It’s impossible to capture in words what the Lord did in our midst at Spiritual Leadership Conference last week. I believe that God answered our prayers for this conference and that there will be continued fruit from it for months and years to come, and I praise Him for that. (You can watch a conference highlight video here.)
Throughout the week, I posted various events and moments of blessing to my social media, and I suppose you can find highlights of events there. But I wanted to take a few moments now and reflect on some of the less-obvious blessings and my personal highlights.
Okay, this one might seem obvious, since the theme was “Declare the Gospel!” But I was personally blessed by how thoroughly this theme saturated every aspect of the week—perhaps more than any theme we’ve ever had. Not only did each of the preachers and speakers biblically expound on the theme and give practical help for declaring the gospel, but I was encouraged by conversations with pastors hungry to reach more people for Christ.
Those of us who have been in ministry for a while know there can be unhealthy extremes in emphasizing soulwinning if the clarity of the message or the larger picture of developing committed disciples of Christ is lost. But what I sensed this week was God stirring real passion for clearly and boldly declaring the gospel to a world that desperately needs it. That was a blessing to me…and I believe will also be a blessing to many who don’t yet know Christ.
Another highlight to me about this year’s conference was the tremendous number of pastors in their twenties and thirties who attended. And what especially thrilled me about seeing them was that they are men who are taking a strong stand with a good spirit while placing an emphasis on winning souls to Christ.
Sometimes pastors of my generation aren’t as quick to express gratitude for what God is doing through men the age we were when we started. I remember when I was just getting started in the pastorate having some hold a suspicious posture toward me and toward our ministry. The truth is, we need pastors in their twenties and thirties. And to see so many attending a conference with a theme centered on sharing the gospel encouraged me.
I’ve always loved the fellowship at Spiritual Leadership Conference. But this year, we added two afternoon “Connect and Collaborate” times which provided seasons of fellowship that were purposeful and gave good opportunities for powerful moments of connection. During these times, all of the conference speakers as well as staff from Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College were available for questions or conversation. We had dozens of pub tables set up with all of the speakers spread out by each table, making these men and women accessible for conversation. It was a great time of sharing ideas, asking questions, gaining perspective, and connecting with more people than you ordinarily might from your seat.
Additionally, I sensed a family-like spirit at this year’s conference. There was something special about meeting this year as we’re all rebuilding ministries from a pandemic. There was a graciousness that permeated conversations and a spirit of encouragement without judgment.
Sessions and resources
To make time for the “connect and collaborate” mentioned above, we streamlined the number of available times for split sessions and workshops. Yet, it seemed to me that the content of the workshops this year was the best so far. I heard great feedback from delegates attending many of the workshops—which are all being uploaded for free access at slconference.com.
Two that were a blessing to me were Terrie and Danielle’s session on “Women in the Bible” (yes, I snuck in) and Pastor Bill Prater’s session on God’s grace to walk through a season of grief. (This session was titled “The Upside of Down.”)
Another blessing to me in this year’s conference was the large number of new books and small group materials we were able to release from Striving Together Publications. (These new resources are all available at strivingtogether.com.) One of my passions is sharing resources to equip pastors and local churches for the work of the ministry, so I was grateful to see these being well-received.
This 2021 conference marked thirty years since we first began hosing Spiritual Leadership Conference (in 1991, on our church’s fifth anniversary). It also marked thirty-five years of ministry for Lancaster Baptist Church, and those moments of celebration were among my greatest highlights.
On Sunday evening, we recognized our deacons. All of these men have served our church family selflessly and faithfully, and many have served our church for decades. Their faith, prayers, and service through the years has helped our church in unseen but very impactful ways. And their kindness to our family has, I’m convinced, been instrumental in our four children loving the Lord and serving today in local church ministry.
Also on Sunday for our church family and then again on Monday for conference guests, we showed a thirty-fifth anniversary video compiled by our media team. I love how this video gives glory to God and thanks to our church family. It is amazing to me what God has done over these past three and a half decades. And watching this video reminds me of the truly miraculous ways He has worked in our midst.
(If you cannot view this video in your email or RSS reader, click here.)
The conference may be over, but I trust God’s work in our lives is not. We are still recipients of the Great Commission. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and declare the gospel!