This past weekend our church hosted the 5th STAND for the Gospel conference, with Don Carson as our main speaker. I thought it would be good while it’s still fresh in my mind to write down some reflections of what I saw and experienced these past 3 days. I know there are the conference critics – those who question the wisdom and validity of giving a large amount of time, energy and resources into a weekend of bible teaching, singing and fellowship. Wouldn’t our time be better spent doing things that are more useful and beneficial to the kingdom? My answer is if it’s a good conference, then it is useful and beneficial to God’s kingdom.
And I think STAND is good conference. We had people from over 85 difference churches and a variety of denominations (Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren, Baptist, and Reformed to name a few) who are committed to the authority of God’s Word and proclaiming a biblical gospel meeting in the same building. Gospel-partnerships were built. Pastors and church leaders who have never met were meeting and talking about things that really matter. Resources were shared and distributed. Friendships across denominations were built. And members of our own church family had the wonderful opportunity to serve others in the wider body of Christ. How can this not be beneficial for the kingdom of God in NZ?
So let me share a few personal highlights of the weekend on some of the above points:
This is David and Jeanette Jensen. David is the pastor of Snells Beach Baptist church. I ran into him after the Saturday morning session. I met David when I was pastoring in Wanganui and he was pastoring in Levin. David spend some time studying at Regent College in Canada and then under Paul Windsor when he was principal of Carey Baptist College. We share the same theological convictions and concern for solid gospel-preaching. I hadn’t seen him for ages and it was so great to catch up. He was concerned about the direction the Baptist Union was going with regard to the issue of same-sex marriages (something our denomination is working through right now) so this was a very timely and strategic meeting. It was of course God-ordained. We swapped phone numbers and are planning to meet soon. Another gospel-partnership reunited.
This is part of our very faithful and committed media team who work the sound desk, overheads and video camera. They are a very important part of what occurs. If we can’t hear the speaker clearly, we can’t benefit from his teaching. If the video goes wrong, those wanted to watch later won’t be able to. As you can see, they love serving in this way. We appreciate you team!
While I’m thinking of people serving, here’s one of our tea-ladies (who happens to be my wife). Like so many other things that go on at our conference, it’s one small area of helping which in the big scheme of things works together to make the event what it is. Having a cuppa and a biscuit while chatting and meeting new people is a great way to refresh both the body and the soul.
A number of seminars were also held over the weekend. I attended this one by Owen Griffiths on The Early Missionary Movement in New Zealand. 2014 celebrates 200 years of gospel ministry in NZ so this was well-timed. Owen did a great job of surveying the history of the very first missionary movement to the Maori and it’s effects on the beginning of our country as a whole. The room was packed and people were riveted. Even I was surprised about how little of my own history I knew and determined afterwards to do some more reading. Owen pointed me to some great books. This was a most beneficial time.
Saturday afternoon was a Q & A session with Don Carson and Joe Fleener. This in itself was enthralling. I’ve been to a number of Q & A sessions and often the answer is far more complicated than the question intended. Not with Don. He has a great way of crystallizing answers in a very short amount of time so you are not left confused or bamboozled.
So that just leaves Don’s preaching. His theme was The Weeping Prophet: Jeremiah Confronts the 21st Century. Of course he wasn’t able to cover the entire book – just select sections. But they were well-chosen. It was great just to hear large portions of the Bible being read. And Don is very gifted at it. Even my 16-year-old daughter was grabbed by it in the first session. Don is also very good at weaving the big story line of the Bible into his preaching, bringing the historical text into the present and into the future. So we are thinking of Jeremiah, Jesus, the Church and the New Heavens and the New Earth all at the same time. Not many preachers are able to do this and do it so well.
So was it all worth it? Absolutely. It was such a blessing – not only to those who were served, but also to those who were serving. And I hope it was a blessing to Don and Joy Carson. I think it would be great if one day they might return.
NB: All the main sessions and seminars were recorded and will be available soon at www.standforthegospel.org/conference/stand-2014