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The Shepherd's Conference
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By Stephanie Nickel

Earlier this month (March 2013) over 3,500 church leaders gathered in California for three intense days of teaching and recharging. The 2013 Shepherd's Conference urged participants to "Remember Jesus Christ." Keynote speakers Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Dr. Steven Lawson, Phil Johnson, and Tom Pennington, as well as a number of seminar speakers, spoke into attendees’ lives.

When asked which general session he found most helpful, Pastor Doug McGuire responded, "The final session. John MacArthur dealt with the issue of unbelievers in church. Dr. MacArthur captivated the audience . . . with a contemporary illustration of Billy Graham and Charles Templeton, a modern Apostle Peter and Judas. Right up to the night before Jesus' death, the apostles themselves could not tell which of them would ultimately betray Christ. It was a powerful warning to the church to use the biblical test, to discern the faith of the flock, and more importantly, to test its preachers because Christ’s glory and the salvation of souls is at stake."

Pastor Dave Cartwright agreed. "John MacArthur's desire was for all of us to meet the believing preacher Peter one day but never Judas. It was a sobering word."

Seminar topics included false belief systems that have snuck into the church; strengthening and getting marriages back on track; creating a thirst for biblical preaching; and children's ministry.

Two of the sessions that impacted Pastor McGuire were "An Hour to Raise the Dead" by Alex Montoya and "Enemies at the Gate" by Phil Johnson. In the first, "preachers were challenged to be purposeful and passionate in the pulpit. It was a call to be motivated by the glory of Christ Jesus." The second . . . "a warning to church leaders to be careful of the liberalizing trends in the contemporary church. The session used scripture to test the encroachments of society into the local church and address the consequences."

When asked what each found most compelling about the conference, Pastor Cartwright shared from his heart. "Last year I was dealing with hurt from the past and this year I was better able to receive."

Pastor McGuire responded, "This year's conference was a particular blessing because I was able to share the experience with many Canadian delegates (over 100) including three other men from my own church. Learning and being challenged together really forms a bond as co-labourers and keeps the love of our church family before us." (Music Director, Dave Nickel, and Board Chairman, Jason Keillor, also attended the conference. It was the first time for both of them.)

Will their ministries change because of their attendance at Shepherd's Conference? Pastor McGuire said, "As a preacher being reoriented toward the glory of Jesus Christ as your sources of passion is an invaluable gift. We can get caught up in the minister's job and may do it well but apart from the motivation of our faith in Christ. Then, we are merely going through the motions. The danger in missing that motivation is that ministry becomes merely pragmatics when unhinged from our faith in Christ and produces little or no fruit because it points to the preacher who cannot save a single soul. Everything in ministry must reflect its foundation in Christ. For it is through the testimony of Christ, made effective by the Holy Spirit of God, that souls are saved."

Pastor Cartwright said, "My reliance on God in prayer and His Word should increase."

Pastor Cartwright confirmed that he would gladly return again next year. "You can count on the Word being preached . . . You will find brothers to encourage you or be encouraged by you. You will be treated well by the 700 servants who . . . take a week of holidays and invest their holidays in serving pastors: shining shoes, cutting hair . . ."

Pastor McGuire agrees. "The teaching helps support our ministry at home. As well, the time of sharing and networking with other leaders allows us to support and learn from one another. It is invaluable: worship in music, the Word, prayer, and teaching with brothers who carry the same biblical mandate and burden."

And who should plan to attend future conferences?

According to Pastor McGuire, "Pastors and elders who are looking to be refreshed in their personal faith as well as being equipped for their ministry . . . It is important that our ministry plans and desires be tested against scripture. This assembly . . . under the care of the host church and seminary, are blessed as 'iron sharpens iron.'"

And what one thing would they like most to share?

"What we believe about God is the most important thing about us. If our belief about God is more biblical our walk should be straighter." ~ Pastor Cartwright

"Love the glory of Christ. Test your life. Be motivated in your life. Find the satisfaction in this life. Find your pattern for life in the glory of Jesus Christ. That glory is our greatest joy!"