Being a fourty-something husband and father, pastoring a small church plant in Québec, Canada — you may wonder what drove me to Louisville, Kentucky last week, to be surrounded by nearly 12,000 excited Evangelicals who had also made the pilgrimage to be part of the final T4G Conference (Together for the Gospel). Well, the answer is simple. It wasn’t the free books (as delightfully welcomed as they were!). It wasn’t the celebrity excitement that (sadly) lurks in the shadows of too many of these conferences. It wasn’t even the electrified atmosphere of 12,000 Christians, arms reaching for the sky, singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. Rather, this conference, for me, was about pastoral friendship, ministerial stewardship, and Gospel worship.
T4G 2022 was about pastoral friendship. Pastoral friendship is not just any friendship. Men who go to war together share a common bond that’s hard to fully describe. There is something about facing death together that draws men closer to one another in the hour of darkness. The apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that his ministry in the service of Jesus Christ was one in which he faced death every day (1 Cor. 15:31). Indeed, this is the calling of every believer (cf. Rom. 8:17).
Nevertheless, God calls his under-shepherds in the Church to embody, exemplify, and embrace the death of the cross (not vicariously, of course!) to an extent that transcends the norm. A pastor worth his salt knows that his co-labourer in pastoral ministry is no stranger to the cross. And he knows that his own cross-bearing is no strange thing to his comrade in arms. To spend nearly a whole week with my pastor friends afforded me the priceless opportunity of deepening bonds; learning from men much wiser than myself; having my own ministry and beloved flock prayed over; and, of course, enjoying (sometimes painfully) some serious belly laughs!
T4G 2022 was also about ministerial stewardship. As a pastor, I must remind myself every day that the ministry I have been called to is a ministry I have received. I am only a servant-steward. Several passages come to mind: “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” (2 Cor. 4:1 NKJV); “For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.” (1 Cor. 9:17 ESV); “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.” (Tit. 1:7 ESV); “ … for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Tim. 1:12 ESV).
Sometimes a week away from the flock is the best thing for both pastor and sheep. It can provide perspective that is otherwise hard to come by in the thick of the fold. Being in the company of thousands of other servant-stewards was both humbling and encouraging. Humbling, in that it was a reminder that the true hero in all ministry is the Lord Jesus Christ. Being swallowed up in a sea of pastors, all giving God the glory for whatever ministerial faithfulness and fruitfulness they have borne goes a long way in killing self. But it was also encouraging, in that the same sea of pastors was a visible reminder that I will stand before Christ to give an account of the ministry given to me — and not another. As Paul says:“each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (1 Cor. 3:13 ESV).
Finally, T4G was about Gospel worship. Yes, the singing has been heralded as a highlight of the conference since its inception in 2006. This year was no deviation. But worship is more than singing. Worship is a response to God’s glorious grace revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1 ESV). Phillips put it this way: “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him.”
And were my eyes ever opened wide to the mercies of God! Whether it was H. B. Charles Jr.’s exhortation to keep the glorious significance of my own salvation ever before my eyes; or Alistair Begg’s reminder of how weak and insignificant the apostle Paul truly was in his own eyes; or Sinclair Ferguson’s tender, yet challenging, call to shepherd God’s flock in light of eternity — God’s Word was opened by men of unique giftedness; God’s Son was offered, clothed in the Gospel; and God’s Spirit was active, illuminating hearts and minds with the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. I recall getting back to my hotel room one night, exhausted from the day, keeping myself up as long as I could to keep alive the portrait of Christ painted for me that day that had caused my heart to throb in adoring wonder at his love.
As I return to my study back home in Québec, sit down and write this latest post, I pause and thank God that my post-conference-return-to-normalcy will not exclude a profound appreciation for my pastoral friendships; my God-given pastoral stewardship; and the reminder that, however great our experience of worship may be this side of glory, the day will dawn when faith will give way to sight, and with all sin removed, we will sing the uninterrupted praises of him who loved us and gave himself for us.
By Pastor Dan (May 2022)