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The UK Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference

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Category Articles
Date May 4, 2018

There are the usual things I believe and say about any conference, for example, that its ethos is bigger that the messages. Each conference emerges from a certain constituency and reflects its values and beliefs, but when its constituency changes, this is reflected in the rearrangement of emphases in the conference.

We also believe that the essence of any conference is seeing old friends going on faithfully and cheerfully, and younger men awakening and blossoming and bearing fruit according to the convictions of the conference. It is a delightful blend.

The Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference is special because it is a centre ground for European Christianity. The modernists or liberals that dominate the media, the universities’ departments of religious studies, and the denominational seminaries are conspicuous by their absence. The presence of many from Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Indie, Pakistan, Africa, the Netherlands etc announce the international spread of the biblical gospel. The singing of many metrical psalms by three hundred male voices (along with the great hymns of the faith) reflects our identity with the worshipping people of the Old Testament, the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11, as well as the church fathers, the Reformation leaders like Luther and Knox, the Puritans like Bunyan and Owen, the preachers of the next century’s Evangelical Awakening like Wesley and Edwards, then Spurgeon and William Carey, Princeton and M’Cheyne of the 19th century, and Warfield, Machen, John Murray, and Lloyd-Jones of the last hundred years.

Who would not want to be associated with this living momentum of free grace teaching from Augustine, navigating by the ‘Solas’ boundary posts of the Reformation and the Five Points of the Synod of Dort, on through the safe guidance of Spurgeon dealing with the 19th century Downgrade of this blessed movement, and going on to our convictions today. We are the centre ground of biblical Christianity however much those that distance themselves from us try to marginalise our position with the labels they slap on us. We are simple Christians who believe, preach, and teach all the Bible and are waiting for the glorious appearing of the Lord from heaven. We will not ignore the opening chapters of Genesis, or the imprecatory psalms, or the final sovereignty of God as expressed by Jesus’ thanks to the God who hides these things from the wise and prudent but reveals them unto babes.

At the Conference, we were drawn to the huge book room with its numerous titles, its impressive sets of volumes, and its evangelistic resources (its contemporary authors are now outnumbering the attractive reprints of classics and rediscovered old volumes). This room is the place where we often bump into friends and glance to see what books they are purchasing. “What are you preaching on these Lord’s Days?” we get around to asking. For example, on this annual visit, I met Peter Morgan again, whom I first met sixty years ago when we were two theological students in Cardiff. We believed these truths then and believe them yet.

So about three hundred men gathered at a fine conference centre near Stoke on Trent. I opened the conference speaking on the Lord opening Lydia’s hear. The technicians had not fine-tuned the live streaming and when I watched it back later, I saw myself twitching and jerking my way through forty minutes. Ouch. That fault was overcome for the following sessions and so all over the planet a thousand others were able to watch along with the hundreds of conferees.

Steven Lawson of Dallas gave three messages, one each evening. For me they were the most helpful of what became another wonderfully encouraging and humbling Banner conference. He even deigned to accept our invitation to join us on the final night for our traditional Welsh hour when the Celtic fringe quizzed him and heard of God’s dealings with him.

We heard Iain Murray exhorting us to ‘Follow Christ’ and to be preaching evangelistically. We heard Warren Peel, twice setting out the twofold calling of the minister to give himself to preaching the word and to prayer. Incidentally, H. B. Charles was speaking on this a month ago in the Twin Lakes ministers’ conference in Mississippi. He described a young minister coming to him and asking him what was the most important: preaching the word or prayer? He answered that when you are in a place at 9,000 feet you don’t start thinking what is the most important the wing on the right of the plane or the wing on the left. You need them both!

Bill Hughes gave two masterly papers on the minister facing and overcoming discouragement — papers which must be published. Then we had a delightful couple of lessons from two past giant pastors, Spurgeon and his all-round ministry, and Bunyan’s happy insight into the fear of God from Bunyan’s little book on this subject (which has already appeared in the USA but will be published by the Banner of Truth in the UK very soon). The winsome speaker on these themes was Michael Reeves.

We thank God we were spared to be present for four days with such a God-fearing group of men to be refreshed in body and soul by the ministry of the word of God.

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