This weekend I’ve been at Challenge Conference down at Stanwell Tops. A conference looking at full-time ministry, specifically MTS (Ministry Training Strategy); a 2 year traineeship program for those potentially going to bible college. The subject of this years talks addressed the question “What will you do in the Crematorium Queue?”
Friday afternoon I left work early so that I could get out to the airport to pick up some guys from Townsville who needed a lift down. After leaving late and spending a substantial amount of time on traffic, I arrived at the airport to pick up Aaran, Sarah and Esther on my way down to Stanwell Tops. Along the way there were plenty of awkward silences, broken up by numerous navigational errors on my part resulting in U-turns and a few comments from my passengers.
After arriving, we had to leave again to find some dinner as we’d (I’d) neglected to stop for food… We made our way over to Helensburgh for a taste of the local town, I grabbed a meat-laden pizza, whilst the others bought from The Western and Asian Takeaway (that was it’s actual name).
Upon our return, we headed along to the first session to hear Ben Pfahlert speak from Phillipians 1:1-18b; entitled “Control v Compassion”. He spoke about ‘The authentic self’ and how that should look for a Christian. They should be someone who has a mindset to advance the gospel, be dependent on God and relinquish control to God. I continued to meet new people after the session, being the only one from St Pauls there as others had SALT or other commitments on.
The Saturday morning session talk was given by Phillip Jensen commencing a weekend series called “The view from the queue”. The first talk was titled ‘The beasts that perish’ and focused on Psalm 49 and Ecclesiastes 1-3. They spoke of death and life: Everyone faces death, no one can escape it, no matter how rich they are, they cannot buy their way out. Yet God is rich enough and he has paid with the death of Jesus, so once a person comes to this realisation and accepts the great gift that God gives, then they no longer need to fear death, they understand life and know how to live it. Quite refreshing and inspiring to see how these two passages are inter-linked and then aptly referenced in the new testament in Hebrews 10:32-39.
We had strand groups after morning tea on both days. I was in a strand one group with four other guys which was quite intimate, well I suppose as intimate as a bunch of guys meeting for the first time can be. We looked at what ministry was from the bible, narrowing it down to word ministry and looked at one to one reading.
One of the unique things about Challenge is the interviews that take place between MTS trainers and candidates. The purpose being to answer questions, identify strengths and weaknesses, and look at actions required as a way forward. My interview was with James Warren; the minister for the 7fifteen service I attend at St Pauls Carlingford. It was really helpful in identifying the strengths and weaknesses I have and how they would fit/work in ministry. James made a list of things to find out/investigate/work on over the next little while.
Saturday afternoon Phillip Jensen spoke about church planting entrepreneurs, answering questions from people, as a response to Mark Driscoll’s whirlwind speaking tour recently. After my marathon interview, I was a little zonked for this, but it was interesting to hear
Saturday night Phillip spoke from Psalm 39 and Ecclesiastes 11 & 12. Psalm 39 was described as an unusual and unpleasant Psalm, it speaks of the psalmists struggle to come to terms with life; how it is a mere breath in the sight of God, so he pleads to God for deliverance from sin & the hostility of man. God disciplines him and he comes to terms with life. It reminds us to take life, God and ourselves seriously.
Ecclesiastes 11 & 12 tells us that life is for living, so take the plunge and take action whilst you are able to, for life slowly grinds you to dust, keep Gods commandments and fear Him for He will judge the all things; good or evil, secret or public.
Sunday morning Ben Pfahlert again spoke from Philippians, this time from 1:18b – 26. I was pretty worn out, so I didn’t note much down, although I recall Ben making a point of standing, striving and suffering.
Phillip wrapped up the conference with a talk on the judgment of God from a triplet of three Psalms; 58, 37 and 67. Psalm 58 speaks first of gods; those that are unrighteous & unjust, of how wicked they are, all of their days. Then, from verse 7, the Psalmist prays to God for His judgment on these ‘young lions’ that the righteous may rejoice and know God. Psalm 37 tells us not to fret, nor be envious of those that are evil or do wrong, instead we are to trust and delight in the Lord. We are also to wait patiently for Gods judgment which will see the wicked cut off. Psalm 67 is a nice little Psalm which sees God blessing Israel and then the Nations praising God for He judges with equity and guides nations.
I really enjoyed the conference overall, despite how heavy it was. I met some great people that seemed godly with hearts searching to serve the Lord and had some encouraging conversations. I feel encouraged to pray for a few of these people on a regular basis, yet past experiences have proven less than worthy, may God continue to help me to do so and change my heart to want to do it all the more.