Old, cold, proud and sad. Is that the Reformed Community of Pastors in the UK? The Banner takes many brickbats, and is the subject of so many caricatures. We’re not trendy, we’ve not the movers and shakers within current British Christianity, we’ve certainly made our mistakes. But we know that the Doctrines of Grace which have captured us can make this nation come alive, so we come together at the Banner Conference in Leicester to rejoice in the truth as it is in Jesus. I appreciate this opportunity to learn and be refreshed more and more as the years go on. As with all good Pastors’ Conferences there are three things which stand out.
Sermons which remind as well as stretch. The ministry this year had many familiar tones and themes, but we also had technical theology preached with skill and acumen. A sermon on the Sabbath from Iain D. Campbell was one of the most moving I’ve heard for months. Iain made the claim that Sabbath is the central theme of Biblical Theology. Certainly a bold claim, he more than defended his assertion, and showed us the beauty of the God who makes all things for His pleasure, and who calls us in Christ to enter into the Sabbath rest. We do this in trusting in Christ and and in resting and worshipping on the Lord’s Day, all in anticipation of the eternal rest of Heaven, in which we taste the delights of fellowship with the Godhead.
Friends who are there. What an absolute treat to hook up with old friends, to get to know the personalities which go with faces which are familiar from earlier conferences, and to meet new people. I can look at a map of the UK (and far beyond) with such pleasure as I think of the courageous, humble, godly Pastors I see every April, plugging away in Gospel service, often in very hard places. So many precious conversations, good jokes and lots of messing about will be nourishing memories for a long while yet.
Rest. A comfy bed in a quiet room, tremendous meals enjoyed with leisure, and barely a care or commitment for three days are so good for mind and heart. The roar of my children was never far away as I called home, and I’m in awe at Sarah’s kindness in so willingly releasing me for the conference, and shouldering the weight of parenting (and seeking to buy and sell properties) on her own. The biggest heart rest, of course, was in exploring the wonder of the Gospel, and appreciating the heights and depths of God’s purposes in Christ. I preach the Reformed Faith because I know that I can live by its truths. And the people I seek to serve can, too.
This morning I received an unexpected visit from a local lady I’ve spent time with before. Her life is full of difficulties, which I’ve tried to help her with. I think, by God’s grace, I put more effort this morning into listening to her, reading Scripture and praying with here, and I think I saw her go afterwards with more confidence in my heart that God’s grace really would go with her and meet her in her trials. Being refreshed so that we can bring refreshment to others - that’s why Pastors go to Conferences.