Twenty Canadian Reformed and 13 United Reformed pastors attended the Western Ministerial Conference (WMC), held from Tuesday through Thursday, November 1-3, 2011. For the third sequential year, the WMC was held at Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center in Sumas, WA, a beautiful venue near Mt. Baker. Most pastors brought their wives; a few also took along newborn infants.
Conference speakers were Rev. Alan Strange, Associate Professor of Church History at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and Dr. Christine van Halen-Faber, Principal and Dean of Students at Covenant Canadian Reformed Teachers College.
Rev. Strange delivered four lectures on the “Privilege of Ministry.” He spoke Tuesday evening about the “Privilege of Pardon,” by looking at 1 Timothy 1:12-17. Believers fail to appreciate our identity in Christ if we are not profoundly aware of our nature apart from Him. Rev. Strange concluded by showing that Paul’s doxology demonstrated his awareness of how little he deserved God’s grace.
On Wednesday morning, Rev. Strange lectured on the “Privilege of Preaching” by examining 1 Thessalonians 2:1-17, which describes preaching as “the word of God which is at work in you who believe.” He spoke of preaching as a “divine act” in which God gives a “mouth to the preacher and ears to the hearers,” working through the Spirit to create and strengthen faith. He stressed that the preacher’s life ought to demonstrate the truth of what he proclaims.
In his third lecture, which took place later on Wednesday morning, Rev. Strange spoke on the “Privilege of Prayer,” based on Acts 6:1-4.
“Rev. Strange said that prayer is what drives all the other means of grace,” Rev. Ralph Pontier (Emmanuel URC; Neerlandia, AB) wrote in a report to his congregation. “If the Spirit does not make effectual the means of grace, then nothing happens. Grace does not work automatically or mechanically, by going through certain motions or rituals.”
“He described Calvin as the theologian of the Holy Spirit who showed how the Spirit makes real in our lives the work of Christ,” continued Rev. Pontier. “We need to be people of prayer as we have not been…. If you do not feel like praying, you should pray that you will want to pray, and that you will see the need to pray.”
In his final lecture on Wednesday evening, Rev. Strange spoke on the “Privilege of Pastoring.” The account of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, found in John 13:1-20, shows the pastor’s calling to serve others in humility. Pastors are to humble themselves and minister to the needs of others with unconditional love.
“If we don’t practice and demonstrate unconditional love,” Rev. Strange said, “we deny election, which is unconditional love.”
Dr. Halen-Faber spoke about the minister’s important role in catechism instruction during her Thursday lecture “Teaching and Reaching: Pastor as Pedagogue.” She stressed the need for instructors to become acquainted with their students and show an interest in their lives. Instructors ought to consider the three primary types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Dr. Helen-Faber encouraged instructors to take advantage of the first ten and last few minutes of class time, when attention is greatest.
She also reminisced about growing up in the manse as the oldest child of Dr. Jelle Faber, who pastored congregations in the Netherlands prior to serving as a professor at Hamilton Theological College (now Seminary) from 1969-1989.
On Thursday morning, men and women met separately for “book talks,” at which participants gave brief reading recommendations. Owners of the Logos 4 software also learned how to use the program more effectively for Bible study and sermon preparation.
“The best feature of the conference was the time together,” says Rev. Pontier. “Warm fellowship among like-minded colleagues in ministry is a great encouragement. There was also a half hour before breakfast on Wednesday and Thursday when about half the men met to pray for one another. Canadian Reformed and United Reformed experienced the reality that we are one in Christ and that we are all committed to bringing the same Reformed faith to a needy world around us.”
The above article was written by Glenda Mathes, based on information provided in a report by Rev. Ralph Pontier, and appeared on page 12 of the December 7, 2011 issue of Christian Renewal.