The Pastors Conference Check-up


I’m a little over a week back from the annual Sovereign Grace Pastors Conference and have been reflecting on it a bit. There are features of the conference that I’ve come to expect and appreciate over the years—vibrant worship, compelling preaching, insightful seminars, late nights hanging out, too much restaurant food, meeting new folks and catching up with old friends. But there’s also a sense that the conference serves as an ‘annual check-up’ on how we’re doing as a family of partnered churches.

Much like my annual check-ups with my doctor, I look forward to this aspect of the conference knowing it’s important, but also hoping ‘the check-up’ is clean. Like my own experience with medical check-ups over the years, I’ve been encouraged most of time, cautioned some of the time, and reminded every time that personal health, like organizational health, can’t be taken for granted. The past shapes our present, and our future needs proactive attention. We don’t want to simply become what time makes us—we want to look ahead with a commitment to robust health and productivity.

So how did this year’s annual check-up go? I’m very encouraged and particularly motivated to do what needs to be done to be and stay strong. On the list of encouragements:

  • I felt like that our Counsel of Elders and other meetings were working muscles of respect for diverse perspectives in honest and godly dialogue. I personally love to see this muscle get attention because I think it will be a means of resiliency and strength in the future.
  • In the messages and breakouts ‘hygienic’ doctrine (Tit.2: 1) was not only proclaimed from the Scriptures, it was applied according to scripture as well. I go to my fair share of conference, and our pastors conference remains the place where teaching, response and application in life and ministry most hits home for me.
  • In the many small planned and unplanned conversations, I enjoyed (once again) the wise words and easy laughter of godly men and women in a variety of church contexts and challenges reminded me of how God’s grace is at work in remarkable ways. I hung out with old friends who have been spiritual ‘work-out buddies’ for years and met new friends who taught me fresh approaches to old ministry problems.

But there were cautions as well. I was cautioned in my tendency to make quick assessments on limited information. I was cautioned on trusting polity to do things only godly submission to the word of God can accomplish. I was cautioned in my assumption that the work God has called us to do together can be realized apart from robust partnership financial commitment by each member church. I was cautioned on living life and doing ministry as if prayer is helpful but not always expedient, and therefore not always absolutely necessary. I knew these things before the conference, but like a physician who reminds you that you can’t eat like a 16-year-old when you’re in your fifties, the cautions are a very important ‘take homes’ from the check-up looking ahead to the next year.

Most of all, as we took time in multiple ways to look to the future of a truly international Sovereign Grace, I was stirred to get my eyes off my local church life and look to the neighborhoods and nations who need the Gospel. I want to work aggressively and proactively to respond to the mission opportunities we already have in front of us, and the ones that will open up by God’s grace in the future.

If I feel healthy, I think we are healthy, and I have the check-ups to prove it.

Andy Farmer is a pastor at Risen Hope Church in Upper Darby, PA. He also serves Sovereign Grace on the Executive Committee and on the National Church Planting Group.