One of the reasons I wanted to attend this year’s conference was to re-connect with men I have not seen in years. This value in this is difficult to describe. Spurgeon often remarked how the annual conference of those men who graduated from his pastor’s college was such a boon to his own soul. I think I know why - at least in part.
There is an aspect of the ministry that is quite lonesome – not in a mamby, pamby relational sense… but in a way that it is inherent to the ministry of the Word. The pastor is called to pour out his soul week by week. That is what so much of preaching is – and we love it. But there is a sense where a man stands alone in that task. As much as fellow elders stand alongside you, there is always an element of singularity in the ministry of the Word. A man studies and preaches alone – ultimately for God and before God. And it is a high honour. But it can be lonesome.
To be back in California and run into men who I trained with in seminary, to sit under the preaching of men that preached the same things to me 20 years ago, to sing the great hymns of the faith as part of a 3000 voice male choir… these things are all used of God to minister deep grace to a pastor’s heart.
But looking into the eyes of fellow shepherds, men who have given their lives to feed Jesus’ sheep, and to hear their testimony of God’s gracious (and oftentimes severe) dealings with them is a means of grace to me.
There is an intangible strengthening that takes place and for which I thank the Lord.