As you may remember from last week's column, I went to a five day denominational conference in Prague. It was a gathering of international Baptist historians and theologians looking at the theological education in Baptist seminaries.
These are some of the benefits that I received from attending this conference.
1. For me, theological conferences provide intellectual renewal and refreshment. As I listen to other presenters, my intellect is stimulated and refreshed.
2. It also provides an opportunity to see the continuity of the Christian faith. Even though Baptists do not follow a succession of bishops, (like in the Catholic and Episcopal Churches), there is a strong desire to remain faithful to the faith that was delivered once for all to all the saints. It is very important for us to be able to say that we are faithful to the message that God has infallibly given to us in the Holy Scriptures.
3. It is also important to see that we do not believe in a static God, but in one Whose Word is changing the world. Sometimes we can become unintentionally limited to our corner of the world and we become provincial. In meetings like these, one can see that indeed the Lord Jesus Christ is building a global church, encompassing all the nations, tongues and tribes. This church is encountering resistance, but the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ is that the Holy Spirit present with the believers is more powerful than the forces that the Devil sends to destroy us.
4. The other area of interest for me is to hear what other preachers and teachers are emphasizing. It seems that in this year more than in other years, I have preached many sermons connecting with the doctrine of resurrection. The preacher at the worship service on Sunday emphasized why resurrection should be so central in our preaching, and it made me feel very good.
5. The two additional surprises were a connection of my articles and my traveling companions. At the beginning of my flight to Prague, the stewardess handed me the International Herald Tribune, and their two leading articles were on the Lambeth Conference in London - "The Anglican Church's Shifting Center" and "Why Many Bishops Did Not Come." I felt very good knowing that the readers of the Pastor's Corner of the Atlantic Highlands Herald were treated to the same information as those who read The International Herald Tribune.
6. For me it was providential that three times in the past month, I was seated next to Romanians. Somehow I had more contact with Romanians in July than in the whole year. I want to have my eyes open to the leading of God in daily circumstances and I think that God is redirecting me to become more involved in some of the academic work that is being done by my ethnic brothers and sisters.
7. Lastly, I left with an appreciation of God's abundant generosity. One of the scholars quoted William Priestley, a British atheist, who said that he cannot believe the gospel because if it is true, it is too good to be true. Yet, the Bible tells us exactly that. Jesus promises abundant life. The apostle Paul writes, "Who can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?...He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?." (Romans 8:28-39) This is a generous God and His word is always true.