Gloriously Normal (Leaders' Conferences 2021)
Nearly 1,000 church leaders gathered over five locations for the 2021 FIEC Leaders’ Conferences to consider the glorious normal of church ministry.
I never expected 2 John 1:12 to become a life verse. But that page has become very well-thumbed…
“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”
John is writing a Holy Spirit inspired letter. But nothing beats the complete joy of being face to face.
So it was with the FIEC Leaders Conference in 2021. I’m grateful for podcasts and Leadership in Lockdown seminars, but nothing beats face-to-face. Despite being only a day conference and held in five different places, it all felt gloriously normal.
The Glorious Normal
That was the theme of the conference’s talks and the three men opening God’s word served us well.
Johnny Prime took us to the wilderness, to urge us to eat the daily manna God provides. Steve Robinson (one of the five local pastors asked to preach in each location) encouraged us with a sight of the future glory that is ours in Christ. Finally, John Stevens reminded us of the ever-present enemy of false teaching. Yet, he reminded church leaders that the Bible equips the man of God for every good work.
My highlight from the stage was actually in the speakers’ interviews. One of the hosts Rachel Sloan asked Steve how the past year had been; his simple but humble reply was that it had been a tough year. It was a challenging moment of gospel humility.
My temptation is to put on the conference filter. When I’m asked how it’s going, I down-play the challenges and up-play the encouragements. Steve’s brief moment of public openness challenged me to be more honest. This led to some honest conversations over lunch that I needed to have. A small moment with a big impact.
That our joy may be complete
However, the real highlight was the complete joy of being face to face once more. The organisers didn’t cram the agenda with talks but left plenty of space for conversation. For me, the greatest joy was to see the entire eldership of my old church Hardwick Baptist Church. I spent eight years with these brothers so nothing could beat the joy of hearing all the Lord is doing there.
Hardwick isn’t a big church and it isn’t in the easiest area. The Sunday school when I taught there was often as low as three kids dragged along by their grandparents. Many a time I wondered why I’d devoted my time to preparing lessons for such a small group. But meeting with these men, I found out that one of those kids (now in his teens) had come to faith and been baptised.
That’s what this conference and FIEC are about. We’d love to see revival. Yet, for most of our churches, ministry is teaching three kids in a freezing Sunday School annex. But it’s in that ordinary, that gloriously normal act of ministry, that the miracle of regeneration happens.
So, thanks to the FIEC team for the hard work of taking the conference on the road. We appreciate the days away from family that it must have cost you. I for one was encouraged to go back to the ordinary and see it as glorious once again.