reFocus Conference (II)

Because this conference is held on the campus of Moody Bible Institute, everything happens in a pretty small area. My room is within a two minute walk of the main auditorium and the cafeteria. Only the exhibit hall takes some effort to get to.

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Last night the conference kicked off with a talk by Michael Easley, Teaching Pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, Tennessee and a former President of Moody Bible Institute. And I’ve got to say, this was the first I’ve heard Easley and the first I had even heard of him. And that suited me well as I always enjoy hearing a new speaker. Easley delivered quite a good talk, a challenge to pastors, drawn from 2 Timothy 4. He gave a call for preaching that is inherently biblical and expositional in nature. He modeled that exposition in this message. There were a couple of things that stood out to me. “The problem with a pastors conference” he said,” is that we parade phenomenally successful people in front of you and tacitly say, ‘be like them.'” And this is true, isn’t it? Rarely do I attend a pastors’ conference and find there some obscure pastor who has never met with a kind of public, noticeable success. Also, several times he repeated that to preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little bit at a time. It’s an apt metaphor, I think.

This morning kicked off with Voddie Baucham preaching on Titus 2. Baucham is one of my favorite conference speakers and I always enjoying getting to hear him speak. He always looks like a million bucks up there, he always speaks without notes, he always preaches right from the Word, and he always brings it!

There seems to be some disagreement about the pronunciation of Voddie’s name. To attempt to clarify, I believe the “o” is long, not short. So Voddie rhymes with roadie not body.

But I digress. This morning’s message challenged pastors from Titus 2. He said that the discipleship process laid out in the first two chapters of this epistle is like a 3-legged stool and the pastor has a unique role to play in propping up each of those three legs.

The Great Commission is Jesus’ command to go and make disciples, not just converts. This is the process to which pastors have been called–this ministry of disciple-making. So how does a pastor go about this task?

The first leg in the stool is the training of the young by the older. God has given us older, more mature Christians as a tool to disciple us. This is part of God’s plan for discipleship. Here Baucham called out deliberately age-segregated ministry since this denies that the older believers have as one of their tasks the training of younger believers. God wants these people’s lives to rub up against each other. Too many churches today are so built that there is really no possibility of this kind of Titus 2 discipleship.

If you read Titus 2 with a discerning eye you find something that doesn’t seem quite right. There are specific instructions for how older women are to train the younger women whereas for the young men it says only “teach them to be self-controlled.” Why is this? The younger men don’t need a list in chapter 2 because they already got one in chapter 1–the qualifications for elders. The second leg in the disciple-making stool is that God has given us godly, manly elders as a disciple-making tool.

People are to learn manliness and godliness from their elders (which Baucham uses as an argument against women elders and pastors). They learn this in three ways: In his headship of his family; In his Christ-like character; In his Christ-like teaching.

The third leg is where all of this comes together. It is the family. God has given us godly families as a disciple-making tool. In fact, the primary disciple-making tool God has given the world is the family. The church gets just a few hours out of the week where the family gets almost the whole week.

The application of this message got, well, a little bit tense. Baucham said that we’ve institutionalized the church so we now have a systems analysis rather than an organic approach to ministry. So now we no longer evaluate pastors and elders based upon organic principles. Why is it that we disqualify pastors based on being people who take even a single sip of alcohol while we ignore other words in the same paragraph and lower the qualifications based on having faithful children. Why? Because we’re more American than Christian. If we spent more time looking to the qualifications for pastors and did so in an organic rather than institutional way, we’d have fewer pastors and stronger churches. Instead we say, “Don’t you dare have a sip of alcohol but your family can go to hell.” We’ve institutionalized the church and in many cases we’ve missed God.

There were a few gasps and lots of cries of “amen!” as Baucham said these things. Like I said at the outset, he always brings it.

I’m going to try to find out if and when (and where) the audio for this conference will be available in case you want to give it a listen.