What burden does a speaker have when he comes to a conference?
I am interested in the word “burden” in the title chosen for this article. From Moses to Malachi, God’s servants in the OT described the Word of God that was given to them for the people as a burden. The Levites bore the burden of the tabernacle and its furnishings. The ministry of the Word of God in our day can aptly be described as “a burden from the Lord.”
Purpose of a Conference
One or several assemblies convene a conference. The purpose of the elders is to gather believers together to hear the Word of God. This is a heavy responsibility that is laid on them. It is a “faithful and wise steward” who gives to the household “their portion of meat in due season” (Luke 12:42, KJV). It is the elders whom the Holy Spirit fits “to feed the church of God” (Acts 20:28, KJV). This accountability of the elders is toward the assembly where they are the guides. They must teach by example and word, and encourage godly, gifted men who are able to feed God’s people. Elders are responsible for all that is taught in the local assembly and at a conference. They must give account if the ministry is unprofitable (Heb 13:17). All who share in preaching or teaching must be submissive to elders.
Preparing to Hear
All who bear the burden of a conference must realize that each of us is also a hearer. We need an open ear, mind, and heart to hear God speak to us. His Word will increase our faith (Rom 10:17); it will edify, exhort, and comfort (1Cor 14:3). This is the building up, stirring up, and cheering up of saints. We must hear God speaking to our hearts in our personal lives before we are ready to hear His voice in the collective company. It is good to meet other believers and for young people to find people in their peer group who love the Lord Jesus and His Word, but hearing the voice of God should be primary.
Preparing to Speak
The ministry of Christ in all the glories and beauties of His Person and work must be out of a heart that is full of Christ. No man can feed others who has not been fed personally. We should not study the Word of God just to preach or teach it. When Paul wrote to Timothy about the words that he had learned from Paul and was to commit to faithful men (2Tim 2:2), he added, “The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things” (2:6-7, KJV). The speaker must have the message in him, but like Haggai, he must also be in the message (Haggai 1:13). There must also be a deep care for the blessing of the saints. Paul wrote of Timothy, “For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally (genuinely) care for your state” (Phil 2:20, KJV).
Preparing the Message
In the chapter sited above, Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Tim 2:15, KJV). If I attempt to teach others and have failed to diligently study the Word, this failure will be very evident. A speaker must come from the closet, but he must come from the study as well if he hopes to meet the needs of conference ministry. Nehemiah 8:8 (KJV) must ever be the standard of ministry, “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” There must be application, but first of all, we should aim at “giving the sense” of Scripture. All good application must have a foundation of good doctrine.
Men who know the burden of conference ministry have a deep concern to know what should be spoken and when. All that is taught must be scriptural and profitable, but we do believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 14:29-30). It is a deep exercise to be sensitive to His leading. I need to have the assurance that my message is in keeping with what has gone before, and that it meets a distinct need. God’s truth is unchanging, but audiences change, and it is a pattern in the NT that the message must be what the hearers need. Are there many young or new believers present? Are there many older ones? Is there a need for particular truth that has not been clearly taught or has been challenged or disobeyed? Do I rightly understand the value of godliness, experience, and gift in my brethren and give place to them? It is a good axiom that what will not keep was not likely worth giving.
It is possible to denounce the sins of all men in all ages and never touch on the sins of the present time. If ministry is not corrective, it is not according to NT teaching. As much as a third to a half of the Epistles are corrective in character. The ministry that exalts the Person of Christ is both heart-warming and practical. If the burden of the ministry is to be Christ-like, it will be correction that is given in a spirit of tenderness, with a genuine love for believers and a strong desire for their good and blessing. It will be given in the spirit of Galatians 6:1 (KJV), “considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.”
A Failure in Speaking
If we have a desire to have something unique, even clever, there is a danger of giving a “conference sermon” that is not a message from God. We have often failed to communicate basic truths and to teach much needed truths because we have thought such things are too familiar and rather ordinary. Do we take too much for granted? Is it not better to assume that many in the audience need plain, practical, heart-searching, conscience stirring ministry? We are failing to communicate truth if a number in the audience are not able to ingest or digest what is spoken.
Let us pray earnestly that conference times will be times of visitation from God, when believers will be taught and helped, and assemblies strengthened.