Proclamation Trust – Younger Ministers Conference
The Proclamation Trust exists to encourage and help preachers to teach the Bible better and more clearly. In addition to the ‘Cornhill Training Scheme’ and ‘Evangelical Ministers Assembly (EMA)’ held each June, the Proclamation Trust also runs a series of residential study conferences for preachers and teachers of the Word. The Conference for younger ministers (those with 5 years or less experience of ministry) was held at the King’s Park Conference Centre in Northampton from 13-16 November 2000.
John Woodhouse, rector of Christ Church, Sydney and lecturer in Old Testament at Moore College gave 4 lectures on I & 2 Samuel. His aim was to show how the books fit into the history of redemption, coming after the promise of Genesis 12, and its partial fulfilment – the nation of Israel has been formed and is in the promised land. The title for the series was “What kind of king?” which aptly summaries the main theme of the books. The ultimate king who is clearly pointed to is Jesus Christ, Great David’s greater Son. In the 4 talks there were many useful insights to aid any preacher in expounding these books.
Martin Allen, a Church of Scotland minister from Chryston, near Glasgow, spoke helpfully on Colossians 2:8-15 at the beginning of the conference and on Hebrews 4:14-16 at the close of the conference. He also gave a paper on “Preaching to real people.” Jonathan Prime (Enfield Evangelical Free Church) spoke on “Pastoring real people” in which he gave a masterful description of the pastoral responsibilities of the pastor / teacher, with many practical suggestions of how to be more effective at this very time consuming work. He gave this definition “Pastoring real people involves loving them by sharing our lives as well as God’s word with them so that they might live lives that please God as they await his coming.” He spoke of our need to be a brother, a mother and a father to them from I Thessalonians 2.
In addition to these plenary sessions, we split into workshop groups to study different books of the Bible. Newcomers to the Conference were addressed by Dick Lucas on matters of exegesis, the melodic line of a section, Bible grammar – the relationship between our work and God’s work. One or two members of the workshops groups would present a sermon outline on a given passage, and this would be discussed by the group with the aim of helping us to understand the text better and improve our handling of the text when preaching. I found these sessions useful, but felt they could have been improved if more time had been devoted to the process of formulating sermons and developing application in addition to understanding the meaning of the text. There is surely more to preaching that teaching the meaning of the Bible?
There were about 100 young preachers at the conference, all keen to understand the Word better that they might be faithful to the message of the Bible in their preaching. Between half and two thirds of those attending the conference are currently serving in the Church of England. The conference therefore provided an opportunity to understand first hand the different views of young men today with regard to modernism, ecumenical associations, the local church and the need to be more effective in reaching the world for Christ.
What draws young men into the Anglican church is the belief that they can achieve more in winning England for Christ by being in the Established Church than outside it. They perceive that they get many opportunities for the gospel by being the “official” church man of the locality. They struggle to keep the overwhelmingly liberal bishops at a distance, as well as some of the things that are going on within the Anglican church, making their focus teaching the Bible to their local congregations. The difficulties they have, which they may acknowledge, are over who exactly is a Christian and what such people need to be taught, and, on the other hand, who is not a Christian and so who needs to be evangelised. There are also those in leadership in their denomination who need to be resisted because they are teaching error. The many who have spent their whole Christian lives within Anglicanism are rather unaware of what goes on outside the C of E in Free Church circles. Even Proc Trust is unconscious of a predominantly Anglican image which it projects. It has done much in helping men teach the Bible. One would like to see greater emphasis upon preaching applied messages, in addition to teaching correctly.
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