Thousands will descend upon Grace Community Church (the church of Dr. John MacArthur) today for the annual Shepherd’s Conference. Some for their very first time and others as part of their annual schedule. Whatever the case may be, all come with a sense of anticipation. Each has been drawn here for some purpose or another and this morning’s registration process affords one the opportunity to take it all in.
Overwhelmed with the teaching, overwhelmed with the number of people, overwhelmed with the books, and even overwhelmed with the food, there is much to be vigilant of at the Shepherd’s Conference. Shepherd’s Conference provides an opportunity for those who spend so much time shepherding their flock to be refreshed and renewed. I like to approach the conference like reading a book. With great excitement, I look forward to what I am going to learn and being able to share it with others. Therefore, much like reading a book, I begin with some questions or thoughts that I hope are answered in expectation of what I am going to get out of it.
Below is a list four things I expect (and hope) to get out of this year’s event:
1) I Expect Challenges: The men speaking are scholars of the Word and have a gift of being able to open the Scriptures up in both a deep, and yet understandable way. With such a wealth of knowledge, I expect that they will challenge me with something new. James rights in 1:21 for the need to receive, with meekness, the implanted Word. Christian growth is contingent upon the growth of the Word in our hearts. It requires a prominent place in our lives if we ever expect to grow in our grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). But further, there is a need to receive it with humility. Humility makes one teachable, thus allowing the Word to transform as it pierces.
2) I Expect Confrontation: The truth confronts. If it were not so, the world would so quickly accept it rather than reject it. As the speakers as Shepherd’s Conference unleash the truth, I expect it to confront my reality. With Christ proclaimed, the Word exalted, and God glorified the false notions I have about the world, about people, and about myself should fall in order that the truth from God will prevail.
3) I Expect Failure: As the truth confronts, it reveals. James tells us that the Word is to be used like a mirror (James 1:22-25), revealing a picture of who we are so that it may be addressed and changed into the image of Christ. Thus, while I am being challenged and confronted by the Word during this year’s Shepherd’s Conference, it should be revealing to me of who I am, failures and all. Yet, while many may see this as a bad thing, because none of us like confrontation, for the Christian a revelation of our failures should be monumental because it shows who we are without Christ, the great need that He filled, and provides an opportunity for us to be transformed (Romans 8:28-29).
3) I Expect Finality: This is definitely unique to my situation. My wife and I are missionaries to Argentina and we have been in the States now for three years raising support. In the next month or so we will be moving to Argentina. That makes this my last Shepherd’s Conference for quite some time. This has a greater impact because of the people involved. One of the greatest joys about Shepherd’s Conference is the fellowship that comes with it. Men come from around the world to be part of it and for me it is a great opportunity to gather with men that I would not otherwise get to see because we are indeed spread around the world. Instead of traveling from place to place, all the men convene in one area and thus I have an opportunity say goodbye, to share with them, be encouraged by them, and encourage them in person one final time.
It is my privilege to be able to attend this year’s conference and I hope to soak up as much of it as I can. It is the event that I have eagerly awaited every year for the last several years. It should be the same way we approach church every Sunday. With an eagerness unmatched by anything else, we should look forward to the opportunity to attend every week, with the excitement slowly building up until that moment is finally here. And then, upon entering through the doors and into the sanctuary, I would suggest that the first three expectations (challenges, confrontation, and failure) should be on our hearts every week during our worship service. As Martin Luther once said, “We should hear God’s Word with fear and study in it with humility.” He went further to say, “Scripture requires humble hearts, that hold God’s Word in honour, love, and worth . . .”
Shepherd’s Conference begins March 9th at 10:00am and the general sessions can be watched online at shepherdsconference.org, where you can also find a schedule of events. While geared towards men in ministry and leadership, there is much to be gained by everyone. Even if you are unable to watch the sessions live, all the messages will be available online at a later date. Additionally you can listen/watch past messages as well.