2008 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors: Greg Livingstone

I just returned from the 2008 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors in Minneapolis.  The title of the conference was “The Pastor as Father and Son.”  My dad graciously paid my way and we enjoyed three intense days of biblical preaching, singing, and fellowship.

D. A. Carson was the keynote speaker and spoke three times on biblical themes of fatherhood and sonship in the Trinity, in the church, in the ministry, and in the home; John Piper preached his biographical sermon on his father Bill Piper; Crawford Loritts preached a tremendous and tremendously challenging sermon entitled “A Call to Courage” from Joshua 1; Gregg Harris gave a very insightful and practical early-morning seminar on parenting; and Frontiers founder Greg Livingstone sounded the call for missions to the unreached and the least-reached.  It was one of the best conferences I’ve attended, which seems shallow to say since I don’t have the time to communicate how powerfully the Lord impacted my heart and mind.

Since all I seem good for these days is to pass along quotes from people older and wiser than myself, here are some of my notes from Greg Livingstone.  I may pass along other thoughts from the conference as well, if there’s time.

  • Speaking to 1,300 pastors, I feel like a lion in a den full of Daniels.
     
  • If you have a young kid who’s been saved out of a rough background and wants to go do crazy things for the Lord, don’t balance him out too soon.  Often we try to get people balanced so soon that they become vanilla and never do anything for the Lord.  Don’t worry — life will balance him out soon enough.
        
  • I had the privilege of studying at L’Abri, and Francis Schaeffer once told me, “Greg, you’re not an intellectual, but I’m very fond of you.”
     
  • Some parental advice:  Be careful about the ones who don’t complain and who don’t communicate what’s going on inside.  If you don’t know what your kids are thinking, draw it out of them.
     
  • Our churches are full of emotional universalists.  They would sign a church statement saying that those who don’t rely on Christ’s sacrifice will go to hell, but they won’t share the gospel and will say things like, “My Jewish neighbor is a really nice person.”
     
  • Francis Schaeffer said, “If you can preach about hell without tears in your eyes, you don’t understand.”
     
  • Think about the ideal human father.  Is your practical view of God higher than that ideal human father?  For most of you, it’s not.
     
  • American men don’t become pioneer missionaries for two reasons.  First, fear of failure.  You’ve got to give people the freedom to fail.  Encourage them that if it doesn’t work, they’ve done something worth failing at.  Encourage them that you’ll be there with them when they feel like quitting.  Second, fear of who they’re going to have to work with.
     
  • There are 255 Muslim people groups over 100,000 in population where there are no Christians, no church, and no workers from any Christian agency.
     
  • Two things you can do for the unreached as a pastor and father even if you don’t go to the field: (1) pray for laborers (but be ready to be the answer to your own prayer); (2) train people to go out by being a spiritual father to them.

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