Saturday, May 30, 2009

2009 Banner Report: Day One

Photo: Steeple of Hostetter Chapel at Messiah College where the Banner meetings were held.

I attended the Banner of Truth Ministers’ Conference at Messiah College in Grantham, PA this past week, Tuesday-Thursday (May 26-28, 2009).

We left in the rain Tuesday morning. In our group were Howard A., Ron P. and John C. from JPBC. We also had Ron’s friend Ray who had come down from Maine and Pastor Rob Stovall who had come up from Suffolk.

There were c. 320 men there for the conference, around 80 more than were there last year. This year’s theme was "A Godly Heritage" with a tilt of the hat to Calvin’s 500th birthday. The messages, however, did not rigidly tie in to the theme and speakers had freedom to address various topics.

Day one (Tuesday):


The first message at 3:30 pm was by Mark Johnston, Minister of Grove Chapel in London. His text was Hebrews 13:7-8. He began by asking whether we could justify any conference that would focus on Calvin, since Calvin would have been mortified by such attention. He answered that we can do this only if (1) we do it honestly; (2) we do not place men on a pedestal.
Focusing on Hebrews 13:7, he said we were to remember great men of the past, because:

1. They give us encouragement to persevere.

2. They give us a model of faith and life.

3. They help lead us to Christ (focus on v. 8). "These leaders did not lead their followers to themselves but to Jesus."


The evening message was presented by Alistair Begg of Parkside Church, near Cleveland, Ohio. He was to have spoken on the book of Job but he changed topic to "Persuasive Preaching."
He took 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 as his text, noting that Paul faced human opposition and divine compulsion.

He noted three peculiar challenges:

1. The personal challenge. We are naturally fearful and inhibited, and we use this as an excuse.

2. The cultural challenge. The only person whom our culture teaches us to fear is the one who wants to persuade us.

3. The theological challenge. Quoting John Murray, he noted that Reformed men can display "a conspicuous awkwardness … in the free offer of the gospel." He cited Matthew 11 as displaying the balance between sovereignty (vv. 25-27) and responsibility (vv. 28-30).

He offered anecdotes to each of these challenges, urging preachers not merely to announce the possibility of salvation but salvation itself.

After the evening meeting, first time attendees were invited to the book room for a special talk and offered discounts with Sinclair Ferguson. I had my chance to do this last year with Iain Murray but was glad others in the group got to enjoy it.


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