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Overheard at a Large Christian Conference

Alistair Begg has just finished a lengthy exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 at "Bible by the Beach." The whole thing was a plea to avoid the cult of personality preaching, to follow unimpressive Paul and shun the wise and persuasive words of the shiny "communicators".

And at the end of the session I overheard one couple behind me...

- We need Bible by the Beach every month. It's great spiritual input.

- We get it every week. It's called church.

- Yes, but not every preacher is an Alistair Begg are they?

So that's a lesson well learnt then!

0 thoughts on “Overheard at a Large Christian Conference

  1. Matthew Weston

    I remember Vaughan Roberts preaching on the same passage at New Word Alive last year, and having a very similar discussion afterwards! I'd personally been convicted when he mentioned "having nicknames for our favourite speakers" as a bad sign. Friends of mine actually had a nickname for Vaughan himself, which was awkward...

  2. John B

    I've often been puzzled to see evangelical churches in my local area largely endorsing the same celebrity preachers, while at the same time having little or no fellowship among themselves. Prominent national preachers seem to hold an informal teaching authority. I don't know what to make of this. We confess the unity of the church, yet are institutionally fragmented. Gathering under celebrity preachers may satisfy, in part, the desire to express church unity.

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  4. Bobby Grow

    Protestants haven't fallen far from the apple tree, eh; we still need 'our Popes' to interpret Scripture for us . . . so much for the "Priesthood of All Believers."

    I wonder how many people in the Evangelical church would like to know how to interpret the Scriptures for themselves. I think pastors should at least model this when preaching/teaching from the pulpit; but sometimes I think pastors like to keep their people untrained, that way they have a 'purpose' (i.e. they can be the "Bible answer man"). Just reflecting a little . . .

  5. Gav

    I'll admit it. I have my favourite preachers.....Rico Tice, Hugh Palmer, Glen ....uh.... I forget his last name..... anyway, I have my favourite bible teaching blogs too....just two of them though!!

    They point me to my God. I need to be taught how to interpret scriptures because God knows what will happen if I'm off the leash!!

    Is that so bad?

  6. dave

    We need teachers but it's a shame when we miss those who are already among us, or when the draw of the famous preacher means we don't get into the word ourselves or together...

  7. Heather

    Hey Gav,

    I understand what you're saying. And I think Paul would approve of your perspective.

    Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in Word and doctrine.
    For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle the ox treading out grain," and, "The laborer is worthy of his reward." 1 Timothy 5:17-18

    If the Lord has worked through a dedicated teacher to reveal something of Himself and this has challenged you to give more attention to Christ, there is nothing wrong with showing appreciation.

    For the most part, I think this tendency toward personality worship is something every one of us needs to guard against, as it is easy to get confused and place our faith in what we can see, rather than in God, Who we cannot. That is just my opinion, though.

  8. Hiram

    I love how we can sit, listen to a sermon that is practically prophesying our future to us, and get up and do exactly what the pastor/teacher has just warned us about and, in love, told us not to do. lol

    Sine note: Alistair Begg is one of the few radio personalities I still want to listen to, and it's because of his consistent pointing away from himself to Christ. Much of the popular stuff out there - at least in my neck of the woods - seems to focus on the teacher and HIS latest thing (book, movie, clothing line, hair accessories - you name it...anything's game these days), whereas Begg's ministry just brings the Word of God.


  9. Glen

    Hey guys,

    I really liked what the husband said in the conversation above - "We get it every week, it's called church." The more we pray for and expect Christ to teach us through His word Sunday by Sunday, the more I think we'll be alert to the challenges He's bringing in our local congregation. Get topped up at conferences and online by all means - but your primary input is your local church.

    Frankly the conference speaker has it easy - they pick one or two purple passages, collect together their best gags from the last 20 sermons, get surrounded by great music, bright lights, back-slapping commendations and then preach to people who are seeking God in a more concentrated way since they've come away specially for the week(end) and they've paid for the privilege so they're extra-expectant. Alastair was great at pointing away from himself and lifting up local church ministers - unfortunately some of the local church ministers themselves seemed a bit star-struck which was unhelpful.

  10. Hugh

    "Yes, but not every preacher is an Alistair Begg are they?"

    Her attitude is wrong. But the statement is correct.
    Alistair Begg [or other well known speaker] is different... conference speakers are often older, and from larger churches... which would give them a greater range of pastoral experience, it allows them more time to research, to study, to travel, to meet people all round the world.

    Pastors are called to teach there flocks...
    ...but surely there are some too who are called to teach pastors... and why not to bring local churches together to teach to larger groups... perhaps there are particular gifting for that task??

    I may be on the inside, but of the conferences I know, BBTB is one of the few that really seeks to serve the local churches in a way that others don't or can't.

  11. Glen

    Hey Hugh,

    Great job on the conference. There's definitely a place for conferences and extra-congregational top ups. BBTB did a great job of this and I thought Alastair was particularly helpful in pointing us away from personality cults. And I think it was right that he did.

    I think conferences need to go the extra mile to underline the importance of local church - and you're right BBTB integrates local church in a way I haven't seen anywhere else. But as the comments from behind me underline - even when the very opposite is proclaimed by the big name, the take home message from the audience is 'only the big names can do the job!'.

    This is not about BBTB as opposed to any other conference, and it's not anti-conferences at all - there's definitely a place. It's just flagging up the dangers that everyone knows are there. And what's fascinating is that even when the conference goes out of its way to counter-act it, the problem persists.

    Anyway - once again: good job!

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