The American Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference, 2011
Nearly two hundred ministers met at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, for the 2011 Banner of Truth U.S. Ministers’ Conference. The conference theme was ‘So Great a Salvation.’ The speakers were asked to preach about various facets of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
On May 24, Rev. Mark Johnston, a Banner of Truth trustee, preached the opening sermon on Jesus’ intercessory prayer from John 17. He has served for many years as pastor of Grove Chapel in London but last year accepted a call to become senior pastor of Proclamation Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, (where Dr. Peter Lillback served as pastor before moving to a full-time presidency at Westminster Seminary). Mary and I have gotten to know the Johnston family well; whenever I served Grove Chapel in the past, we would stay in the Johnston home.
Johnston called John 17 ‘the prayer that changed the world’ and stressed that the overriding emphasis of Jesus’ prayer was for unity among Christians. His three main points were: (1) Jesus’ concern for unity, (2) the impact of that unity on the world, and (3) how the means of grace foster unity. That evening, I spoke on Christ as the King of kings and the Lamb of God in the Garden of Gethsemane. Afterward, a number of ministers fellowshipped together over ice cream cones. I spent some time talking with Dr. William VanDoodewaard (from PRTS) and his brother Peter (a pastor from Greenville, South Carolina), Rev. Ian Hamilton (a Banner of Truth trustee, the MC of the BT Conference, and a pastor in Cambridge, England), Rev. Matt Kingswood (from Ottawa, Ontario), and Rev. Steven Curry (from N. Ireland). Curry (whom I met in Scotland for the first time ten days ago) told me that he officiated at a wedding last weekend in Joplin, Missouri. The day after he left, a major tornado destroyed that city and completely demolished the Day’s Inn where he was staying.
The following morning, Dr. Richard Gaffin, professor emeritus of Westminster Theological Seminary, delivered the first of two lectures on ‘So Great a Salvation in Paul.’ He focused on the reality and necessity of the resurrected Christ’s intercession for our justification, based on Romans 8:31″“39. Rev. Tom Chantry, pastor of Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then spoke on ‘The Penitent Minister’ (2 Kings 22:8″“20). He preached on the godly life of King Josiah, stressing his weeping over sin, his seeking and being found of God, his being assured by a merciful God, and his thorough reformation to eradicate sin.
In the afternoon, Rev. Hamilton gave a fifteen-minute talk on ‘Preachers Beware!’ which addressed the need for dependence on the Holy Spirit in ministry. He explained how ministry of the Word is insufficient without the Spirit. Afterward, I preached on Christ being forsaken of his Father (Matt. 27:46): its profundity, its purpose, and its love. It was the first time I had my full voice in several weeks; it felt unbelievably good to preach freely. Over the supper hour, I visited with Jonathan Watson, editorial director of Banner of Truth Trust. We brainstormed about potential books. That evening, Dr. Joseph Pipa, president of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Greenville, South Carolina, spoke on ‘The Righteous Man’ from Psalm 1: his character, his condition, and his confidence. He pointed to Christ the only truly righteous man, by and through whom his people are made righteous in him. Afterward, I visited with Pipa and one of his best friends.
On Thursday, I met with Ian Hamilton over breakfast and with Ryan McGraw over lunch, both of whom have been good friends for years. Gaffin gave his second address, which focused on the impact of Christ’s resurrection and exalted state for the sanctification of believers. Based on Philippians 1:6, but also drawing on 2 Corinthians 4:16 and Ephesians 2:8″“10, he stressed the reality and the consequences of the good work of God begun in us. Pastor Tom Chantry then gave his second address on King Josiah, speaking on ‘The Insufficient Minister’ (2 Kings 23:21″“27). He stressed how that Josiah’s sad and confusing death directs us to Jesus Christ, the only sufficient minister. In the afternoon, all the speakers participated in a question-and-answer session. That was followed by Dr. Pipa’s closing sermon on ‘The Warrior King’ (Psa. 2), which stressed Christ’s ultimate and total victory over all powers. I arrived home at 1:00 a.m. Friday morning, grateful for the addresses and fellowship at the Banner of Truth conference.
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