Caring for God’s Church
For the past few years we’ve run day conferences across the UK to equip pastors and help build local relationships. Richard Underwood reflects on the 2012 conferences and introduces us to 2013’s theme.
If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? [1 Timothy 3v5]
During 2012 our regional day conferences have taken us across the country from Exmouth to Edinburgh and from Bridgend to Cambridge. In total around 300 pastors and other leaders attended the twelve events.
What I have found particularly encouraging this year has been the local emphasis. Each time, a local pastor has taken the lead, another local pastor has preached God’s word to us and we have spent time listening to one another’s stories, rejoicing in the successes and facing up to the challenges. We have also spent time praying for one another.
Andy Paterson and Trevor Archer have joined me in leading sessions on Caring for God’s Church. Although the theme has been consistent, each conference has taken on a life and an emphasis of its own. Break times and lunch times have been every bit as important as the more formal settings.
Looking back, I have been encouraged to see the beginnings of a new spirit of love and mutual care among the pastors of our Pastors’ Association (now Pastors’ Network). Without doubt, the growing enthusiasm for and confidence in Independent gospel ministry generated by the Leaders’ Conference is beginning to trickle down to the local level. Traditional and rather formalised fraternal meetings are being replaced by more relational groupings focused on prayer and helping one another with ministry – like preaching groups, for instance. We are getting to know one another better and we are developing a clearer sense of identity. We are learning in practice that church is not a set of meetings you go to; it’s a family you belong to.
As I have sat back and observed the men reflecting on how best they should care for God’s people, I have realised afresh that each of these men is a brother in Christ. Not just an under-shepherd but a sheep – frail, human and vulnerable. It’s my prayer that the Pastors’ Network will care well for this particular community of God’s People.
Next year, we take another step forward by inviting the growing number of other gospel workers from our churches to join us, as well as encouraging pastors to bring their wives. Together we’ll learn how to be strong as we consider how the grace of the Lord Jesus gives us both courage and joy. Details of the 2013 programme will be available shortly.