Pastor Briefing: The Basics Conference, May 2019
It is Monday, May 6 and I am with Michael Lyons and Isaac Gould. We are taking part in the Basics Pastors’ Conference in Chagrin Falls, OH (near Cleveland) at Parkside Church hosted by pastor and author, Alistair Begg . The conference runs through Wednesday, May 8. The keynote speakers include Alistair Begg, Rico Tice, and Andy Gemmill. I would guess there are around 1000 men in attendance. The church is full.
As the title of the conference indicates, this annual gathering is a return to the basics of church and pastoral ministry. Alistair Begg kicked the conference off with a message from Colossians 1:28-29. He had two main points. First, it is not we ourselves that we proclaim, but Jesus Christ, for in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We are to direct the hearts and minds of people to the biblical Jesus. As we preach the truth of Scripture, we must attempt to show how that truth points to or relates with Jesus Christ. As Spurgeon once declared, “What is my creed? It is Jesus Christ.”
Second, we are to be about “warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom” (Col. 1:28). Part of our proclamation as church leaders and pastors must include, not just the positive, but also the negative of what happens when we fall into error and sin. Pastor Begg told the story of a young couple in England who were on vacation to an island in Greece. They plunged to their death in a dune buggy that went over the side of a cliff where there were no guard rails or signs of warning. We all need guard rails, hedges and signs of warning of the disastrous consequences of falling into error.
Begg’s lecture was supposed to include a third point, but he decided with just four minutes remaining of his time that he now had a preaching series on his hands and would return to his final point at his next address which strangely, kind of made me feel good.
The next break out seminar for me, (there was a choice of four), was a seminar presented by Dr. Andy Gemmill who is the Director of the Pastors’ Training Course in Glasgow, Scotland. He spoke on The Ordinary Church as the Primary Center for Ministry. This was a helpful seminar.
He described his feeling of urgency on this matter by describing the alarming condition of evangelical churches in Scotland where he lives. There was a time when Scotland was a bastion of some of the most vital and influential churches in the world. But today, Scotland is the most secularized region within Great Britain. The average age of pastors is 57. There is a shortage of pastors with not enough available for open pulpits and not enough in the training pipeline to fill those positions let alone enough to serve in the broader capacity of evangelists focusing on the non-Christian Scottish people.
Underneath this problem is a long-term inability of churches to effectively train non-ordained members of churches for the work of ministry. There has been too much reliance on seminaries and para-church organizations to equip individuals for church leadership and ministry. But for many reasons, churches are the best environment for the people of God to be equipped for the work of ministry. There is still an important need for seminaries, but the biblical expectation is for leaders to be raised up and trained for effective ministry through the churches communal life together. This will require most churches to be more intentional in equipping the saints and perhaps require a shift in the church’s priorities.
As a good first step, he recommended that church leaders read and study, The Trellis and the Vine.
So far this has already been a very rewarding conference with the added benefit of being able to enjoy great fellowship with Isaac and Michael. I believe all the main addresses are being live-streamed and then posted to Youtube for anyone who would like to listen.