Below are summary reports from some ibc men who enjoyed their time at this year’s Shepherd’s Conference:
What I learned from the Shepherd’s Conference 2005:
I learned that there is a war on the truth and a war for the truth. I learned that there are spiritual terrorists lurking in the midst of our churches, diluting the truth of the gospel and spreading subtle lies in regards to what it takes to truly follow Christ. I learned that there is only one way to wage this warf-Stand firm in the truth and proclaim it with boldness, clarity, and precision.
I learned these truths from men who spoke in their own unique and indelible way.
From John MacArthur, I found myself saying, “Amen!” as he would exposit Jude and Luke 11. Basically the gist of it was this-there are a lot of false teachers in the church today and we, pastors and leaders, better know how to deal with them. We need to be faithful the text of Scripture and expound it with clarity and precision. Basically, “The Bible says this-The Bible says that! So you better do it!” Classic Johnny Mac!
From R.C. Sproul, I learned the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. His pedagogical method was to juxtapose the Roman Catholic view with the Protestant Reformed view. I never knew there were so many nuances to the Roman Catholic view of justification. I’m just grateful to God for men such as R.C. who can guide us through the maze of heretical views and bring us to the truth. E pluribus unum, baby! E pluribus unum.
From Albert Mohler, I learned, when dealing with liberals and false teachers, the importance of saying, “Ya, Fired!” No, I just kid. Something that was truly edifying was his exposition of Ezekiel 37. A rousing call to preach the Word and trust in the sovereignty of God. A fitting endnote to a great conference!
When I was younger, one of my most vivid memories is standing in the worship center at Grace Church while John MacArthur led us in a rendition of Great is Thy Faithfulness. It was nice to hear him sing again at the Shepherds Conference this year with his son-in-law.
The music during the Shepherds Conference was amazing and it is one of the things I enjoy most about the conference. The very first time I attended the Shepherds Conference during a general session, there were not that many pastors, and we were allowed to sit in the worship center. I will never forget how loud the hymns were sung, and I remember after I left, I told a friend that that is how I envisioned that heaven will be like.
The number of pastors seems to have increased with each year and the singing of hymns has just gotten louder. I enjoy this tremendously and I can not help but think that the Lord is pleased. One day we will go home to be with our Savior, and millions of people will be lifting up his name in worship. I imagine we will all know the words by heart, we will all sing on key, and Gary and David will not have to get up and use the bathroom- it will all be perfect!
Recently I watched the television show Frontline on PBS. This show was about the Iraq war and on it some soldiers were interviewed. During one interview, a Marine talked about how soon after he arrived in Iraq the reality that he was going to die in Iraq and never return home set in really quickly. He said that after a few days of fighting in the war, he went through so many emotions that he did not care whether he died or not.
As that Marine spoke, I realized that he needed to hear the Gospel. I would hate to be so close to death and not have the assurance of salvation. John MacArthur once said in a message that it would be a terrible thing to live your whole life thinking that you are going to heaven, only to die and realize that you are not. When he said this he was referring to Matthew 7:21-23.
This Shepherds Conference the teaching focused on the need for pastors to teach sound doctrine and a Gospel that is complete and not diluted. Although the majority of men at the conference were pastors, I realized during and after the conference the need for all of us to present the Gospel complete.
I am sure that we have all heard somebody say this familiar phrase, “I shared with a friend today!” Maybe it was a co-worker or a relative, regardless of who it was, the important thing is what was shared. Was it your testimony, or the fact that you attend church and bible study, was it some prayer that the Lord answered, or was it the complete Gospel?
Sharing a testimony, an experience, or something else that the Lord is doing in your life is not a bad thing, but if you would like somebody to become a Christian, then you must share the Gospel complete with God’s word. It was a great reminder to me of the responsibility that we as lay people also have not to dilute the Gospel. I would hate to think that someone would live their life thinking they were a Christian because they said a prayer one day without realizing the significance of their sin and depravity, or the significance of the Lord’s death on the cross. Ask yourself (I did), when was the last time you shared the complete Gospel with someone? You should have been at the conference- good teaching, good food, good times!
(By the way, for those of you who are new, Pastor Nam and Pastor Gary sang in front of the congregation many years ago- it was some old school rap, and definitely in the memory bank, but that’s another story)
The Shepherd’s Conference has changed quite a bit since Nam, David and I used to attend as seminary students in the early to mid 90’s. What used to be a much more cozy gathering of about 500 pastors has now ballooned into a full-fledged event, yielding a whopping 3300 pastors. In our seminary days, there were no refreshments, meals or freebies provided. That all changed in 2001, when the Shepherd’s Conference underwent a face lift under the leadership of then executive pastor, Tom Pennington (no relation to Chad). Now conference attendees are served lunch on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and are provided with unlimited refreshments such as coffee, tea, soda, Krispy Kreme donuts, muffins, ice cream, and even fruits. As part of our conference freebies, we were given a stylish Bolivia watch (retails at $99), and seventeen Christian books (estimated value of $230). My how things have changed since we were students.
The Shepherd’s Conference is a great time of instruction, exhortation, and reminder of what our priorities as pastors are. I think of the Shepherd’s Conference as a ministry tune-up, wherein I can go to be refreshed by good preaching and teaching and to ensure that my ministry motor is functioning in good working order. There are always areas of ministry and theology that I can always use sharpening in and this is one of the real values of the Shepherd’s Conference. It’s almost like going back to seminary for a couple of days. Dr. MacArthur focused very passionately on our responsibility to earnest contend for the faith (Jude 3) and to preach the word of God faithfully (2 Tim. 4:1-5) despite the defection in many evangelical churches today that are influenced by “seeker-sensitivity” and “purpose-driven” models. Dr. Sproul excellently articulated the doctrine that the church stands or falls on, the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. This doctrine is what separates biblical Christianity from all other religions and to get this one doctrine wrong, is to get the whole thing wrong. Dr. Mohler spoke on the foolishness of the Cross and how clever preaching is the enemy of the gospel. Preachers are not called to market the gospel but to faithfully proclaim the message. I was once again reminded of how great a responsibility I have before God to faithfully preach His Word rather than get caught up in the latest church fads.
The Shepherd’s Conference was a great blessing this year and am quite glad and grateful that I had the opportunity to attend once again. It is such a necessary time for us as pastors to be in the company of other pastors to focus on our ministry responsibilities. It is an invaluable time to be able to talk ministry with other pastors and to encourage each other to keep on fighting the good fight of the faith.
A significant blessing of the Shepherd’s conference was the fellowship of IBC brothers and other pastors from around the country and world that share a love for the gospel and commitment to the whole Word of God. To look around and see so many faces expectant on the teaching, drinking it all in was an encouragement even in the face of so many churches that have turned their backs on biblical Christianity. The voices raised high and loud in hymns was amazing! Puts the goosebumps on skin.
Messages by R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler and John MacArthur have already been excellently reviewed by my fellow ibc’ers so I’ll write on two seminars that I enjoyed.
The second half of the Creation seminar, “Monkey Business”, was amazing in that Dr. Steven Boyd basically modeled and PROVED statistically that Genesis 1:1-3 was narrative and not poetic. These same models could also be used to predict whether other portions of Scripture were prose or poetry. This then puts to rest the age old debate as to whether Genesis 1:1-3 was allegorical or metaphorical. Proof in the math! There was an amazing, truthful beauty to the models, a symmetry in the math that screamed wonder and design. The truth that the Word truly is not just a collection of men’s story but rather “God breathed” was made palpably more real for me.
The second seminar I enjoyed was on Choosing a Bible Version by Dr. Bill Barrick. Dr. Barrick dissected a few verses in Psalm 23 and Romans 6 to determine how true the ESV, NASB, NASU, NIV, Holman, KJV and NKJV were to the original Greek/Hebrew manuscripts. I had never been exposed to this kind of analysis before and found it fascinating, and it gave me a sense of wonder over the men who devote their lives to translating the Bible.
If you didn’t know it by now, the state of the Church today is in dire circumstances. Truth has been replaced with post-modern thought and as a result, many evangelicals are no longer holding to the traditional orthodox views of historic Christianity. As a result, many false teachers are infiltrating the Church and the effects are damning. John MacArthur’s opening sermon on Jude was in essence a battlecall for believers to root out the “spiritual terrorists” among our midst in the Church.
The one thing that the Shepherd’s Conference made clear to me was this–there is a war against the truth of the gospel and we are losing.
The sobering reality of the high stakes involved in upholding and standing firm on the truth of God’s Word was humbling; even more so, looking at the thousands of pastors from around the world gathering to hear words of wisdom and exhortation. It gave me a more profound sense of the gravity of the pastor’s calling and consequently, caused me as a layman, to love, support and encourage our pastors.
Another blessing was to be able to spend several days, worshipping, praising, and hearing God’s Word preached together with fellow members of IBC. It was a thoroughly exciting, encouraging, edifying time that I would recommend others to consider for next year.
The Shepherd’s Conference was an encouraging time away from my typical mundane workweek to a three-day fellowship of rich biblical exhortation. During these very full days of lectures and sermons, the time spent with fellow saints was precious and the value of the wonderful biblical teaching immense. And getting to worship and praise literally “shoulder to shoulder” with thousands of like-minded believers was indescribably encouraging. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Annie’s support and encouragement for my attendance this year while singly taking care of our home and family in my absence.
The focus of the conference was on the doctrine of justification; that is, salvation through faith and faith alone. Although simple enough in concept, there is an ever persistent doctrinal tension between salvation through faith alone and the doctrine of works. John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul and Albert Mohler presented the proper biblical view of justification in a way that few men can. Equally important, however, was their powerfully clear admonition about the dangers of an ever subtle infiltration of false teaching and/or doctrinal compromise in the church and the necessary response for Christians (both individually and in the aggregate) to hold firm and true to sound biblical doctrine. Learning directly from giants like MacArthur, Sproul and Mohler and having the benefit of their collective biblical knowledge and spiritual wisdom all at place was a truly blessed time.
A particularly poignant moment of the conference for me, however, was during a Q & A with John MacArthur. An elder of a church in Santa Barbara asked MacArthur for some guidance on his own struggle with reconciling the tension in the doctrine of sovereign election. This elder, while holding firm to the doctrine that people are brought to salvation through sovereign election, still had a personal heart struggle with the notion that a truly loving God could condemn people death in “eternal” punishment. I believe this elder’s dilemma was one with which I have also struggled — how could God create people for the specific purpose of damning them to hell?? I thought I knew what MacArthur’s response would be.
To both my surprise and encouragement, MacArthur responded not with dispassionate presentation of Calvin’s so-called “dreadful decree” of the predestinated fall, but with a compassion and emotionalism that almost belies Calvinistic doctrine. MacArthur, with utmost grace and compassion, responded by expressing that pastors should struggle and have a heart for the fact that eternal torment awaits the souls of men. He seemed to imply that a pastor who does not have such compassion and struggle needs to reflect upon his own deserving nature of hell. He closed with his hope that in heaven we will have all struggles resolved and be at peace before the Lord’s glory .
What lesson was learned?? That sound biblical doctrine, while immeasurably important, without love and compassion misses the point of the gospel message.