Reflections from the 2018 Shepherds’ Conference

Shepherds’ Conference is a unique conference for several reasons:

  1. It takes place on the campus of a church. Most conferences I attend (e.g., T4G, The Gospel Coalition, etc.) are hosted in large arenas or conference centers. Because Shepherds’ Conference takes place on a church campus, you get the opportunity to meet many church attenders and there is an atmosphere of lingering around to talk with others, as you might on a Sunday morning.
  2. Hospitality. There is no other conference – maybe in history – that comes close to the hospitality of Grace Church. If you want to be served or blessed, you could attend Shepherds’ Conference, never attend a session, and just watch the 850+ volunteers from Grace Church minister to the men who come…and be greatly humbled by their service. Many, if not most, of these volunteers gladly take 1 week of vacation time to serve at Shepherds’ Conference.
  3. Books. No other conference will supply you will as much ample reading material for the year as this conference. I came home with approximately 15 books I didn’t pay for, and then another 10 books greatly discounted.

If you have never attended Shepherds’ Conference, you need to.

This year’s theme was “I Will Build My Church,” which is based from Jesus’ promise in Matthew 16:18. Each plenary session of the conference highlighted different characterizations of the church.

For example, we heard John MacArthur, H.B. Charles Jr., Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Phil Johnson, Steve Lawson, Art Azurdia, Tom Pennington, and Austin Duncan preach on subjects like “The Sanctification of the Church,” “The Power of the Church,” “The Servanthood of the Church,” “The Purity of the Church,” “The Marks of a Healthy Church,” “The Leadership of the Church,” “The Head of the Church,” etc.

I also had the opportunity to attend a few seminars: “Lay Training for the Local Church” (by Nathan Busenitz and Peter Sammons), “On Pastoring” (by H.B. Charles, Jr.), and “Revitalizing Churches” (by Carl Hargrove).

Some of the statements speaks made that I recorded as helpful:

  • “Does your pulpit sound more like a hallmark card than the Apostle Paul?” (Dever)
  • “Jesus guarantees the success of Gospel preaching.” (Lawson)
  • “Pastors are servant leaders and we don’t have the right to determine who deserves our service.” (Charles)
  • “Pastors are to be for the sanctification of God’s people. Don’t be content that people are just there or like your preaching.” (MacArthur)
  • “Sanctification is the process of fighting for full joy and not selling out for a cheap substitute.” (MacArthur)

I could give insights and highlights of every session and seminar with great ease, but I thought I would simply, and briefly, share with you one primary encouragement I took from the conference: pastors should wash the feet of their congregation.

There is a great temptation for pastors to think, “I am their authority. They are to submit to me. I am trained; they are not. They serve me.”

The message that H.B. Charles, Jr. gave on the 1st day was stirring as he helped us better understand the implications of Jesus’ washing the feet of His own disciples (John 13:1-17). Not only are Christians to be foot-washers, but leaders are to emulate foot-washing for their followers. And no leader should decide who he will or won’t serve, because Jesus even washed the feet of Judas.

Because no pastor is better than Jesus, all of us should serve our people like Jesus. The question “Is there anything I can do for you?” should be one of the most common questions pastors ask.

What a week it was! What an opportunity all of us attendees now have to serve our church!

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