5 Observations from the 2019 Basics Pastors Conf.

The 2019 Basics Conference at Parkside Church in Bainbridge, OH has come and gone. Thousands of pastors from literally all over the world were a part of the three day conference. The conference is geared towards the…. basics! The basics are what is essential in pastoral ministry as we seek to “preach the word, be ready in season and out of season: reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Tim. 4:2).” I realize I’m biased because I work at Parkside, but Basics truly is my favorite pastoral ministry conference I’ve ever been to. I look forward to being a part of this event every single year! Every year is essentially the same, but with different emphases- so I want to walk through 5 helpful observations/emphases from the 2019 Basics Pastors Conference.

  1. Alistair Begg’s material on Colossians was very helpful for me, especially as a young minister. Alistair used his first sermon to give us his first point on these two verses, and then he gave the second and third points during the final sermon. He helpfully showed us these verses essentially tell us the “what” of pastoral ministry, the “why” of pastoral ministry, and the “how” of pastoral ministry. What we as pastors are to do is we are to proclaim Christ, “warning everyone and teaching with all wisdom….” The “all wisdom” is not our wisdom, but it is the wisdom which comes from God and is revealed to us in His Word. It is unbelievably easy for us as pastors over time to begin to think our job is something different than what it truly is, and so we get side tracked with other good elements of ministry, but those which are not the essential “thing” of pastoral ministry. The verb “proclaim” is the word “preach.” “Him we preach!” And as we teach we both “warn” and “teach,” so it’s a negative and positive preaching that we are called to do. The “why” of pastoral ministry comes from the second part of Col. 1:28, “that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” As a young minister myself, it is so easy for me to lose track of why we strive in preaching, but the Bible says we do so because we have the high calling of presenting our people mature in Christ. We’re not called mainly to appease people, please people, or even to fulfill their felt needs, but we are called to present their very souls mature in Christ. The “how” of pastoral ministry, Alistair explained is in verse 29, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” The emphasis is placed on the words “toil” and “struggle.” Pastoral ministry is no easy task; it was never meant to be an easy task. Pastoral ministry is hard work. In my 6 years of pastoral ministry I have learned what no Bible teacher ever told me, namely, that being a pastor if you’re doing it as Col. 1:29 says we should do it then it will be a difficult task.
  2. “Hope for Glasgow” led by Terry Mccutcheon in Glasgow, Scotland is an exemplary parachurch ministry which serves the local churches of Glasgow to be truly caring about the addicted population of the city. I am from Dayton, OH which is one of the worst places in the entire world for overdose deaths. When I heard Terry give his breakout talk on the way in which he does ministry for addicts I was absolutely blown away. Terry was himself an addict some 20 years ago, and so he has an unbelievable heart for the ministry. But, I’d like to point out that Terry doesn’t just have passion for the ministry, but he also is a fantastic Bible preacher and interpreter, and so he is uniquely able and equipped to serve in the role he is currently serving. We in the States should look to Terry and “Hope For Glasgow” as the model for our own addiction ministries. For more information please see his breakout here: https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/ministering-culture-addiction/
  3. Rico Tice gave a sermon on Hell and it was the real deal. If you don’t know who Rico Tice is then that’s OK, but at least listen to his sermon on how to preach about the reality of Hell. He kept saying during the conference that each new day for a Christian is better than yesterday, because it’s one step closer to meeting Jesus. For a non-Christian each new day must be worse than yesterday, because it’s one step closer to Hell. Rico walked the conference-goers through 4 questions about Hell, and he exhorted us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in preaching on Hell. The truth of the Bible is that Jesus speaks more about Hell, and in a more clear and sobering way about Hell than anybody else in the Bible. Rico was very helpful for me in learning how to preach on such a culturally neglected biblical truth. If you’d like to hear the sermon then I highly recommend it and you can find it here: https://www.truthforlife.org/resources/sermon/reality-hell/
  4. Hearing 1400 men sing hymns to God in one voice is a pretty amazing experience. If you’ve never heard the men singing at the Basics Conference then I recommend you just take some time to look it up on Youtube. There is nothing flashy about the way the music is led, but my heart is ministered to every single year by just stepping back and observing the theologically rich songs sung together as a group of under-shepherds to THE shepherd! When I’m 65 years old (if I make it that far) and I think back on my years at Basics I believe the image in my mind will not be any particular sermon, or even Alistair leading the conference, but it will be the group of men singing loudly and worshipping the one true God.
  5. Other conferences should adopt the model of Basics in regards to food. I’ve been to a number of conferences and a big part of the issue with them all is that they are simply too big. There is no reason why a conference needs to have over a couple thousand people. The goal isn’t to have the biggest conference possible, but the goal is to facilitate the best environment for Pastor’s to be built up and encouraged in the ministry God has already assigned to them. Conferences can be a time when connections are made and meaningful relationships are established, so conferences should seek to maximize that possibility. Having on-site food at circular tables is just one simple way to allow for fellowship when pastors can actually speak with one another. This is the beautiful thing about the Basics conference in comparison to other conferences. At other conferences I have to run out of the session to get food at a food truck, find a place in the city to eat, and then rush back for the next session and this leaves very little time for me to meet new folks and have a meaningful conversation. Does this mean the conferences will have to be a little smaller? Yes, but I think it’s worth it.

All in all I thought Basics 2019 was wonderful, and a big part of that has to do with the work of my colleague, Dan Southam and his team. Seems like each year just gets better!

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