It is my privilege to return to the pulpit of Berean Baptist after attending the Shepherd’s Conference in Los Angeles. I very much appreciate the membership of Berean for allowing me the time and funds to attend this conference each year. It is a great spiritual experience and I truly do believe it will help me to be a better pastor. This was my third year at the conference and again it was a very enlightening and fulfilling experience. It was also instructional and at the same time very humbling.
I wish I could adequately describe the feeling as 3500 men from more than 50 countries rise to their feet to sing great hymns of the faith. This is an overwhelming and moving experience. The joy of this is in knowing there are believers from all areas of our country and the world that share common faith in our Redeemer and Lord. These men represent many more thousands in congregations across the world where the truth of scripture is being taught. I believe we sometimes forget this as we are infected with the Elijah syndrome, which is the impression there is no one left but our little church that stands for the Lord. It is easy to feel this way when we see churches in our area abandoning the Bible and selling out to the market driven, seeker sensitive movement. There is reason for concern to be sure, but just to see the Lord has men that are sold out to faithful exposition of the scriptures is very encouraging. It shows the gospel will be preached because the Lord fulfills His purpose in His way and in His time.
As the sermons are preached and the seminars are given, the exhilaration increases as the listener understands the way preaching should be done and how a pastor should care for his people. This part of the conference is very humbling, and while I enjoy the preaching, I come away from it bruised and with feelings of great inadequacy. I understand the awesomeness of the task and how it is impossible to do without God’s power. Though broken and humbled, though bruised and battered, the words of Christ to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” become the solace needed for the overwhelming task.
The striking contrast between this conference and others I have attended is the genuine humility of the speakers and the thousands of pastors that attend. There is no arrogance; it is not a rah-rah campaign or pep rally for prideful preachers. As one speaker so pointedly stated, “What do you have to complain about? Be thankful you are not in hell because that is what you deserve.” This is the attitude that pervades the conference. We do what we do only by the grace of God. Where is there any room for selfish pride? One day while walking across the street from the parking lot to the church, I met a young man getting ready to catch the city bus. He asked me if I was a pastor. When I said I was, he replied, “I admire you because of the integrity it takes to pastor a church.” It is easy to swell with pride when someone speaks this way, but the right response is, “It is only by the grace of God.”
As usual, my heart is filled from this experience. This conference is one of the highlights of my year and I am already looking forward to the next. My only regret is that I did not know about this conference ten or fifteen years ago. Both you and I would be much better off if I had.
Pastor V. Mark Smith