Takeaway from Shepherds’ Conference 2019

Last month, 4,500 pastors and church leaders gathered on the campus of Grace Community Church for the Shepherds’ Conference. The theme for 2019 was faithfulness, with each speaker tackling a different facet of what it means to be faithful in ministry. And because we know that not everyone had the ability to follow along with the conference livestream, we wanted to highlight some of the stand-out sessions. –GTY Staff

Believers occasionally mistake suffering for persecution. Those with a penchant for self-righteousness can go so far as to view every impediment and difficulty they encounter as some kind of spiritual suppression. But it’s important to keep the two realities distinct. We can expect suffering in this life—everyone can, as repercussions of the Fall and the sin that pervades this world. On the other hand, as Voddie Baucham explained in his Shepherds’ Conference message, “Persecution is suffering with an option.” In other words, it’s suffering we can avoid if we’re simply willing to compromise. 

Baucham’s message was not merely another charge to follow the heroes of our faith and avoid such compromise. It was a study of the power they required to remain faithful—to withstand persecution’s pressures and not cave in to compromise—and where that power comes from. Whether you’re currently suffering true persecution, or you need to prepare for its inevitable arrival, you ought to listen to this message. –Jeremiah Johnson

How we respond to criticism speaks volumes about our personal character—especially for people in the realm of public ministry. Dr. Joel Beeke’s message was a timely reminder that any lingering remnants of pride in our lives can easily be brought to the surface through criticism—regardless of whether the grievances are legitimate or not. His sobering warning is still ringing in my ears: “You will be known more by your reactions than your actions.” None of us is immune from this challenge, which is perhaps the ultimate test of our humility. Dr. Beeke’s keynote draws from both Scripture and a wealth of personal pastoral leadership experience to reveal how we can honor God through the way we respond to our critics. –Cameron Buettel

When we hear of a pastor who has been unfaithful or even abusive to his wife we naturally recoil at the awful hypocrisy. How could a man who preaches Christ’s love on Sunday morning fail so grievously at loving his wife on Monday? While thankfully not every pastor sins against his wife in such overt ways, still many pastors are guilty of a less heinous but no less serious act of unfaithfulness to their wives: They neglect their marriagesTom Pennington addressed the issue of faithfulness in the home in his sermon from Ephesians 5:25–33. He demonstrated from Scripture that how a man loves his wife is actually “the most accurate measure of his faithfulness . . . because if we fail here, we are not and cannot be truly faithful men and pastors.”

It was a convicting sermon throughout, but the most piercing moment was when Pennington drew out the implications of men failing to love their wives as it relates to one of the primary goals of marriage. Marriage was designed by God to illustrate Christ’s love for the church. So a pastor might preach about Christ’s love from the pulpit, but he must also recognize that his marriage preaches too. “How we love our wives says something about Christ every day,” Pennington noted. Our marriages can either preach an accurate and God-honoring message, or they can preach blasphemous lies about Christ’s love for the church. Marriage, therefore, charges us with the great duty and honor to represent Christ’s sacrificial love for His bride by our love for our wives. If you are or hope to be a Christian husband, I heartily recommend you listen to the full message. –Reagan Rose

Early in his Shepherds’ Conference message on the necessity of evangelism, Mike Riccardi twice quoted Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

The fact is, brethren, we must have conversion work here. We cannot go on as some churches do without converts. We cannot, we will not, we must not, we dare not. Souls must be converted here. [1]

If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies; and if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay . . . . If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for. [2]

Riccardi’s sermon matched the urgency and the passion of Spurgeon’s words. It was a charge to remember that the proclamation of the gospel is a fundamental element of the church’s Great Commission—that there is no making disciples if we’re not first making converts. While this message was primarily targeted at pastors and church leaders, I believe every Christian ought to hear this sermon and heed its passionate plea to be fishers of men. –Jeremiah Johnson

The theme of Steve Lawson’s Shepherd’s Conference message was faithfulness in the pulpit. After he recounted the numerous sermon series John MacArthur has faithfully preached over the course of his 50 years of ministry,  he then opened up 1 Timothy 4:12-16 and exhorted his audience to the same faithfulness in their pulpits. Genuine faithfulness is marked by a prioritizing on the preaching of God’s Word. It is through the preaching of Scripture that God has promised to provide the power unto salvation. A faithful ministry, then, goes about the task of reading Scripture, teaching Scripture, and exhorting from Scripture. Even if there is opposition from inside his ministry, a faithful minister must persevere in the proclamation of God’s Word from the pulpit. –Fred Butler

You won’t learn much about John MacArthur’s personal life and ministry experiences through listening to his sermons. His commitment to the primacy of God’s Word has left scarcely any airtime for his own opinions and personal stories. But the rarified air of fifty years of faithful pulpit ministry leaves many of us wanting to know more about the man behind the ministry. With that in mind, Phil Johnson sat down with John MacArthur for a Q&A at the 2019 Shepherds’ Conference and we were given provided with a rare glimpse into John’s fascinating life and ministry. With the flowing rapport of two men who have worked closely together for more than three decades, Phil’s probing questions led John to reflect on fifty years in the pulpit, as well as some of the key experiences during his formative years that shaped his future ministry. These included the rich pastoral heritage within John’s family, some of the harsh yet necessary lessons he learned while in seminary, and the remarkable series of providential events that led him to his being installed as the senior pastor of Grace Community Church—while still in his twenties. This special Q&A between Phil and John is a fascinating, enjoyable, and highly edifying experience. –Cameron Buettel

Used with permission from John MacArthur.

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