Reflections on Shepherds’ Conference 2017

We preach Christ. This was the grand theme of Shepherds’ Conference 2017, the 44th such conference, as I understand it, to be held at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, February 28 through March 2.  This was a fitting theme for such a conference marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  The apostle Paul notably said, “…but we preach Christ crucified, a
stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the
wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24).  Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd is the source and summation of the Good News that the world needs to hear.  Later in 2 Corinthians, Paul states, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5).  Indeed, while many pulpits peddle a soft-serve diet of “pop psychology” or some other self-help styled religion, true ministers of the gospel are content to preach Christ alone, “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Earlier this month, eight men from Trinity, including myself, traveled out to Los Angeles, CA, to attend this year’s Shepherds’ Conference. It was an amazing week of Christ-exalting worship and preaching, rich fellowship, and much-needed refreshment.  The speaker lineup included: John MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Michael Reeves, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, H.B. Charles, Jr., Albert Mohler, Paul Washer, and Steve Lawson, among many others.  For four days, we were bathed in expository preaching—some 22 messages in all.  We were lead in worship by Bob Kauflin, Keith and Kristin Getty, and a host of talented musicians from Grace Community Church.  More than 1,100 volunteers from our host church served the nearly 5,000 conference attendees.  But, most importantly, Jesus Christ was exalted and proclaimed as God’s perfect response to man’s perilous condition in sin.
This was my first opportunity to attend the Shepherds’ Conference. In fact, this was my first ever trip to California!  Over the past years, I have been fortunate to attend many regional conferences, seminars, and workshops.  But this national conference was a unique experience and one that I will not soon forget.  Additionally, having some of my brothers in Christ with me throughout such a week truly enhanced the experience.  It was wonderful to share highlights from each day together and to begin each morning together in God’s word over breakfast.  Words cannot express how truly grateful I am both to my wife and to our church for the opportunity to attend this year’s Shepherds’ Conference.
Lastly, so what? What is going to be different as a result of such a memorable experience?  Well, I hope a lot!  “Preaching Christ” has certainly been the aim and theme of my pulpit ministry over the past decade.  That, to be sure, was nothing new.  However, I do think I gained a greater insight into both the absolute necessity of expository preaching, on the one hand, and the historical legacy of faithful preaching on the other.  As a pastor, it is easy to get wrapped up in the weekly “grind” of preparing and preaching sermons.  However, at this conference, I was able to see the fruit, the reward, of a life-long commitment to faithful preaching and pastoral ministry.  As still a relatively young pastor, I was deeply impacted by the evidence of God’s faithfulness in the lives of men who have stood firm preaching Christ crucified and risen.  To be sure, the vast majority of us will not see the Lord grow our ministry into an international success.  Comparably few pastors will see their church grow numerically into the thousands.  But, neither of those things should be the goal; they are certainly not my personal aspirations.  However, it most certainly is my desire to leave a lasting legacy of pastoral faithfulness.  We who labor in preaching and pastoral care ought to have the “big picture” in view.  As we deal with the daily stresses and messes of ministry, we should say with Paul, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved” (Phil. 4:1).  As we preach Christ may we see a genuine love and commitment to Christ cultivated in our churches.  This simple reminder—that Christ is both the means and the ends of my ministry—is my one, big takeaway from Shepherds’ Conference 2017.
Proclaiming Christ crucified,
Pastor Dan