When trying to describe the complex and multi-faceted dimensions involved in organizing, running, and participating in a conference, it is hard to know where to begin. Truly, one must always remember that it takes a team to run a smooth and successful conference, and I’m thankful that we have been blessed with an outstanding team, for this year’s 5 Solas Reformation Conference. Every church member was involved in the planning, organizing, and the execution of this conference. Honestly, it is a pleasure to be able to lead and work alongside such dedicated and gifted persons.
Napoleon once said, “An army marches on its stomach. To be effective, an army relies on good and plentiful food.”The same can be said about hosting a good conference. The kitchen work lies at the very heart of the event. When you think our wee congregation, which consists of only 14 members, all of whom have their different responsibilities, the three ladies in charge of the kitchen and catering did a near-miraculous job! They planned and prepared three full meals a day, two coffee and cake breaks, organized the dishwashing, and all of the clean-up crews. For truly we all know, can there really be any true fellowship without the sharing of a meal?
You know, I have found that there is a bad habit to over-spiritualize Bible Conferences, to simply focus on the speaker or the messages preached. It is easy to forget all the work that goes into making the improbable and unlikely happen. Indeed, a sort of despising the “day of little things”. I mean just how do you measure how “spiritual” a person or an event is? How do you see, how much they really love Christ Jesus. Sure, isn’t a person’s spiritually, their love for Christ witnessed and displayed in their conduct, in their love towards others. How they love their “neighbors” as themselves, in how they go that “extra mile” for the stranger in the street. In those acts of sacrificial service, the “laying down their lives” for one another. All done in a spirit of unseen and unnoticed worship. That is what we as elders, shepherds, and teachers of the flock of God hope and labor for. Theology coming alive in the hearts of men. The Spirit of Christ shining out brightly in every day and daily lives of His people. Isn’t that at the heart of true spiritual maturity? It is a true honor and pleasure to be allowed to shepherd this little part of God’s flock. It humbles me and leaves me in a speechless awe when I consider the work of the Spirit in the hearts of these folks. Tis’ breathtaking!
This year’s speaker at the 5 Solas Reformation Conference was Pastor Conrad Mbewe from Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka Zambia. Both pastor Conrad and his wife were such a tremendous blessing to have as guests. Pastor Conrad is a true “statesman” of the Reformed Baptist Movement, and Mrs. Mbewe is an insightful and wise woman. I have been so blessed and helped through our conversations and by just listening to their conversations with others.
Pastor Mbewe’s theme was Sola Gratia (by grace alone). He preached a series of 6 sermons on Titus 3:3–7. The content and thrust of Pastor Conrad’s messages were perfect. In a land where the Calvinist Baptist movement is really only beginning, and being besieged and surrounded by so many misunderstandings and misinformation, the clear biblical message of Pastor Mbewe’s preaching shone brightly. It was like a beacon on a hill, and a great resounding crash of cannon fire across the bows of an ancient warship.
His preaching was clear, to the point, and with plain speech. It was the kind of preaching that draws the eye of one’s mind to glaze admiringly upon the finished work of Christ, causing the heart of every saint to rise up and cheer in admiration and true worship, “Yes, yes, and amen!” Preaching which cements the sinners only hope in the Savior alone and causes them to abandon all others, save that blood-drenched cross.
This year was the first year that our little conference was filled to capacity. We had attendees from all over Finland, from Rovaniemi in the north to Turku in the South. Even one family drove almost seven hours from the Finnish /Russian border. We also had folks travel here from overseas, Sweden, Norway, and Estonia to participate.
Thanks to the Lord’s providential hand, we were blessed with the ability to broadcast the different sessions worldwide. The response to this is always surprising. Not only is there an audience following here in Finland and the Nordic lands, but also from across the globe. We have received messages of thanks from the most unimaginable places. It is exciting to hear of our brothers and sisters’ hunger for the Word of God.
On a personal level, it was very rewarding to have an older Pastor, one who has “seen it all,” for both my co-elder and I to spend quality time with. Both Don and I are truly grateful to Pastor Conrad for taking the time to patiently answer our many questions. We realize we must have sounded like small children. He is a very gracious man.
As I sit here writing this, I just received an email from one of the gentlemen who attended, thanking us for the conference, the nourishing sermons, bible teaching, and the great fellowship. One of many similar messages we have received in the last few days. Also, my wife Sara told me of how one of the young women from a little congregation (several hours from us), came to her as the Conference was ending with tears in her eyes and a tremble in her voice. She thanked Sara for the conference, saying we could not imagine what being able to come to the Conference like this meant to her personally, her family, and her little church. We are thankful.
Please beloved, remember Finland in your prayers. The movement here is but a tender green shoot, and a babe in the cradle, vulnerable and exposed. Give thanks with us for the ground taken and the victories won. Intercede with us for the souls of men, that the Lord of Heaven may turn and have mercy on the far distant north, opening their hearts and minds, and turning them back to Himself.