1. Encouragement. It is amazing how quickly this glorious thing called pastoral ministry can bring discouragement. It is truly an honor and joy to serve a local church as a pastor/shepherd/elder (I love our local church body!). But sometimes the weight is crushing.
Several of the messages at T4G were dripping with encouragement! From CJ Mahaney's opening sermon, to Ligon Duncan's almost unspeakable word, to Matt Chandler's reminder from Revelation of where this whole thing is headed, to John Piper's reading of his journal entry from 1986 about his discouragment, and his message from Jude about the keeping power of God. The sense of "I am not alone in pastoral ministry" was so strong! Fresh perspective from God's word brought strength to my heart. God encouraged me at T4G!
During one of the praise sessions I stopped singing and closed my eyes. Thousands of people - many of them pastors themselves - were singing at the top of their lungs, worshiping Jesus Christ. The sheer physical power of the voices was amazing. I could feel the singing hitting me. I thought of the great cloud of witnesses. It was almost like thousands of pastors were pointing me to Jesus, encouraging me to keep going. Praise God!
2. Challenge. Not only was I encouraged, but I was stretched. Challenged by the Lord. I found that I needed repentance. The gift of almost 20 books reminded me that I have not been disciplined in my reading and study. Repentance!
Additionally, the testimonies that were shared and the messages that were preached all shouted, "Don't underestimate the gospel of Jesus Christ!" I was ashamed of my struggle with boldness in sharing the gospel in one-on-one situations. I can proclaim the gospel of Christ to any large number of people through a microphone with little or no fear. But it is so hard sometimes to begin a conversation about Jesus with a stranger. Lord, give me repentance!
The messages themselves challenged me. Kevin DeYoung called me to not forget about 'works' even as I preach God's grace. What a needed word! We ARE responsible to obey the Lord. And David Platt's amazing sermon on missions stretched my thinking and, I hope, my application. The heart of his word was resting confidently in the sovereignty of God and letting that drive us to missions, even if it kills us (literally)! [You really need to hear that message]
3. Fellowship. I was blessed to travel to Louiesville, Kentucky with some brother-pastors (thanks for that term, Mark Dever) from my city. I had a great time with these men in prayer, worship, talking about the messages we had heard, asking and answering theological questions, and simply having fun.Thanks, Oakwood brothers!
|The brothers from The Church at Oakwood and Oakwood South|
4. Resolve. A theme of the conference was not only pastoral encouragement, but a resolve to be found faithful as a servant of Christ. This was already my desire, but it was greatly inflamed at T4G. As Mark Dever spoke about false conversions poisoning the church, and Thabiti Anyabwile helped broaden my perspective of the power of the gospel; Al Mohler reminded me that the gospel message must be articulated with words, and Ligon Duncan pointed me to the God who ruthlessly, yet compassionately removes my idols so that I will treasure him alone. All of this left me with a desire to just be faithful in this ministry of gospel grace. Not distracted. Not necessarily successful, personally fulfilled, hip, trendy or having it all together. Just faithful.
May God give me the grace to be a faithful pastor; a faithful servant of God. May I be found faithful!
You can listen to or watch the messages from Together For The Gospel at http://www.t4g.org/.