Ten Reasons Why I Attend the Banner of Truth Leicester Conference
It’s the time of the year that ministers send in their booking forms and fees for the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference in Leicester.1 I missed the first conference in 1962 but I attended the second in 1963 and I have attended almost all of them since that time. It still remains, after almost fifty years, my favourite ministers’ conference. Why do I enjoy it so much?2
- It stands for the kind of biblical theology that has moved me most over the years. It is Reformational, endorsing the great ‘alones’ of the Reformation – Christ alone the ground of our salvation, the Scriptures alone as the authority for what we are to believe, grace alone as our only approach the Holy One, faith alone as the only means of connecting with Christ’s willingness to save us, the glory of God alone as the only worthy end of our existence.
- It is Puritan in its approach to the ministry. The preaching must be pastoral and the chief work of the pastor must be through his preaching. It addresses all the classes of people who are there in any congregation, the unconverted, the careless, the inquiring, the backsliding, and the hungering believer. It deals with distinctions between perseverance and preservation, unbelief and doubts, the prodigal and the backslider. It encourages both the ministry that heals the broken hearted and ministry that slays the proud.
- It is evangelical in its warmth. It loves the Great Awakening of the 18th century, Edwards in America, Harris and Rowland in Wales, the Erskines in Scotland and Whitefield in England and everywhere else. It encourages warm devotional thoughts of revivals of religion and earnest prayer that God may revive us in these days and preaching that best serves that end.
- It is scholarly in its attention to exegesis and theology. One founding presence for years was Professor John Murray. I am daily reading his commentary on Romans once again and it is magnificent. The Conference reveres the Princeton tradition in which he stood at Westminster Seminary. It reveres the early years of New College, Edinburgh with Chalmers, Cunningham and Bannerman and the kind of students the teaching of those men produced.
- It is truly ecumenical; some years the balance of speakers is overwhelmingly Baptist while in another year they are overwhelmingly Presbyterian, but there is often a combination of them both. Then there is the sprinkling of the Dutch Reformed brethren (who incidentally pray quietly at the end of their meals together).
- It combines an emphasis on piety, history and the doctrines of grace. The papers reflect those strands of true Christianity. History has in fact come alive at the Leicester Conference. Some of the high spots have been Iain Murray’s biographical talks.
- The messages have been the bonus. The best part of the conference is to spend three days with one another, talking at meal times or over coffee or going for a walk in the afternoon to Wigton or Oadby, meeting new friends, speaking to men from Asia and Africa. There are men whom I love to see. To be with them is a benediction. I am not always stirred by their preaching, but I am invariably moved seeing them and talking to them again.
- There is the matter of the religious affections. By the Thursday of the Leicester Conference I am quite moved by the occasion. I often have a lump in my throat and I am touched by hearing the most simple truths. I suppose those holy feelings are what I think of most as the ethos of ‘the Banner Conference’.
- There is the book room and the bargains and the banter. ‘You haven’t read the books on your shelves at home, what justification do you have for buying more? Does your wife know you are buying those books?’
- The report session is the most mind-expanding occasion as men from the four corners of the globe share their battles and blessings. They come to Leicester still bearing the sword and the trowel. Their ministries are not theoretical but on the cutting edge of kingdom expansion.
Roll on April 16! May God greatly bless the Conference this year! May new speakers quickly settle in and make a valuable contribution and be blessed by their ministries. May old friends be greatly helped to exalt Christ before us.
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