On this, the final day of the reFocus Conference here at Moody Bible Institute, we heard first from Henry Blackaby who is the Founder and President Emeritus of Blackaby Ministries International in Atlanta, GA.
More on that in a moment. In the day’s middle session Crawford Loritts brought a sermon on the necessity of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of a pastor. Basing his sermon in Galatians 5:16-25, Pastor Loritts, with real urgency, called upon the men to turn from the plans, programs, and perspectives which have captured the minds and hearts of so much of the evangelical church, and to “walk by the Spirit”. He used an excursion to Ephesians 5:18 to drive home the point that being filled with the Spirit was not a suggestion, but a command, which needs to be controlling and continuous. While his sermon was solid in exposition–meaty with teaching on the connotations of the Greek words in his text, Loritts’ delivery was kind, authoritative, and impassioned, provoking both exuberant ” A-men’s and hushed stillness, from a group of men not naturally given to this!
The conference wraps up this evening with an address from John MacArthur. Unfortunately, my flight schedule was such that I was not able to stay for this. I am rather disappointed, but it just plain can’t be helped!
And now back to Blackaby.
He began his time with a call to understand worship as being more than music. He especially wants pastors to emphasize reading Scripture in worship and also to reclaim the pastoral prayer in which the pastor, with the rest of the congregation, gathers up a person in prayer before the Father. These two traditional aspects of the worship service have been lost in many churches and I was glad to hear his call to reclaim them.
The purpose of Blackaby’s message today, I believe, was a call to pastors to listen to God to see if he would be raising them up to use them to call this nation to repentance. He said things such as this: “If you are not clearly, unmistakably hearing from God, it is your heart that is the problem. When you test your heart, honestly and carefully, see if you are hearing regularly, constantly from God.” He looked to Luke 12:54-56 and Ezekiel 22:30-31 to challenge the men here to see America as a nation that is under judgment. He said that God is looking for men here to stand for the land. America is under the remedial judgment of God and the Lord is watching to see if the leaders of God’s people recognize the activity of God especially as he moves in judgment. Every time, biblically, God was about to judge a people, he raised up a prophet and let the prophet know what was on his heart. What was on God’s heart was always either life or death with no in-between. It is important that those of us who have been called and appointed by God to hear a word from God that he intends his people to know, that we hear and quickly go to the people of God and let them know what is on the heart of God so they can adjust their lives back to God. God is looking for men to be spiritual watchmen on the walls of the nation, to be prophetic intercessors to the nation.
This was the purpose of the message. However, the dominant portion of the message (in terms of time) was Blackaby relating stories of the success of his book Experiencing God and all the lives it has changed. I believe he did this to show how God uses faithfulness on the part of pastors (like himself) to impact the world.
So let me stop here for a moment. This is what I am struggling with when it comes to this particular conference. On Tuesday the three keynote speakers were Voddie Baucham, Flip Flippen and John Piper. The message proclaimed by Baucham and Piper was radically different, opposite even, to the message shared by Flippen. Today we begin our day with Henry Blackaby and end the day with John MacArthur. And again, these men would be polar opposites when it comes to an issue as critical as authority, of sola scriptura. This is not to say that Blackaby had nothing valuable, nothing biblical, to say. Rather, it is simply to say that there seems to be a disconnect here and we have speakers coming from radically different theological perspectives; and I’m not sure how to reconcile this. Is this just a question of appreciating each of these speakers for what they do well? Is it a question of seeking to provide speakers here that will appeal to people from different traditions? Or do some people just not even see that there appears to be a huge contradiction here? I am confused about this. I just don’t quite know what to think about it.
At any rate, reFocus has wrapped up for this year. Talking to pastors as I did often over the past few days, I can see that this has been a time of real rest and refreshment for them. I trust they will head back to “real life” now recharged and hopefully refocused.