Servants of the Lord
More than 500 people have now attended The Hub Conference since we started it five years ago. It’s a conference for those exploring Independent church ministry or for those who are already in training. Ross and Hilary Wilkinson attended The Hub 2017 in Milton Keynes. So what did they think?
We arrived at The Hub Conference feeling under a cloud.
It had been the strangest and saddest of weeks, having suddenly lost our dear principal Mike Ovey at Oak Hill College. Fittingly, the Ovey family were prayed for at the beginning of the weekend’s first meeting and Mike’s example of servant leadership made it into the last main talk as he was remembered as an exemplar servant of the church.
Given the circumstances of the preceding days, we weren’t really feeling ourselves but coming away from the conference we’re so glad we went. There were so many things about it that did our souls good.
Firstly, the weekend was refreshing. And by this we’re not referring to the fact that coffee and indeed Irn Bru (!) were on tap throughout the conference!
The refreshment came firstly from the talks by Bill James (Pastor of Emmanuel Church Leamington Spa) on Isaiah looking at the portrait of the Servant of the Lord. As Christians and as potential full-time Christian workers Bill reminded us that we are to be servants of God, of the gospel and of the church. What a relief to be encouraged that God not only calls his servants, but equips them for the task too. He doesn’t expect more of us than he equips us to be. That blows any inferiority complexes out of the water.
We also found it incredibly refreshing to be among lots of others either already en-route into ministry or thinking about it and to be encouraged that God is raising up workers in this generation.
Secondly the weekend was a reality check. One thing you get in ample supply at The Hub is honesty. In fact the whole tone of the conference is one of wanting to paint a real picture for attendees. And who better to do that than a diverse group of people who’ve spent years working in ministry and are making themselves available to advise the younger generation.
We went to one seminar called “Counting the Cost”. The speaker took great pains to stress that he thought it was possible on one hand to wallow in self-pity as a pastor, or on the other hand to be overly triumphalistic as if pain doesn’t really hurt if it’s ‘for the gospel’. His point was that there is a cost to the role, but that there are great blessings too.
There was also a great deal of honesty at the marriage seminar we went to. Candid talk was certainly not lacking, especially on the importance of a healthy sex life…!
Finally, the most defining aspect and probably the USP of The Hub Conference, is the counsel you receive. The whole weekend is set up in such a way to ensure that every attendee has at least one session sitting down with a person or couple who are often, let’s say, toward ‘the other end’ of ministry life.
FIEC Training Director Trevor Archer encouraged us at the beginning of the weekend to ‘suck them dry’! While The Hub organisers are keen to stress they are not wanting to take the place of the local church, these informal chats are designed to be a place of advice, prayer, mulling over and offering suggestions.
Since attendees are sent by their churches and those giving advice report back on the chats they’ve had, this is very much done to support the local church, not usurp. In our session, we chatted freely about our fears and received extremely insightful advice, for which we’re very thankful. These chats are personal and individual; there was certainly nothing glib or trite in the advice we were given.
The weekend ended with Adrian Reynolds – the next FIEC Training Director – trailing next year’s conference with an epilogue on 1 Timothy 4.
Adrian spoke about how the life of full-time paid ministry is a life of ‘progress’, and how we should strive to continue to make strides forward in character and gifting. Our prayer is that we’d heed this challenge as we finish our time at Oak Hill and embark, God willing, on our life together in full time ministry.