the devil by bearing our sins to silence the accuser of the brethren.
With this sweeping ‘biblical theology on fire’ in mind, Ferguson urged us to fulfil the Great Commission. We must evangelise because Christ is triumphant. He will conquer and save. This also has a pastoral application. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. His redeeming love will conquer all. ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’
On Tuesday, united prayer was followed by a 15 minute ‘short’ by Chad Van Dixhoorn on Seven Marks of a Puritan Pulpit Ministry. They were:
1. That Ministers should by called of God and ordained to preach the Word.
2. That Ministers should be educated and trained to preach.
3. That preachers should be godly men.
4. That Christians should be hearers of God’s Word.
5. That preaching is God’s ordinary means of grace.
6. That we must preach Christ in all his fullness.
7. That preachers need to rely on the Holy Spirit.
The Wednesday ‘short’ was led by Martin Holdt, who spoke very helpfully on Jesus as a man of prayer.
John MacArthur preached three times (Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday) on The Shameful Cross, 1 Cor 1:18-2:5. MacArthur spoke on the contemporary context where evangelicalism seems to be trying to remove the shameful aspects of the cross in order to make the truth acceptable to the world. He urged us not to be ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). The preacher helped us to see just how shameful the cross was in the shame-based culture of the first century. He explored this theme under six headings:
1. The Shameful Sentence
The cross teaches us that sinners are perishing and under the judgement of God. Only grace can save us. This principle was illustrated vividly with a helpful exposition of the parable of the prodigal son. How shameful was the younger brother’s behaviour. How shameful of the father to run and embrace his errant son rather than punish him.
2. The Shameful Stigma
The only hope for perishing sinners is that God died on a cross. This seems to be an idiotic message. Sheer foolishness. The cross was an offence to cultured Greeks and a stumbling-block to the Jews. Crucifixion was a common death for common criminals. To the Jews it was a sign that the condemned person was under God’s curse. Here is no seeker-friendly message with a built-in feel good factor. What we have to offer is a crucified Messiah.
3. Shameful Simplicity
This message does not flatter the human intellect. It was foolishness to the Greeks. In fact, we cannot understand the cross apart from the work of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). The simplicity of the cross offends our intellectual pride and humbles us to the dust.
4. Shameful Singularity
This is the only message that can save sinners. It is the power of God unto salvation. The exclusivity of the gospel offends postmodern people. But we have nothing else to declare but Jesus Christ and him crucified.
5. The Shameful Society
In 1 Corinthians 1:26ff, Paul points out that God has not chosen many glamorous or noble people, but the nothings of this world to form the community of the cross. The gospel does not advance by cultural influence. We have the treasure of the Word in clay pots. God uses weak, vulnerable, broken, suffering people to proclaim the message of salvation. This undercuts the evangelical obsession with celebrity-based evangelism and witness.
6. The Shameful Sovereignty
1 Corinthians 1:27, 28 tells us that God has chosen his people, not because of anything in themselves, but for his glory (1:31). MacArthur gave us some quotes from writers who hated this Calvinistic emphasis. But we must preach God’s sovereignty so that he is given all the praise for saving us.
In the light of this, we must not adulterate the message of the cross, but preach it in the power of the Holy Spirit. The preacher’s addresses were shot through with discerning comments about the contemporary scene, wise application, telling illustrations, anecdotes and humour. Having never heard MacArthur before, I was very much helped, challenged and encouraged by his ministry.
On Tuesday morning, Alun McNabb spoke on Leaving us an Example – Jesus Christ. He based his message (rather loosely) on 1 Peter 2:21. We are to follow Christ in our battle against temptation and in suffering the undiscerning. Christ is our example as a preacher. He was confrontational, gentle and simple. Like his, our preaching should be bold, gracious and interesting. Above all, Christ is our example in holy living. We were reminded of M’Cheyne’s words, ‘My people’s greatest need is my own personal holiness.’ On Wednesday Alun preached on Leaving us an Example – The Apostles, with special emphasis on their prayer in Acts 4. Our private and public prayers should be modelled on this example of God-centred, expectant and answered prayer. McNabb urged upon us the special importance of the prayer meeting in the life of the church. Both these addresses were very challenging and practical for pastors.
On Tuesday evening, Iain Murray spoke on John Newton 1725-1807. He retold the thrilling story of Newton’s life, conversion and ministry and set before us his example of godly and wise pastoral counsel. Murray’s address was a wonderful example of the value of Christian biographical study. It was clear, warm, engaging and well applied.
Wednesday evening’s session was led by Ian Hamilton, who spoke on the subject, What the Church Really Needs. His address was based on Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:15ff. What we need is a fresh revelation of the infinities and immensities of God.The Conference concluded with Steven Curry preaching very helpfully on Psalm 22.
For me, Conference highlights were the messages by Sinclair Ferguson and John MacArthur. I also enjoyed the discussion session on Wednesday evening. This was full of insight and humour as the panel responded to questions from Conference members. It was good to see some old friends and meet some new people from the UK and overseas. Stephen Holland and I represented the Protestant Truth Society at the Conference, chatting to people about our work and handing out freebie literature. On Wednesday evening, Iain Murray and Geoff Thomas were the special guests at a fellowship meeting of (mostly) Welsh ministers. The conversation was good as we discussed the problems that face us in the contemporary world and Iain Murray reminisced about Arnold Dallimore and Lloyd-Jones. This years’ Banner was an excellent time of ministry and fellowship.
- This report appeared in Evangelical Times, June 2007, and is used with permission.
- Next year’s Ministers’ Conference is scheduled for 31 March – 3 April 2008.
- Guy Davies lives in Westbury, Wiltshire, and pastors two neighbouring Evangelical Churches. This is a slightly edited version of the post on his blog (exiledpreacher.blogspot.com) on 27 April 2007, and is used with permission.
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