As society’s view of truth continues to change, attendees at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s second annual For the Church Conference were urged to lead their churches and ministries in becoming pillars and buttresses of truth.
More than 1,000 pastors, students and ministry leaders from across America packed into the Kansas City campus’ Daniel Lee Chapel complex to attend panel discussions, workshops, and main sessions with messages by Jason Allen, Russell Moore, Darrin Patrick, H.B. Charles, Jared Wilson and David Platt.
The conference’s theme – derived from 1 Timothy 3:15 – focused on “The Church and Truth.”
“In this, our second year of hosting For the Church, we desired to build upon last year’s theme: ‘Ready for Ministry,’” Allen, Midwestern Seminary’s president said during the Aug. 31-Sept. 1 conference. “How better than to get back to the basics of grounding ourselves in the truth of who God is and in the truth of His Word?
“Amidst significant cultural shifting and ever-mounting strife, by God’s grace, we [the church] must stand as a pillar in the midst of this widespread confusion and instability,” Allen said. “Our prayer is that the conference participants will return to their ministries prepared, equipped, and with a strengthened resolve to proclaim God’s truth and to fulfill their calling within the local church.”
Kole Farney, who pastors one of six home congregations that make up Christ Fellowship of Kansas City, reads his Bible during one of the For the Church Conference main sessions. The conference was held on Midwestern Seminary’s campus Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
Truth and the church
Allen started the conference by stating, “We are about the church at this conference, which means we better be about the truth of scripture.”
He noted the entirety of the New Testament is concerned with proclaiming truth. Christianity consists of more than sentiments or feelings – what it is, he said, is a set of truth claims to be affirmed. “When disemboweled of its truth claims, there is no Christianity left behind,” Allen said.
Preaching from 1 Timothy 3:14-16, Allen explained how the apostle Paul was exhorting his young disciple, Timothy, about how the church is to order itself. First and foremost, it is to uphold and support – like a pillar – the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Allen shared three charges for ministry leaders about what this means: church leaders must vigorously protect the truth; church leaders must consistently proclaim the truth; and church leaders are called to thoroughly prepare for the truth.
“If we believe half of what we say we believe, we have to acknowledge … it is a life or death business to which we are called,” Allen said. “We cannot sloppily go through life and ministry, dabbling in the truths of God. We are called to … prepare intellectually and theologically to be able to give that defense for the hope that is within us.”
Truth and culture
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, explained that when cultural turmoil surrounds believers, they are free to experience a sense of peace and tranquility that can only be found by trusting in God’s Word.
Speaking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, Moore said, “The seeking – Jesus tells us – frees us from anxiety … whether that is about our future personally or about our future culturally. It also frees us from a kind of security that is built in ourselves …. You can either serve God and follow Christ or you can find your tranquility and your confidence in whatever it is that you find your security in.”
Preaching from 2 Kings 6:8-23, Moore said the prophet Elisha was calm in the midst of the Syrian army’s attempt to wipe the Israelites from existence. In so acting, Moore noted of Elisha, “His confidence is in the truth of the Word that has been spoken, and so is ours.”
Moore noted three points: the truth frees us to speak the Word of God; the truth frees us to see the presence of God; and the truth frees us to show the mercy of God.
Attendees of the For the Church Conference – held at Midwestern Seminary Aug. 31-Sept. 1 – participate in a time of praise and worship, which was led by the St. Louis-based praise band August Gate.
Moore said that, much like the Israelite king in verse 21, fear often leads us to lash out in settling a score or to conduct battle with others who threaten our worldview.
However, because believers have victory in the truth of God’s Word, and once were in the same predicament as unbelievers, Moore asked why believers wouldn’t instead stand before unbelievers and share the gospel with them in grace, gentleness, kindness and love.
“If you have confidence in the power that is in the Word you are proclaiming, it enables you then to love” those who need salvation in Jesus Christ.
Truth and leadership
Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, detailed the leadership models of two men within one passage – Acts 27.
The first, Luke, was an example of what happens when you don’t lead well, Patrick noted. In spite of the firsthand account of Jesus’ ministry and witnessing all the mighty works of Jesus, Luke wilted in the face of a mighty storm. Luke lost his vision, Patrick said.
“Leaders are fueled by vision,” he said. “If you lose your vision, your leadership is neutered. Obviously, vision is based on God’s truth, under God’s authority and God’s Word … When you lose vision, you can’t see what God is doing. You don’t remember what God said. You are not sure of where God is taking you.”
On the other hand, in the midst of the storm, Paul didn’t allow his vision to leave. Patrick said the reason for Paul’s leadership during that difficult time was that he had “worshipped before the storm.”
The thorn in Paul’s flesh, as mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:7, had weakened and molded Paul so God’s power could be displayed through him at a later time.
The overarching purpose for God’s molding a ministry leader is to see people saved, Patrick said. As 276 people were saved in the Acts 27 account, Patrick noted that a church leader is to take people’s focus off the everyday minutia of life to see something more.
“You as a leader say, ‘Raise your gaze. There is a bigger kingdom. You don’t have to focus on your small, little, pathetic life anymore. You can be caught up in something beautiful and bigger.’ Quit looking at the ship; quit focusing on the storm; God’s at work; God’s doing something. If we won’t try to save ourselves with our ingenuity, He is going to rescue us, and it will change our lives forever.”
Truth and preaching
“More important than how you preach,” said H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., “is what you preach.” And the greatest need for pastors proclaiming the truth of God’s Word is to preach about the “Great Exchange.”
Basing his message on 2 Corinthians 5:21, Charles used the words sovereignty, sinlessness, substitution and satisfaction to explain the concept of the Great Exchange, and why it is imperative that church leaders preach it.
“Here, essentially stated, is everything for sinners to be made reconciled to God,” he said. “The message of this verse is that guilty sinners are reconciled to God through the Great Exchange which was accomplished by God through Jesus Christ.”
The Great Exchange, Charles explained, is God’s solution to the fact that mankind has no way of reconciling their sinfulness in a way that satisfies His demand for holiness and righteousness. Because Jesus Christ lived a perfectly sinless life, He was able to serve as a substitution for the sinfulness of mankind, and that sacrifice satisfied the wrath of a just God.
“This is the glorious truth we should be declaring in these critical days … As it is said, we are just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread,” Charles said. “If you know what it is to be rescued by grace, may the Lord help you to be a faithful ambassador to proclaim the Great Exchange for the salvation of the world.”
Truth and shepherding
Preaching to pastors and ministry leaders from Isaiah 40:9-11, Jared Wilson, who serves as director of content strategy and managing editor of the For the Church website at Midwestern Seminary, shared that when shepherding a congregation, the glory of Christ is one’s true message, one’s true strength and one’s true comfort.
“In a church culture that offers countless steps, tips and helpful hints, one million ways to ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ what is the biblical shepherd actually called to do?” Wilson asked. “According to the Scriptures, the only thing that works for the aims that we ought to seek is the glory of God. Nothing else works.”
True biblical shepherding doesn’t begin with leadership skills or strategies; it begins with Gospel exaltation and worship, Wilson said. Referring to the prophet in Isaiah 6, Wilson said, “You have been taken apart by the glory of Christ, and you have been put back together by the glory of Christ, and you want to have nothing to do with ministry that has nothing to do with the glory of Christ.”
Wilson concluded, “Pastors, the Lord your God loves you with an unfailing love. He will be your comfort, fulfillment and justification. Let the ministry dreams be shattered if they must. Let the ministry idols be damned, because they will be. Resolve, like Paul, to know nothing except Christ, and Him crucified.”
Truth and missions
International Mission Board President David Platt emphasized three “connections” to the topic of truth and missions as found in John 14: truth is why we participate in missions; truth is what we proclaim in missions; and truth is who we personify in missions.
Platt noted it is the pastor/ministry leader who sets the bar for missions in the local church.
“It is the responsibility of every pastor to fan a flame for God’s global glory in every local church,” Platt said. “I am convinced that when pastors get a heart for global missions, it changes the entire ballgame.”
He added, “We are plagued by a rampant spectator mentality in the church that totally misses the power of the Spirit available to all of us, and I want to call you to lead your church to personify truth in missions. By that I mean there is a God who desires the salvation of people in your community and of every people group on the planet. He wants them saved, so may our lives and churches reflect Him.”
In addition to the main sessions, conference-goers participated in a variety of workshop sessions on Tuesday, including the topics: “Pragmatism, Legalism, and the Gospel,” led by Wilson; “Beyond Millennials: Youth Evangelism & Discipleship for the Next Generation,” led by Dave Rahn, author and administrator within Youth for Christ; “Church Planting and Revitalization in the Midwest,” led by Lane Harrison, pastor of LifePoint Church in Ozark, Mo., and Joshua Hedger, director of Church Planting & Partnering at MBTS; “The Truth: Carl Henry, Evangelicals, and the Bible,” led by Jason Duesing, provost of MBTS, and Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian Theology at MBTS; and the “Women’s Workshop Track,” led by Christine Hoover, author, pastor’s wife and mother of three, and Karen Allen, wife of Midwestern President Jason Allen.
To view all of the conference’s plenary sessions, visit: m.ftc.co/ftc15video.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.)