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Shepherd’s Conference (X)

I do not typically attempt to record the speaker panel or question and answer sessions at these conferences. The relaxed, casual and unplanned atmosphere makes it quite a challenge. However, today I thought I’d give it a try. And actually, I think it worked out quite well. Here is a brief rundown on what happened when the five speakers gathered on the stage (C.J. Mahaney was not present as he has already headed home) and MacArthur started asking questions. These reflect rough notes as I really wasn’t able to clean it up a whole lot.

MacArthur – What issue do you think is coming that will be critical for the life of the church?

Mohler – One of the most immediate problems is issues related to marriage and sexuality. Preaching on the sinfulness of homosexuality, practicing discipline, and so on can get you into trouble. The trends in society are particularly pernicious on this issue and the younger the demographic the greater the problem it becomes. They believe that these things are no one’s business but your own. I don’t fear persecution from the world as we can expect that, but that we will have cave-ins in the church. We need to preach them clearly and articulately now so the church knows what to believe and what we believe. We need to take our stand now.

MacArthur – The Emerging Church is happy to acquiesce to all of this, It accommodates their ability to reach into a younger generation and attract them without these people having to make any radical changes to their lives or worldviews. This is the first time that the church is really happy to be worldly.

Duncan – Not just in the crazy left-wing Emerging Church movement but in the more mainstream evangelicalism you’re now hearing pastors preaching theological reductionism and refusing to discuss ethical issues. All things to all men is used in Christian circles so we do not use culturally offensive teachings out front. People think you are not to deny these theological issues, but just not to address them.

Dever – Four resources to help with all of this:,, Peacemaker Ministries (helps prepare for legal persecution), and have a church covenant–a statement that summarizes what the Bible teaches on behavior.

MacArthur – What is your advice responding to Christians who church-hop?

Lawson – The solution begins with us as pastors doing a better job of preaching the Word of God and giving people reason to stay under our ministries. Many people leave because they are not receiving what they are looking for. It all begins with the pulpit. From there there is a follow-up of enfolding them in the church during the week with Sunday School or fellowship or small groups. Everyone needs to be contained in the life of the church. Everyone needs to be plugged into a place where they are known and know others.

MacArthur – You need to provide life-transforming ministry for kids. Parents are so concerned about their children and you need to reach out to them. The same is true of junior high age children and high school ministry. Face-to-face, one-on-one, pouring your life into the lives of young children. If parents see their kids walking with Christ they’ll never leave that church.

Dever – Raise the importance of membership in our congregations and recognize the importance of membership in other churches. Ensure you have a meaningful membership by removing people who no longer attend. Also keep in mind the distinction between your church and the kingdom of God. Your church is not the whole show. Sometimes we way too quickly take people into membership from other churches. You can show the importance of membership by only taking in members carefully.

Mohler – Many problems come down to weak men and weak fathers. Father as the head of the household should be leading his family and making sure parents and children are together and are deeply involved in the same church. Teenagers should not be going to a different church than their parents. A feminized, gutless church is one that will see the men drifting away.

MacAthur – We need to train people to know that church is different from other organizations. People need to know that you don’t just go to church, but you actually become a member and participate in it. From here MacArthur spent a few minutes describing how Grace Church tracks membership and keeps tabs on the people.

Duncan – Ligon Duncan recommended the ministry of 9Marks and Stop Dating the Church by Josh Harris as applicable resources.

MacArthur – Steve, three favorite books.

Lawson – The Gospel According to Jesus was a defining book for me. Thomas Watson A Body of Divinity, Iain Murray The Forgotten Spurgeon and Arnold Dallimore’s two volume biography of Whitefield.

Mohler – (MacArthur said “This may be the hardest question you’ve been asked in your life.” Dever then joked, “How about just three you read yesterday…”). My biography is defined by three books. The first, as a teenager, was He is There and He is not Silent by Francis Schaeffer. In college the book was Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Theologically, the one that has meant more to him than any other is Calvin’s Institutes. He also commended the genre of biography as a means of spiritual growth.

Duncan – In seminary Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray and Warfield’s [didn’t catch the title], J.I. Packer’s A Quest for Godliness, and David Wells’ No Place for Truth.

Dever – Spurgeon’s autobiography, J.I. Packer Knowing God. Three I’d recommend you read are: Christ in the Bible by John Wenham, Leon Morris’ The Atonement and the Canons of the Synod of Dordt (the simplest presentation of the gospel he’s ever read).

Mohler – Remember we’re recommending a book and not necessarily an author. John Stott’s The Cross of Christ is great as a defense of substitution when this doctrine is under attack from emergent type people.

MacArthur – You have just exposed us to the devotion you give to reading. On the other end, what do you do to relax? What kind of recreation do you do?

Dever – I talk to Lig and Al.

Mohler – What I don’t do: I don’t play golf or have anything to do with anything that is round or that you hit or catch. He reads to relax and rarely counts it as work. A lake, a boat, a beagle and a fourteen your old son. Figure it out. Al affirmed he can get by with four or five hours of sleep, that he blogs in the middle of the night and that he reads seven to ten books a week.

Duncan – He likes athletics but doesn’t have time for it. His time off is either reading or playing with his young kids. He is working on trying to fit exercise in. His obligation outside the Lord’s work is to the family and he’ll have a bit more time for recreation later on.

Dever – Watches documentaries on World War 2, read architecture books and walk with his wife. He also watches Antiques Roadshow with the family.

Lawson – Lawson has an athletic family and plays lots of golf. If he had one day to live he’d play a round, preach a sermon, kiss his wife and die.

Mac – Plays golf as well.

The final question was about theodicy. Sadly, I didn’t capture this one so well, so will just leave it. This is too bad, actually, since it was probably the most valuable of all the questions. You can listen to the MP3, I suppose…

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