As I fly home (I’m writing this sleep deprived right now so don’t judge) encouraged by another Acts29 conference I am reminded that conferences are always an interesting thing. You have a mishmash of speakers and a mishmash of people. The great thing about the mishmash is that everyone will take away something. Nobody gets left out. This past Acts 29 Conference in New Zealand hosted by my good friend Michael Beck and his Gracenet team, was another example. 3 Keynote speakers – Joe Thorn, Dr James White and Jim Renihan. Each unique in gift and delivery. I learnt something from each of them and had a number of great take aways. Here are four of them.
To Best Navigate the Future, Understand The Past
As the church continues to move forward one of the worst things we can do is be ignorant of the past. Dr James White (www.aomin.org) and Jim Renihan (Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies) did an excellent job of reminding us to not only look forward but to look back. As church planters and leaders, ignorance of the past will only lead to error in the future. People that have gone before us made big mistakes. We need to know what those were and why they were made. People that have gone before us also made some great decisions. Likewise, we need to be familiar with these to help us navigate our future. The better we understand the past the more likelier we are to make better decisions, not just for the church now, but the church in the future. James White made some great points on this below,
“We’re always so close to the controversy we are in, that we often lose perspective.”
“The one who thinks they have no traditions is the one who is most enslaved to those traditions. “
The past matters. Let’s not be ignorant. Let’s be humble and teachable realising we’re not the only Christians in the world and not the first.
To Best Govern the Church Be Governed By Scripture
In Jim Renihan’s sessions he focused on teaching the history of Puritan Ecclesiology. The Puritans were a group of English Reformed Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who believed in the sufficiency of scripture and sought to “purify” the Church of their day by calling them to return to scripture. Ecclesiology refers to the doctrine of the church. In Dr James White session on ‘Why Doctrine Matters To The Church?’ he put it this way,
“If we are the body of Christ listening to the voice of Christ (In Scripture) in order to be built up into Christ, we have what we need.”
In scripture, Christ is shown to be the ruling king of the church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18) and his will for his church is found in scripture. The Puritans came to the conclusion that there was a divinely instituted form of Church in these sufficient scriptures and were calling the church to apply what is found. In order for the church to be all God designed it to be the head of the Church must govern it. Christ loves the church, died for the church and has spoken to the church about the church (Eph. 5:23-27) because he is the head of the church. Church leaders are thereby under-leaders or under-shepherds governing the church as Christ governs them in and through his word (1 Pet. 5:1-4).
To Best Experience God In The Church, Let God Experience The Church
Joe Thorn did three great sessions on the Church. 1) The Heart of the Church, 2) The Character of the Church, 3) The Life of the Church. In fact he has a three book series to be released in the coming months. So watch out for it. Additionally Joe does a great podcast called ‘Doctrine and Devotion’ worth listening to. The big take away for me in these sessions was the simple exhortation to keep first things first. The Heart of the Church is Christ and the gospel. Joe stated,
To be gospel centred means the gospel and Jesus is our greatest hope and boast, our most passionate song and message. The gospel is what defines us, unites us, changes us and sends us.
It’s easy to drift as an individual Christian. It’s likewise easy for churches to drift, particularly in regards to worship. Much of what we do as a gathered church has it’s focus on insiders or outsiders. Joe exhorted us to,
Target God in our worship not insiders, not outsiders. God!!!
When we don’t target God with our worship we get goofy and replace what the Bible prescribes us to do as a church with gimmicks and unessential elements. Joe reminded us that if we ultimately want to see God move in our midst and see genuine gospel fruit we must make sure that Christ is the object of our worship. When God is pleased in and through our worship of him and obedience to his instruction, we can be confident that God will produce in and through us good godly fruit. This is what I mean by letting God experience the church. Our aim is first and foremost to please him not man.
Life Is Just Plain Better With Friends
This has nothing to do with what was taught, just what was experienced. I had a ball hanging, eating, drinking, learning and worshipping with some of my best friends. Friendship makes everything sweeter.