The conference started off with a bang. Seriously. It was started off with an urban hip hop mission organization with some live performances of some of their songs that they have written and performed for the sake of witnessing for the cross of Christ. It was funny to watch a bunch of white dudes clap awkwardly at first and almost looking around to see if it was okay for them to enjoy young black guys worshiping the Lord in a way they might have called heresy in the past. But, then, it just clicked. The words were coming forth, the Spirit led, and the awkwardness went away as everyone saw that these men of God were bringing a message of repentance for the glory of Christ. It was seriously...amazing.
After that, Pastor Mark got up to bring the message laid on his heart. It was supposed to be a message on Incarnational Ministry, but he admitted that he changed it this weekend as he was studying. The topic was right on and hit with power. This message was entitled, "Putting Pastors in Their Place." The idea of the message was making sure that the pastors understand that preaching is for today and relevant, even though others, specifically in the emergent postmodern movement, would deny this fact.
Mark went on to show this fact from Genesis to Revelation. His main resting spot was in Acts where he went through all the circumstances that faced the church and its people and the one congruent thought was that the message must be preached. After convincing everyone from the Word of God that preaching must take place he made sure everyone understood the calling of what it is to be a church. Driscoll laid out some distinctives of a church:
1. Christ is high and exalted
2. Qualified male elders
3. Preaching of the word, rightly divided (word is heard)
4. Sacraments rightly given (word is seen)
5. Church discipline rightly enacted (word is protected and guarded)
One of the things that really stuck out with me is this statement:
We live in a day when authority is really the issue, and there are two things that are consistantly taken out of the postmodern "churches":
Preaching and its authority
Discipline and its authority
All in all...Mark brought it and it was seen throughout the faces of the audience.
Now C.J. Mahaney's turn
C.J. came to bring a message entitled, "Pastoral Character & Loving People", focusing on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9. This message was very much needed by yours truly.
It was a three part message broken down into:
1. Seeing the Call of God in Yourself and Others
2. Paul's Recognition of God's Grace
3. Confidence in God's Faithfulness
I am not going to rehash the entirety of this message but its intent was to first understand the calling of God in your life and to continually remind yourself of it. After you have done so, make sure that you understand that those around you were also called, with just as much sin in their lives, by the grace of God. C.J. said:
Think of the doctrine of Sin as job security
CJ simply asked, "Do you see people as being called by divine initiative or their dificiency/immaturities?" This caused quite the deep breaths by the audience as the statement was felt throughout.
CJ also reminded us that,
Progressive sanctification is gradual and not a moment, it is not sudden, it is gradual." and "Don’t correct anyone you don’t have faith for or affection toward. Remind yourself that they are the object of divine initiative and that God has started in them a good work. You will find fresh faith in them and for them. For the Corinthians, correction is coming but first divine understanding of their call is the start for Paul towards the Corinthians.
CJ continued to show that Paul looked for the grace FIRST in those around him so that he could then come to them with a humble attitude of correction.
CJ remarked, "Only the humble can notice the presence of Grace in others."
As he moved to the pastors of the group he made sure that we were in an understanding of what we must do to keep a right perspective.
When you think of the pastors, the church, your children, your wife…what do you feel coming on? Evidences of grace, or areas in need of adjustment and growth? Your evaluation of your church must start with the evidences of grace in your church. Do you perceive where and how God is at work? This understanding will protect you from being discouraged.
He then added,
"Sadly, We are more aware of sin instead of grace, we are more aware of sorrow instead of joy. Draw attention to the evidences of Grace because, GOD IS AT WORK!"
This, so far as been very good and we haven't even heard from Piper yet. I hope that the God honoring word continues to be the focus, which I can't imagine it wouldn't be, for the groundwork has been laid.
Soli Deo Gloria!