When I started preaching years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. All I really knew was that the Lord had called me to do it and my future was entirely in His hands. My focus was on preaching…pastoring a church had never entered my mind. With the faithful support of family, a dear church family from Union Baptist Church, and a really cool pastor named Gary Vandergriff, the Lord directed my steps to Clear Creek Baptist Bible College and then later to THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville (stated with a touch of smugness! lol) where the Lord began shaping me into a future pastor. I owe a great debt to both institutions and to the many who stood before me in the classrooms along the way teaching me the doctrines of our faith. I also owe a great debt to the friends I made along the way who continue to be fellow soldiers in Christian ministry.
I was encouraged throughout my years in school to attend pastor conferences as often as I could upon graduation. In those days, I was told a minimum of 3 per year…with a norm or 4 or 5. We all were encouraged to “go be encouraged.” Some of my friends were able to do that very thing. I was never really able to get into that mode. Real life can put a dent into those kinds of plans. However, I did manage to start attending one conference many years ago that remains in my pastoral diet to this day.
My buddy Tom Campbell invited me to Cleveland for a conference entitled, “The Basics.” It was held at Parkside Church where Alistair Begg serves as pastor. The conference held it’s very first meeting the year before and Tom had made the trip alone. When they decided to have the conference for a second year, Tom extended the invite…and, the rest, as they say, is history.
The conference keeps drawing me back for several reasons. For starters, it does encourage me. Many conferences are out there that promise to “pump you up” so you can run back home and charge hell with a squirt gun. I’m not geared that way. I don’t need a “GO GET ‘EM” but rather a “HANG IN THERE MY BROTHER.” A second reason I go is because over all the years I’ve gone, the sufficiency of Scripture remains a top subject and priority in the framework of the sessions. God’s Word still lives…pastors must always remember this. The temptation is to turn to gimmicks and the latest trends to “grow your church.” (Never liked that language) Finally, you meet other brothers from the Parkside staff as well as the other pastors from literally around the globe…and you are reminded that you’re not the only pastor out there…which is indeed helpful.
This year 43 states and 9 countries were represented as 1,300 men were in attendance. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Al Mohler, and Alistair Begg joined arms and fed the hungry bunch with the Word. I’m thankful our church was willing to send me (or get me out of their hair…lol…depends on how you look at it! haha) I do feel encouraged. I want to be the best pastor I can be…for the glory of God. Stay Classy Monticello! 🙂