October. The time when russet coloured leaves detach themselves and waft gently to the ground. Yes. But for me, and a fair few others, it is the time of year we journey to Warrington for the annual God’s Glory, our Joy Conference held this year on October 12th.
Themed From Confusion to Clarity…
The speakers were Stephen Rees, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church Stockport (who gave two addresses), Matthew Cox, Pastor of Union Chapel, Bethersden in Kent and, the preacher of the Conference Sermon, John Palmer, Pastor of Bethany Evangelical Church, Leigh. Each, through their distinctive contributions, thoughtfully and convincingly modeled what the Conference strap-line had promised – clarity of thought and expression; nuanced biblical exegesis; and razor-sharp application. It was an oasis of clarity amidst a wider evangelical sea of confusion.
Stephen Rees presented a diagnostic to show how far out of sympathy with Scripture so much of evangelical Christendom has drifted. He informed the conference that The Shack, a blasphemous, theologically-disastrous book with universalist tendencies, has been the top best-selling book in Christian bookshops for the last 15 years. That so many notable Christian writers and publications should warmly welcome The Shack was, for us, The Shock. We were reminded Biblical truth matters.
In his second address, Stephen showed how failure to carefully apply Biblical truth to personal conduct leads to unsound ethical and moral practice. Proper use of the Commandments to inform behaviour has often been cast aside when faced with the apparently superior claims of some personal revelation, a fanciful re-interpretation of Scripture or an outbreak of false tolerance towards sinful behaviour.
Matthew Cox spoke with clarity and wisdom as he answered three deceptively simple questions:
- What is the church?;
- How should we build the church?; and
- How can we be sure we are building correctly?
The careful Biblical case that Matthew Cox made to answer his questions was unanswerable.
At the close John Palmer preached from Isaiah 66:1-6, especially highlighting verse 5, which most nearly of any Bible verse lies behind the overall conference name. What does God’s Glory, our Joy mean? We should do what pleases God and rejoice when He is glorified. If you agree with that, perhaps you should come to next year’s conference.
A follow-up meeting for pastors and church leaders the following Friday grappled further with the many issues raised. It was a profitable time together.