Carey Conference, Swanick, January 2005 [II]
The following is a report of the second half of the Conference.
REPORTS FROM OVERSEAS. ANDREA FERRARI – ITALY.
In July 2002 Andrea moved to Milan to 14 founder members of a new church with 20 averaging in their attendance. The Alfa & Omega Publishing house has an aggressive publishing programme, the latest being Spurgeon’s “Lectures to my Students.” In 2003 books by and on Jonathan Edwards made their impact on Italian Protestants. Tedd Tripp’s book on “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” is also selling well.
LASZLO BALINT – ROMANIA
Laszlo is the son of a preacher; he is studying in Welwyn. He finished his A Levels three years ago and went to work for a year in Above Bar, Southampton, and then to Welwyn, hoping to finish in May to help his parents in their work, and then to return to further study in the UK before becoming engaged in his life as a preacher.
NATASHA KUPERMAN – ISRAEL
Natasha was born in Russia; she is married with a child and they went to Jerusalem when she was 19; five years’ later she experienced deep depression and then she met a Christian. She was invited to church and began to attend regularly but was offended by the biblical teaching on sin. “What have I done to deserve all these troubles in my life?” she asked. She was in hospital a couple of months. What could she do? Would God punish her even more? A few Christian people visited her every day and continued to witness to her. “Mum, there is God. Just believe,” her little daughter said to her. She came to see the truth herself, that God loved her and was not punishing her. A few years have gone by and now she is training to work for God. They have twenty deaf people in their church and she helps them to understand the Bible and she works with unbelieving women.
MARTIN ZDAREK – THE CZECH REPUBLIC
Martin comes from a nominal Roman Catholic background, converted two years ago through his brother during his university studies, and then encouraged by his pastor to study at Welwyn. The pastor was himself a student there seven years ago. There are fifty members in their new church in the Czech Republic.
DINU AND LYDIA MOGA – ROMANIA
Another conference for pastors and students was again arranged last year. 80 men came to the first conference, and that number has been sustained. At the end of every conference session earnest discussion was held and then praying without a gap between the prayers. They have just printed Wayne Grudem’s Systematics and further plan to bring out Philip Eveson’s commentary on Genesis, Gareth Crossley’s Introduction to the books of the Bible, Nick Needham’s ‘History of the Church’ in all its volumes, and Bruce Milne’s ‘Know the Truth.’ Dinu is an elder in the Immanuel Baptist Church with a Christian School for all ages up to 18 years. The people are exhorted primarily to live a holy life. There are 6 million Romanians who are dispersed throughout Europe looking for work. There is a constant struggle to balance the spiritual with the material needs of Romania today. In Austria there are 14 Romanian churches.
MACIEK STOLARSKI – in Southport (with GBM.)
Two months ago the Tamil Tigers were targeting boys in Sri Lanka to become fighters, and there was much prayer in the country’s congregations for the nation because of rumours of an uprising planned in the next months. But the tsunami has ended all such scheming and now unprecedented cooperation between Tigers and the Sri Lanka government is taking place. The tidal wave hit the eastern side of the island. It took the brunt of the wave that Sunday morning, and while many churches were spared two churches were wiped out. Of a congregation of around 65 all but 15 were wiped out, but both pastors have survived though they lost their families. There are churches that are able to cope with the destruction and any monies they get sent they redirect to other places.
VICTOR ATALLAH – CYPRUS, M.E.R.F.
Islam is not a defeat for God; he has some purpose in it. It has been crumbling for thirty years and is crumbling more rapidly as the 21st century progresses. The church is increasingly prepared to receive all opportunities. Most Baptist churches in the middle east are in the Lebanon and have their roots in the Southern Baptists, though some are Bible Baptists. In Lebanon they are the most spiritual group of congregations with great vitality. The vice-president of MERF is a leader of these Baptist churches and now regular annual conferences are planned – Gareth Crossley has already gone out to teach the Bible. In Sudan there have risen quite spontaneously a group of Reformed church in the Nubian mountains. Twenty pastors and twenty evangelists are being supported. How can we help them more? The government has given us an hour on radio and TV each week. Literature is constantly being printed with two Arabic books appearing on the Trinity and on the Person of Christ both written by Stuart Olyott. It is getting harder for Arabs to come to Cyprus because Cyprus is a member of the EU, so we are moving the training to other centres. This Friday we begin training 25 Muslim converts who are from Iran. We have this training session regularly and want some of men from the UK to come and teach at these gatherings.
WINSTON FLAVELL – SLAVIC GOSPEL ASSOCIATION.
The SGA trains nationals to teach their own people; it could be seen as a ‘lay training course.’ They are already in villages and the country areas and we look forward to the time when the local people will do this themselves. There are problems for the children when they come to the time they have to leave the state orphanages, and we are encouraging families to adopt them. One church has taken over an orphanage and there are 34 young people living in it.
MICHAEL ROBINSON – BELGIUM.
Michael works with the EMF thirty miles from Ostend in a small town. 2004 was a trying year and are thankful to the Lord for his grace. Our membership is 7 with 16 people in the congregation on average. One of the hindrances of the work is that Michael cannot work full time, so he in involved in a translation bureau and in teaching English, but all this takes 40 hours a week. There is children’s club and weekly Bible study. Outside the premises they do leaflet drops twice a year. The congregation is small and aging with an uncertain future. Everything is falling on Michael’s shoulders. It should not be like that but that is the way it is. There are some people recently who are showing interest in the Christian faith.
STEVEN CURRY – BALLYMONEY
The biggest churchgoing population in Eastern Europe and most evangelicals on the continent is to be found in Ulster. For example, 200 children are in the Scripture Union of the local 700 member Grammar School. But Ulster is a community divided, which creates difficulties for evangelism. The phrase ‘commonwealth and nation’ in the hymn just sung, “Lord of the years,” would create resentment in some men of Ulster, but enthusiasm in others. The churches are displaying signs of increasingly elderly congregations. Also there are few men entering the ministry of the Reformed Presbyterians with many vacancies.
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , – STEVEN CURRY – “THE DOUBTS OF THE PREACHER.”
Steven Curry has been the pastor at Ballymoney Baptist Church since 1984. He spoke on the doubts of John the Baptist, asking whether preachers have doubts. Surely not, and yet the question John sent his disciples to ask Jesus was, “Are you the one who should come or should we expect someone else?” Who was it that John was doubting? It was the Christ (v.2). He was a man of integrity and why should he ask such a question if there were no doubt in the first place. When you look at Jesus’ reply he tailored his response to John. So here is a prophet experiencing real doubts. His faith was wavering and had weakened while he was in prison.
1. THE REALITY OF DOUBTS IN THE LIFE OF THE MINISTER.
Jesus gives a wonderful assessment of John’s ministry. He tells them that John was a strong man. When you went to the desert to hear John preaching did you see a reed blown this way and that? Was John a wimp? That did not attract you to him, rather it was his convictions. He was a strong man. He was not a time-server who told Herod what Herod wanted John to say. ‘I have waited fifty years to see “The Boneless Wonder”‘ said Churchill pointing at the Treasury Bench telling parliament of the time his family forbade him as a child to see a freak in the circus, “but now I have seen the spectacle.”
Did they go to the desert to see a man wrapped in fine clothes? John’s life was lived in radical self-denial as he protested against the world. He was entrusted with a mighty ministry, God’s messenger, preparing the Lord’s way before him. He was a prophet and was himself the subject of a prophecy as Malachi had foretold. There is no one greater than John in all of the O.T. The one coming after him would baptize with the Holy Spirit. He would increase but John was going to decrease. This is the man who expressed doubts in his ministry – the one who was the greatest thus far in redemptive history.
Think of the tendency to magnify men in missionary or Christian biography. How dangerous. The Bible never flatters its heroes. It records the faults of men and women who believed in God. Spurgeon, M’Cheyne, Brainerd all expressed their doubts and their sense of wickedness. “I believe, help thou my unbelief.” Will we not find them rising in us too?
2. THE REASON FOR DOUBTS IN THE LIFE OF THE MINISTER.
There were difficult circumstances. John was in prison after years of freedom in the wilderness. He was deprived of his ministry because of his incarceration. A husband loses his wife; a preacher loses his pulpit; a parent loses his child. Such people begin to lose their assurance and joy. John had met unresponsiveness because of his message. The religious establishment, the custodians of the truth, didn’t want to know. There were times in Paul’s ministry when he was so fearful that a divine visitation was needed to encourage him. His hopes were disappointed when he surveyed the life of Jesus. He expected judgment to fall, but Jesus went to weddings and parties, and he didn’t raise an army of the righteous and drive the Romans into the Med. Where was the axe being laid to the root of the tree? There were no judgments falling on the people. There was rather missionary endeavour and healing.
3. THE REMEDY FOR DOUBTS IN THE LIFE OF THE MINISTER.
John is going to be martyred when violent men seize the kingdom. If we strive for word-centred ministry we dream that this will result in constant divine blessing. But blessing comes in strange ways. Our work provokes opposition. Don’t be surprised at the troubles that come to you. The world is opposed to the church. We want plastic crosses. This world is constant in its opposition, especially to the minister of Christ’s gospel.
Jesus manifests his miraculous activity to the disciples of John, and quotes from passages of Isaiah about the messianic activities. He is giving John proof of his identity as the Christ. Jesus is telling John to hold on to the word of God, and that is how doubts are overcome. In Doubting Castle the key of Promise delivers the pilgrims from the dungeon and the castle.
We need to rest in the providence of God. All of us are convinced of God’s sovereignty but we need to be tested about its truth frequently so that we appropriate it for ourselves. Jesus says that John is the greatest saint because he preceded Christ and bore witness to Jesus. True greatness is to be measured to the extent that you bear witness to Christ. We live this side of the empty tomb and bear witness of the cross. Nothing gets better than that. In fifty million years in heaven none of your present troubles are going to be of any significance at all. “If one soul from Anworth will meet me at God’s right hand my heaven will be two heavens in Immanuel’s land,” wrote Anne Cousins echoing Rutherford.
VICTOR ATALLAH – INDIGENOUS MISSIONS.
Victor was converted in Egypt through the influence of his mother who had been converted from a Coptic background by members of an evangelical church, especially through a particular girl friend. His mother was on fire for God and she taught her children the Bible. Through her influence his father was also converted from nominal Presbyterianism. But where would any of them have been without the giant pioneer missionaries of the preceding century who lived with the people, learned the language, and wrote the hymns the Arabic churches have made their own? Victor attended a liberal seminary for a time, but later lived with Cornelius Van Til and he taught Victor intensively for six days a week (and on Saturdays he washed Van Til’s car). Van Til would grow frustrated with Victor’s lack of progress and of his failure to understand presuppositionalism.
God summoned out Abraham and blessed the nations through his Seed. From Jerusalem the church goes out into the world – as the psalmists foretold. In the last days, the prophets said, all the nations would be pressing into the kingdom of God. God was going to send a Saviour to the Egyptians, and Africans, and Europeans, and Americans – but just one Saviour. God intends to place an altar in the midst of the land, that is, in the midst of every nation, and that altar is the cross of Christ. The people of God are the very purpose of history.
In the gospels Jesus tells his disciples that at that time they were not to go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans. Yet he himself goes to the Canaanite woman and to the Samaritan woman at Sychar. He shows that there is a future work to be done in those places. The early church was to reach out into all the world. From Antioch the church expanded into the Gentile world. The embracing of the Gentiles created deep tensions which almost tore the church apart. The council at Jerusalem in Acts 15, its deliberations and conclusions, united the people of God in mission and their oneness in Gentile and Jew.
Today the church is spreading through the whole world; in every nation of the Middle East it is growing, and where there is growth in Islamic countries those Christians increasingly believe in the Sovereignty of God. Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya are three nations with a very expansive Free Grace witness.
TOM ASCOL – SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Many Christians are not aware of the battle. They do not conceive of their lives as engaged in a warfare. Our enemy would be delighted to see us on a treadmill that gets us nowhere. We are faced with a mighty conflict, brutal and eternal in its consequences. It is not a foreign battlefield; it is in the heart of every man woman and child. The call to be a Christian is a call to fight.
Christians ask why they can’t get on with other Christians or with members of their family, why afraid to witness, why the horrible thoughts, why the neglect of the means of grace? We have an enemy who hates us. He is constantly trying to ruin us.
Paul opens up this theme at the end of the letter to the Ephesians. Being filled with the Spirit is expounded in the various roles of husbands, wives, children, slaves and masters. How different our society would be if we all lived like this. The principles of Christian living will not be seen unless we are being engaged in a fight. The warfare takes place in your job, in the study, in the bedroom, in the pulpit etc.
For the fight of your life you need supernatural strength – Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. The Free World have been engaged as nations in the war with terrorism since 9/11. We looked to our national leaders to give some guidance and we have been engaged in a battle since that day. Since Genesis 3:15 there has been strife between the Seed of the woman and the serpent’s seed. All belong to one seed or the other. You will never win one spiritual conflict in your strength. So be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. You can only do all things through Christ. The very same power that raised Christ resides in us.
How do we access the power of Christ? You cannot reduce the Christian life to ABC and 1, 2 and 3. But . . . I have three points,
1. We must understand our union with Christ. You must be acquainted with what Christ has done for you and is in you.
2. We must believe this amazing fact, that Jesus Christ lives in me. Consider the implications of this. I have access to him and so his words to me are ‘doable’ through Christ. Faith is essential. “If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes,” spoke Jesus into the disciples’ failure. Faith accesses the reality of the resurrected power of Christ. Like a tuner picks up all the radio airwaves and signals which are in this room now.
3. Act upon it. Don’t be unwise but understand the will of God and obey it, even if it seems impossible at the outset.
How does it work practically? A Christian wife reads Ephesians 5:33 – see that she respects her husband. That is God’s will for her, but it is hard. But you are in a fight. A soldier does not complain that real bullets are being used. For husbands it is the same – love your wife like Christ loves the church. You need to do the things that show your love for your wife. God’s will for children is to obey their parents in the Lord. They need to get that at the beginning of their lives. Parents are to raise their children in the admonition of the Lord and without provoking them to wrath. It says the same for slaves and masters, employers and employees. We are to constantly remind ourselves who we are.
We also need supernatural protection for this fight. All the armour is needed for the formidable foe we are facing; Satan, the flesh, the world – that godless system of values. Satan is the personal strategist behind it all. Anger that is ignored becomes the target for the devil’s activity in our life. The devil will also seize on the world, Vanity Fair, to tempt us to leave the path. Wealth, status and pleasures of any kind can ensnare us. We need supernatural armour and we also need to wrestle against the sin; it is hand to hand conflict, personal and intense, and divinely provided armour is needed for our protection.
Truth is to captivate our minds and we are to live by it. Righteousness characterizes us so that our vital life is protected. The gospel of peace is a foundation for mobility and stability. Faith, i.e. believing what is true, remembering what Jesus said, will quench the fiery darts. The helmet of salvation protects our heads, and the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God – is the mighty weapon, as it was Christ Jesus’. Finally ‘All prayer’ as Bunyan reminds us, is another piece of armour.
Powers, rulers and spiritual wickedness are the believer’s enemies. Satan and his forces are powerful; they are world rulers, granted and limited with that power by God. The devil and his demons are not to be ignored or disdained. They are wickedness in spirit form; rulers of the world’s darkness and 100% evil. They are without any good at all. Satan is the personification of pure evil. He is also cunning and crafty. The devil rarely attacks through direct frontal attack but, as when he approached Eve, he raises questions, “Has God really said . . .?” sowing doubt and unbelief. Satan asked for Peter to sift you like wheat. In 2 Corinthians 11 we are told that the devil can come as an angel of light. What are the doctrines of demons? A bit of truth masquerades as the whole truth.
There are two great dangers as we talk about the devil, the materialists and the magicians both are dangerous extremes. The former does not take Satan seriously enough; it is a child’s fairy tale to the materialists, but the magicians take him too seriously. They view the world almost exclusively in terms of the devil. He is promoted to virtual omnipotence. But the Lord has crushed his head. If we do ignore him then it is almost certain that we will not take the call to spiritual warfare seriously. We take conflicts with the devil as a regular phenomenon. This is our sworn enemy. We ignore him at our peril. He never misses church. He is far more regular than we are.
One reason for 9/11 being so devastating was that the USA thought it could never be invaded. Ben Laden was at war with America long before they knew it, and long before they were at war with him. So we must be aware of the devil wanting to destroy a church. Through faith in Christ and the use of the divinely provided armour we will overcome.
GEOFF THOMAS: “A PERSONAL VIEW OF PASTORING”
The greatest gift God gives to every congregation is the foundational gift of apostles and prophets. All true churches revolve around this as their hub, or to change the metaphor, it is the foundation on which congregations in every generation have to build. The next gift the head of the church gives to every congregation is the pastor-teacher. This is the connecting gift between the apostles and today’s congregation.
1. WHAT IS THE WORK OF THE SHEPHERD-TEACHER?
It is described in the twenty-third psalm:
i] He is concerned for each individual sheep – “my shepherd.”
ii] He encourages their peace of mind; he makes the flock lie down. He is not constantly driving them; Sunday is a day of rest.
iii] He provides the best food for them – green pastures and still waters.
iv] He restores their souls. There are sermons in which you can hear a pin drop, and times when the hearts of the congregation are revived.
v] He ‘leads’ the congregation. They go through no darker room than he has first gone through.
vi] He always motivates them to do everything for the great Namesake.
vii] He leads them in paths of righteousness, not feel-good paths.
viii] He protects the flock from their enemies by his rod and his staff. Only a hireling leaves the flock and flees. He will lay down his life for the sheep.
ix] He is with them; his presence is so familiar and beloved to them – “thou art with me.”
x] He constantly present to them the house of the Lord which is going to be their eternal home. That perspective sweetens and explains everything that happens.
2. WHOM DO WE PASTOR?
i] Pastor yourself. That is the preacher’s first priority, to take heed to himself. The greatest need of my flock is that I keep watch over myself.
ii] Pastor your parents. If a man does not know how to care for his own family how can he care for the flock of Christ?
iii] Pastor your own wife. When in the pulpit you hear her voice singing the hymns from the congregation and see her taking notes of your sermons then that is a good barometer of her contentment that she married a preacher. There is no happier life than to be the wife of a pastor who knows the blessing of God.
iv] Pastor your children. They see you behaving as badly as a Christian can behave, an angel in the pulpit and a devil in the kitchen, and yet they believe upon Jesus Christ. How amazing the grace of God.
v] Pastor your whole congregation every Sunday. Pastoral preaching declares the whole counsel of God to the whole congregation so that it creates neither a church of floundering doubters nor a church of presumptuous Pharisees.
vi] Pastor your elders. Opposition from your elders is the worst kind. I don’t know what I’d do if one of my elders was my opponent. I don’t know how a man can survive in a congregation if that were the case. Even the friendships of the elders’ wives for one another is important.
vii] Pastor your fellow pastors. The preacher who is a loner presents everyone with dilemmas. Even the man who attends conferences only when he is one of the speakers presents us psychological problems. He seems to be saying that he can give but he can’t receive. He can teach us but he has nothing to learn from us. This is not an age of spiritual giants. All of us are on the same level as brothers. Let us behave in a brotherly spirit. Do we have a circle of brethren in the ministry to whom we can go for counsel?
viii] Pastor your people in their homes. Situations vary so much; there is no possibility of the pastors of large congregations getting to every home especially in these days when both men and women have full time jobs. We visit them as shepherds who are also sheep; not unwillingly; as servants; as wisely as we can and so sometimes with a fellow officer; familiarly and in a gentle spirit. Visiting is a regular part of the pastoral and evangelistic ministry, embedded in our calling. When they are house-bound, and hospitalised, and in times of crisis then we are there if they want us. Pastoring should be done at sensible times when it suits them, not us. Visits do not need to be long or involved, just a pastoral contact is important.
God loves his sheep, individually and congregationally. We bring God’s care to bear on them and we also come to understand them as we fumblingly and inadequately try to help. We learn from our visits to better apply the word to them when we are preaching. Preaching is not a scatter gun but a doctor applying the balm of Christ to hurting men. We expose our humanity to them. We were sheep before we became shepherds. We ourselves are men beset with weaknesses, and they have to see and hear us week after week through a grid of our simple humanity. We wish we were far more wise and godly. Visiting can defuse tensions before these erupt in church meetings. We can also question them as to how they are getting on with the Lord. Are they sustaining a personal devotional life and reading Scripture together? Pastoring is central to the work of the minister, not something peripheral to our callings.
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