Christian Church Conferences

After posting a short blog on The Bolton Conference I want to express a few thoughts concerning Christian conferences in general. I have been to many great conferences over the years and have heard many great speakers. All conferences however are not created equal. Some I have been to have been very impact ful on my spiritual life, while others have been far less. I think that a conference is an excellent way to bring a group of Christians together for a spiritual retreat of sorts. Beside the teaching one finds in such a conference there is also tremendous fellowship with other believers to enjoy. I have known many Christians through no other means than by the annual conference I might see them at. A conference brings Christians together from different churches for a brief period of time under the teaching, prayer and singing of the usual conference setting. And beside all of that there is of course the book table. I have purchased many excellent Christian books at one of these conferences that have been extremely helpful to me in my Christian walk.

After having said all of that, I must go on to another aspect of the Christian conference that has been on my mind for a long time. Over the years as I have attended one or another great conference the church in America has declined dramatically. So while a particular conference may serve to minister to a group of Christians that meet for that occasion, the overall impact it might have on the larger church situation in America has been quite small. One reason for this I suppose might be because most Christian conferences are non denominational in the sense that the speakers are coming from different types of churches. What I mean by that is that though a conference might be geared toward a certain Theological 9dentity such as the Reformed faith which I subscribe to, still if it is broad church in scope there will be different expressions within the circle that are represented.

What does this mean in terms of its impact on the church as a whole? For starters, a broad conference with different speakers has to leave certain subjects alone, the ones that divide us into denominations. Having debates on the proper mode of Baptism may not be useful to the broad church conference but there are other related issues that might be. For instance, the heresy of baptismal regeneration connected to Federal Vision Theology is running rampant through most of the Presbyterian churches. The issues involved in this teaching which are now being debated have a close relationship to the doctrine of Baptism and ultimately, the nature of the covenant itself. I will leave the subject of Federal Vision for another time, I only bring it up to illustrate the problem. If we can’t speak on Baptism at a conference then we can’t speak on heresies related in one way or another to it either.

The subject matter of a Christian conference is then required to be one that is shared by all in attendance on the Christian faith. Blessing does come from the Lord to all in attendance at this type of a conference. The negative side is that it cannot address the issues that are responsible for the decline of Christianity in America without being controversial. I am not an ecumenical minded person in the worst sense of the word so please don’t get me wrong. But I am of the belief that the decline of the church in America is shared by all no matter what denomination it may be. The things that divide us as Christians are important for many reasons. I would not want to see a jettison of commitment to Theological distinctive’s promoted through any broad church conference in the interest of promoting an Ecumenical spirit.

The question is then, what purpose does the conference serve if it cannot speak about the decline of the Christian church in America? The answer should be obvious, if it doesn’t then this in itself is evidence of the problem. Consumerism mentality is largely responsible for this. Who wants to go to a conference in which negative issues are the themes? Most American Christians think in terms of their own personal edification to the exclusion of all other things, especially when it comes to the church they choose. There is a side to this which is proper. But few American Christians ever think about the church, whether it is built up or torn down. In fact, this is why Christians move from church to church so frequently in America. If there is a problem that isn’t resolved easily and immediately then off they go. The same mentality applies to the conference. Unless there is a perceived personal blessing to be attained, then few if any Christians today would bother attending a conference dealing with the general decline of the church. If it is a denominational conference that may be different. The reason for this is that the focus is then generally not on them but on the rest of the church outside.

I believe there is a need for Christians to come together for reflection. The situation that currently exists in America did not happen overnight. It is the result of continual unrepented of generational sin. Anyone who studies the Old Testament should be aware of the reality of prolonged generational sin and its consequence on people. We as people live our short life thinking about our narrow circumstances. The Lord considers everything that happens for there is nothing out of His view. Of course, first and foremost God knows all things because He ordains it to happen. But we are the ones that live what God ordains and therefore, we are ultimately responsible for it. Scripture is clear that the sins of our fathers are not ours in the absolute eternal sense (Ez. 18:20). Each person is judged by God on the basis of their own works. And of course also, God saves His people regardless of their works “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5:6). But God judges His people too in this life with earthly judgements based on their conduct.

The Lord sent Prophets for many generations to Israel to call them His people to repentance. Note, the Lord did not send the Prophets just for the personal edification of the remnant believers, He called on all to consider their ways before Him. In doing this, the remnant believers were strengthened in their faith. It is important to understand from the Old Testament that the true believers were not exempt from the horrible consequence of that nations sin. A good example of this is taken from Daniel chapter nine. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” (Dan. 9:1,2). Daniel understood why such terrible things had come upon Israel and Judah and ultimately himself from reading the Prophet Jeremiah. It was due to the collective generational sin of his fathers that Daniel was in captivity. Daniel did not say to himself, this is the fault of the liberals or those who deviate from orthodoxy. No, Daniel owned the responsibility and guilt of his fathers personally. But Daniel didn’t stop there, he commenced to praying and confessing this generational sin, seeking forgiveness and restoration from God.

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day — to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You. “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.” (Dan. 9:3-12).

Why did Daniel do this, why is he confessing the sins of his fathers? Because he understood that though we may excuse and forget sin over time God does not. Daniel realized that just as the national guilt and its consequence had become his portion providentially, that repentance from it and revival must begin with him personally. There was something even way bigger than this in the mind of Daniel. It had to do with the glory of God. The purpose of God in establishing a kingdom on earth was among other things as a witness to the sin-darkened world that existed at the time (Ex. 19:3-6). For God’s people to disobey the law, to practice idolatry and immorality just like the other nations was for them to misrepresent Him. The average Christian doesn’t think like this, or at least not much and not often. The apostle Peter applies the same representative witness in the world to the church though in many ways we are quite different from Israel of old (I Pet. 2:4-10). Though the church is not an earthly Theocracy like Israel, nevertheless, it is still a Theocratic kingdom.

Consider the average prayer meeting of the local church in America today, which is if there happens to be one at all. The focus of most of the prayer is on us and our interests; not the interests of God like His glory in the nation. There is no example of this taking place in the New Testament, although I am sure that those Christians did pray for one another’s needs. The first prayer meeting in Jerusalem was to seek a replacement for Judas to be an apostle for the building up of the church (Acts 1:12-26). The second recorded prayer meeting focused on Gods glory in creation, Gods glory among the nations, Gods glory in the gospel of Christ, Gods glory in His sovereign providential rule, and Gods glory in fighting for them against opposition (Acts 4:23-31). Is this what the average prayer meeting concerns itself within America?

How is God’s glory to be displayed in America? By the church being its preservative in a spiritual and moral fashion in the way, it conducts itself before the world (Matt. 5:13-16). Does anyone wonder why no one in America will listen to the gospel today? It is because of persistent, unrepented generational sin in the church. What does this have to do with a Christian conference? A conference is the place where Christians from many churches come together to hear a message from a gifted speaker. This is the perfect opportunity for ministers to bring teaching that addresses the deplorable state of the church. Christians should be called on to do as Daniel did but this will not happen unless or until Christians begin to think as he did. The only thing that will bring this about is Gods grace in His word being taught to the people. Whatever else is accomplished at a Christian conference focus on the need for repentance of generational church-wide sin should be taught.

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