I recently attended the biennial Together for the Gospel conference. This was my second time attending and probably will not be the last. The conference consists of 10 general sessions that include a lecture or sermon and the singing of hymns. The singing portion of the general session is powerful and moving as you raise your voice in unison with 12,000 other people (mainly men) in praise to Christ our King. Throw in a bunch of free books and various vendors and it makes for a pretty good time.
Conferences have a way of encouraging you and providing motivation before you head back in to your ministry, vocation, school, etc. It can serve like a battery charger as you interact and pray with other people who share similar burdens and challenges. Unfortunately for many however, conferences serve as the mountain peak of their Christian life. Many just live from conference to conference, hoping that they will hear a message that can keep them going until the next big conference. They are almost like evangelical junkies; just looking for their next “Big Eva” fix.
Sadly, this just speaks to a larger issue that plagues modern evangelicals; they have no idea what the church is or why they need it. The local church is a gift from God that must be cherished. It is in the context of the local church that you receive the word of God through the ordinary preaching of the word. You also receive spiritual benefit and nourishment through the ordinary means of grace in the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Your local church simply offers things that no conference (no matter how grand it may be) can deliver on. Although there are many, I want to focus on one: your pastor.
This may sound like an obvious point, but your pastor is far more important than any conference speaker at any major conference. I remember when I went to T4G in 2016 and the next speaker was going to be introduced. As they began to reveal who it was a young man behind me began to yell ecstatically in praise of this particular speaker. “That’s my boy! That’s why I came! I’m so pumped. I love that guy!” Now, some of you are probably thinking to yourself, “What’s wrong with that? He’s excited to hear his favorite preacher.” Well that’s precisely my point. The person walking up to the podium, whom this young man had never met, was his favorite preacher and he let EVERYONE around him know it – including his own pastor.
My heart sank for that poor minister and for all other faithful shepherds who don’t have a large platform and are just trying to faithfully execute their calling to the best of their abilities by the grace of God. It’s the ordinary pastors who are going to answer the emergency phone calls at 3am. It’s the ordinary pastor who is going to bury your parents (and maybe even you). He is the one who knows how to pray for you. He is the one that God has sovereignly and lovingly placed over you to feed your soul with the Word of God week after week, Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day.
I praise the Lord that he has given some men an extraordinary platform and extraordinary gifts, but those are few and far between. God has chosen to build his church on the ordinary means of grace administered by regular pastors. I once heard Bob Godfrey say that “God works through mediocre preachers because that’s really all he has.” Yet, the Church continues on. Christ continues to build his Kingdom and he continues to love and shepherd you through the work of your pastor.
Perhaps, you should take the time to thank God for the man he has chosen to care for your soul. After you do that, might I suggest calling that man and thank him for loving you, watching over you, being willing to give an account on the last day for you, and for faithfully preaching the Gospel to you and your family. They need to hear it more than you realize, and you need to say it more than you realize. After all, Matt Chandler is probably not going to preach your funeral.
“Big Eva is a term coined by the Mortification of Spin crew. It’s the term for big named, well known evangelical organizations.