Dluxe's World

Tuesday, April 17

LC07 Reflections

How do you take a week's worth of stuff and condense it down to a few words on a page? It's a hard thing to do with a work week let alone something that's really meaningful to you... Such is the quandry of this post. While I want to post something about my time at Sovereign Grace's Leadership Conference, I know that whatever I post is going to feel 'unfinished' and inadequate. I lead off with that because, in a warped way, that's the highest praise I can give to the conference - whatever I say is not good enough.

Again, I'd strongly advise that you get your 'feel' for the conference from Shepherd's Scrapbook. So, let me just post some highlights...

Whenever you can, travel with good friends. I have no doubt that a substantial part of this trip's blessing for me was the time spent with Tim and Michael. Every moment in the car was filled with us laying our hearts open to one another. Exhortations, corrections, and insights were offered freely. Every night was filled with roundtable reflections on the messages we had heard during the day. In addition to these profundities, more than a few laughs were had along the way.

The event staff at Covenant Life were, beyond a doubt, the most gracious, service-oriented, and happy group of people I've ever seen. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked how they could 'serve us', I'd be rich beyond my wildest dreams. From the very nice lady who took our Krispy Kreme plates from us ("I want you to be free to fellowship") to the numerous greeters - everyone enthusiastically sought to make the Conference maximally rewarding/enjoyable for those of us who were in attendance. What is most striking is the deep love that was evident and the Christlike humility that was displayed over and over again. Watching these people work was to see Christ's hands truly in action.

On the topic of service, the MA crew of pastors are (to use the local vernacular) 'wicked nice'. The three of us were blessed to enjoy a meal and conversation with the contingent from Massachusetts. Bauer and Paul (along with Dan) - and their spouses - graciously gave up a meal together to fellowship with us. Yes, that is surely a sacrifice. They patiently and honestly answered our naive questions - carefully presenting us a real picture of themselves and SGM. What a joy to sit down with people and immediately have connection rooted in Christ. And what a blessing to see the heart these families have for their churches. May God continue to pour out His grace on their ministries.

Every preacher should listen to Mike Bullmore talk about preaching. I had never heard Mike speak, though I had seen his name floating around. I had the distinct privilege to attend a workshop he gave on sermon preparation. When people speak practically on things, there's always a danger that the big picture gets obscured in the details. Mike actually managed to preach about preaching - arming those of us in the room with wonderful pearls of wisdom and a renewed sense of awe at the weight of the preacher's office. If you ever see him speaking somewhere go right away, go quickly, and go twice.

Dave Powlison is a deep person. If you're an audio downloader, Powlison's general session on introspection made my head heart in an awesome way. CJ introduced Dave as the 'wisest guy in the room' - a fact which was abundantly clear as he spoke. I've heard a number of people (including Tim) speak of Powlison's work/teaching in glowing terms. Trust me, it's that's good.

While I'm speaking about downloading things, CJ's session on Trinitarian Pastoral ministry was simply outstanding. It was an incredible exhortation to reclaim a robust view of the pastor's office and calling. It was delivered with classic CJ pathos and joy - which I was thrilled to see in person having only heard CJ preach through my iPod previously. What was really moving about this message to me was CJ's call to robust 'continuationism' within Sovereign Grace. While everyone knows the SGM folks are 'charismatic', CJ rallied us around the cross of Christ, Scripture, and then a well-rounded embracing of the "broad work of the Holy Spirit". I was moved to tears to hear the priorities of this family of churches so passionately (and correctly) set forth...

But none of these rate as my favorite moment of the Conference. The most impactful moment came during the 2nd general session on Friday morning. I went to this conference because if I were to write down what I'm about as a Christian, I'd end up with something that looks very much like Sovereign Grace's Statement of Faith. I went to visit this conference to learn and experience fellowship - but I also went to see if their people were really who they seemed to be from a distance.

The 11:30 general session on Friday allowed us guests to sit and observe a SGM family meeting. One by one the regional leaders came forward and updated us all on the various happenings within the family and through its ministries abroad. I cried during the session and couldn't speak without tears for a long time afterwards. Story after story was offered where Sovereign Grace, with no regard for their name being praised, was using the blessings of God on their ministry to reach out and advance the Gospel. I lost count of how many countries that SGM pastors had visited to train and equip local pastors... I can't begin to recount the sacrifices so many people have made to see Christ preached where He is not known. And I still marvel at the palpable humility displayed as such amazing feats were reported. There was no back-slapping, self-congratulating whooping or hollering. Instead, I was struck by the sense that we were viewing something intensely intimate. Outside of that family meeting, there was no desire for people to know the name 'Sovereign Grace Ministries' - but only that the name of Christ, the Risen Lamb would be made great.

In a world where self-esteem is so prized and even churches measure ourselves against one another, what a refreshing thing it is to see God raising up men and women who count their lives, reputations, memory, honor, and fortunes as offerings to be laid down to glorify Christ.

What a humbling thing to see. What an encouragement. Would that God would create in all of us that kind of heart! "Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also!" I am so grateful to God for allowing me to be with these people - to learn from them, to fellowship with them, to build friendships, and to be humbled by their example. I pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to use that experience to bear fruit in my life...

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