As I mentioned in earlier posts over 20 men from Omaha Bible Church made the trek west out to Southern California to enjoy a week of great preaching, fellowship and food. I have received several questions via email or text message asking for details, so I think a post is in order.
What can you say about a church like this? There are people everywhere eager to serve. This service ranges from a desire to fill your cup up with juice, direct you in the right direction, explain the history and beauty of an Asian Pear (deliciously pictured below), and engage in such encouraging conversation. This church puts on a clinic in how to serve. If beleaguered pastors just came and saw the service for an hour they would receive the much needed shot in the arm to encourage them to go home and preach the word, for truly, their service is produced through the equipping that goes on week in and week out in the pulpit.
This was my fourth Shepherds’ Conference and this was by far the best display of preaching that I have ever seen. Every single guy had us in a text and kept us there. As you looked around the auditorium you would see the wonderful blessing of men’s heads coming up from their Bibles to look at the preacher. Furthermore, the preachers spoke to the attendees directly, in the second person, many times calling us “pastors!” or “men!” or something distinct. This is to say that application was pointed and biblical. I love when guys wear out the 2nd personal plural…
The audio will be available shortly, but I want to provide a quick synopsis (you can also read the live-blogging here)
John MacArthur preached three times and did a Q&A. In the first sermon he preached on why churches who affirm election should abandon pragmatic church growth theory and practices. The sum of this is if God has ordained the ends and the means of the church growing then we should humbly get in step with the biblical pattern and eschew the all too popular methods employed by many today that seem to promote creativity at the expense of clarity. (I will talk about contextualization in another post…)
John then preached on Luke 21, The Widow’s Mite. His interpretation of the message was different than many have said in the past. His goal was to preserve the context of judgment upon the false religious systems and demonstrate the horrific repercussions of this system. It is definitely worth the listen.
In the final session John preached out of John 15 and specifically outlined the problems that have arisen out of translating doulos as “servant” or “bondservant” instead of “slave” (cf. 2 Cor. 4.5). This is similar to what he did at the Desiring God Conference, but it was further elaborated here. John mentioned that this will be a chapter in the upcoming release of the 20th year anniversary edition of The Gospel According to Jesus. MacArthur’s point is that if we would get the ‘master-slave’ concept down, that the slave is purchased and his life is not his own, rather than the less emphatic and semi-sovereign ‘servant’ then we might have avoided much of the confusion that has come from the Lordship controversy. This message and the upcoming book will both be worth our time.
Tom Pennington preached on Psalm 1. To grab this text and preach it to and for pastors seems like a challenge at first. But, Tom did a great job. He had some great exhortational points, particularly about expository preaching. I believe he said something like, “If you are not preaching expositionally it is because you are not delighting in the Law of God. If you are, then you can’t help but preach the word!” He also quoted a well-known evangelical who said the reason why the church is having the issues it is having is because a lot of guys think they are preaching expositionally but in reality are not. This was a good and pointed sermon.
Al Mohler preached out of Deuteronomy 4. His message dealt with the clarity of God’s revelation and the unparrelled privelige it is to have a God who speaks to and cares for us rather than the idols whom pagans speak to and care for. His thoughtfully pastoral time in Deuteronomy was refreshing and encouraging. He made you want to preach the Old Testament. We also learned that Dr Mohler has another book coming out, this one will be in the fall, on preaching.
Rick Holland preached out of Leviticus 9 & 10. His point was that it is deadly to become familiar with God. The text that displays the sons of Aaron getting torched by God for botching their duties was a good choice; any text that has the spiritual leaders dying for sin is a good one for a pastors’ conference. Rick did a terrific job and the Holy Spirit was faithful to bring hearty conviction to myself and many with me.
Steve Lawson preached on Hebrews 4. Steve is the only guy I know who can start out on level 10 volume and carry it on to the end. I cannot imagine that he got any sleep the night before, he definitely had something to say. He methodically and faithfully worked through the text and made the men more confident in our Bibles and the power of God to use the Word. When he was done I wanted to preach. Pastors: Listen to this sermon!
Phil Johnson preached on Acts 17. I was thankful for Phil’s treatment of the text. He focused on the passage in light of the contemporary buzzwords of culture, conversation, charity and contextualization. This is always difficult, I feel, because the buzzwords don’t always exist in the text, but, in my view Phil did a good job at explaining and applying the text without imposing his beefs with contemporary practices upon the text. This type of message is, in my view, Phil Johnson at his best: clear, passionate, biblical, while also being an astute observer of what is going on in the evangelical movement.
As always we were given generous gifts. We received several books from various publishers and then got a $50 gift card to be spent on campus. In addition to a few books I picked up a couple of Moleskins for my boys. (btw, props to the bookstore for carrying Moleskins and for marking them down). The book pictured below was a give away. It is written by a friend of the ministry here, Mike Abendroth. I am currently reading it and am blessed so far. (More info here)
The fellowship with our guys was great. We have some amazing Gospel-centered, sermon-loving, fellowship-enjoying, food-eating, guys here at OBC. So the times in the car or later on at night were rich.
I also got to meet many folks who read Irish Calvinist. In addition I got to meet many of the publishers who provide so many of the good books that get reviewed on blogs like this. It was good to make new friends and to talk with folks from other parts of the country and in some cases, world.
Suggestions for Change:
Please don’t schedule next year’s conference on Daylight Savings Time weekend. This made the time adjustment a little more difficult than normal. I came back a day early to preach and the extra hour did not help.
I have always thought that a theme for the conference would be better than having isolated messages by guys. This year the tone was very pastoral so it worked out, but I think an overall theme would be great.
Tom Pennington did a great session on preparing sermons. I think it would be great to have John MacArthur do something like this in a more generalized session. Just having him take us through a typical week, what he does and how he does it. (this takes nothing away from Tom, he did a fantastic job, and I learned a lot).
Overall it was an awesome time. The Shepherds’ Conference continues to be an annual highlight for me and the men from the church.
(photo credit and more photos here)