Bala Ministers’ Conference 2013
The Bala Conference has been in existence for around sixty years, more than half of which have occurred in the absence of its founder and guiding spirit, the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This year we sought to shake off the spirit of melancholy that the sudden death of Graham Harrison1 had brought to all who knew him. It was the will of God. The Conference ethos remains one of experiential Calvinism with a longing for revival. As in all conferences the messages are the bonus, while the fellowship of ministers, the renewal of friendships, and the gathering of news are the staple of our meetings. Your heart can leap at the mere sight of many preachers, whilst at the same time privately acknowledging that one gets little from their preaching.
With conversation and fellowship being a premium the need for acoustic tiles on the Brynygroes dining room low ceiling is to become the number one priority to the new warden. As he is my nephew I shall lean on him. 70 ministers are sitting at the tables, and half of them are talking at the same time. The decibel level is painfully high. To hear what the man opposite me is saying I need to lean across the table. You can only say a few ‘pardons’ or ‘excuse me’s. I know, it’s a mark of old age . . .
But if that were the only problem with Bala then we are in Geneva. Dr. Eifion Evans spoke on ‘Calvinistic Methodism – Is it First Century Christianity?’ Meirion Thomas spoke on his visits to China and observations of its condition today. Tim Gill said sensible things about how to reform a church and give it an evangelistic heart and mind. The three men were all in good form.
But then we had the conference addresses from Ian Parry who has been church planting for ten years in the Bay, Cardiff, near the Welsh Assembly building, and what he said was another dimension. Generally in a Conference if one hears a single message that has a more than usual blessing one returns home grateful. It is the ambition of every conference committee to choose a man who will bring an inspirational message to those attending. Ian did that, giving us three messages on Hosea, and I cannot think that you would hear messages as helpful anywhere in the world this year. They were humble, well researched and exegeted, full of God, searching in their application and yet encouraging, with little flashes of humanity and safe humour, warmly and vigorously presented, making very much of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. I was broken and strengthened and doxological after hearing such real preaching. He elevated us in the first address, ‘we preach as a sinner to a sinner; we preach up-close and personal; we preach sin as good news.’ Then he kept us in those Christocentric heights in the second address preaching that ‘the love of Christ is an impossibility; it is an outrage; it is a wonder.’ Then he brought us down safely in the third address. ‘Preach God as home; preach God as someone to be pursued; preach God as the divine one to be known.’ I thanked God that I had lived to hear such messages, and that they were from a fellow Welshman labouring in our Principality. We often get Americans, and sometimes Scotsmen who come to Bala and Aberystwyth. They are helpful and often brilliant but can never make the exact adjustment to our situation, but to hear this standard of ministry in 2013 was mighty encouraging. I want to preach these messages myself. They are going to be put on the Evangelical Movement of Wales website in the next weeks and I will try clumsily to download them. I would like to see them in print just as they are. But you can never recapture in print or on a CD the blessing and presence of God in the actual meeting. But I want to think about them again.
Next year the Bala Conference will be June 9-11.
See The Banner of Truth magazine, No. 598 (July 2013), pp. 3-5.
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