At this time of the year I usually pop down to the Evangelical Ministry Assembly at St Helen's organised by the Proclamation Trust. I mostly enjoy being there because I don't know 90% of the people there even by sight (I guess they are Anglicans and others in the mixed denominations). If they are willing to listen to the sort of things you get there then there's more of us than I tend to think there are. Some things wind me up, of course, like the fact the bookstall never stocks my books; the saxophone and the poor drum fills; the parochialness of some of it; the accents now and again; the in jokes I don't get.
I was only able to be present for the final less well attended day this year. There were four sessions of varying quality. One surprising but encouraging thing was that Dr Lloyd-Jones got a (may be unprecedented) positive mention in the first two. It was wonderful to hear people at last saying that preaching is more than simply explaining the text. I have noticed this trend and trust this is a sign of growing maturity.
Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, is always worth listening to - warm, practical, original, well thought through. (More here). Others spoke highly of his two previous messages although his failure to understand the British scene was noted. His subject on the Friday was 'What is an evangelical ministry?'. He spoke (counter-intuitively) first about the practice then the principles.
Practically, preaching is central in the overall ministry, doxological in its end and Christocentric in its content. More generally, one needs to keep working on evangelism, discipleship, social justice and the integration of your members' faith and work.
His three principles were that the ministry must reflect the balance of God's wrath and love as seen in the cross; it should reflect that contextual balance seen in the incarnation and, thirdly, it should be based more on grace than gifts. This last point was the best and much appreciated by everyone I spoke to. We all know that godliness is more important than gifts in the ministry, however, Keller actually argued the case, which I've never heard done before. His main point was that no-one is going to be brilliant at every aspect of ministry, the only hope then is that you are at least godly. Without that you are sunk. You are an accident waiting to happen. I'm afraid I could identify very much with that and knew exactly what he was talking about. It was a timely reminder of the need for re-ordered priorities.
After such a blistering start it was difficult to sustain that but Vaughan Roberts didn't do too badly with his second survey of Daniel (covering the much more difficult Chapter 7ff). He chimed in well with what Keller had been saying. It's difficult to say anything useful in such brief compass but I'm sure younger men will have been helped.
Over lunch I bought some books, chatted, ate and listened to men from Delhi, Accra and Havana being interviewed.
The patriarch Dick Lucas did the last session (on Philippians again). Every movement needs its older men and Dick always says something useful. At the beginning he remarked in passing that men sometimes try to put too much in their sermons - that's worth chewing on. I'm afraid I was rather distracted after that. He was still banging on about the horrors of the Keswick movement as I began to drift. At least he kept to time.
In between these two was a sort of question time when Keller, Roberts and Richard Cunningham who had spoken the day before were asked about various things not very much related to their subjects but more on what they were doing. Cunningham was asked about the fall out between Spring Harvest and Word Alive ( a rapprochement originally broached many years before by Roy Clements) over Steve Chalke leading to a separate Word Alive this year, which was eagerly being plugged. (They have Don Carson, John Piper and Terry Virgo (!) speaking).
It is at this point that I get completely lost. Cunningham goes to an Anglican church and so, like Chalke and many more there is up to his neck in the mixed denominations. Last April I believe there was a conference that took place in April in Cambridge. An advert says -
A number of ministers from Great Britain and Australia will be on the program, including Wright and McGrath; David Jackman of Proclamation Trust; Steve Chalke, founder of the Oasis Trust and senior pastor of Christ Church, London; and Gordon Moyes of Wesley Mission, the largest evangelical congregation in Australia. See here.
I know it's difficult but at least you can see what some men are aiming at. Anyway I don't want to end negatively the conference did me good and I plan to go again as the more you listen the better you understand. More info here.