One of the blessings we like to stress about the FBFI is the word “fellowship”. Our Annual Meetings are a prime opportunity for fellowship, making new friends and connecting with old friends. I had that experience today, running into a friend I haven’t seen in a long, long time. He and I happened to sit in one of the workshops together. When we did the brief introductions of the participants I did a double-take … “I know that guy!” I thought. Sure enough, after the session we renewed a friendship and caught up on one another’s lives after years of service in widely divergent parts of the world. What a blessing.
Our speakers and workshop leaders are likewise offering great food for the soul. My only regret about the workshops is that I can’t attend all of them. I’ll offer highlights below of our main sessions and comment on the workshops I attended. Our morning speakers were Craig Hartman and Myron Houghton. Bob Jones III gave us the evening message.
Craig Hartman: The Kingdom before the New Testament
Dr. Hartman’s style is engaging and passionate. It is always a delight to hear him speak. His point in this message was simply this: the Jews of the first century expected a literal earthly kingdom to fulfill God’s promises in the Old Testament. The promises themselves specifically anticipate a literal earthly kingdom and Jewish people represented in the gospels clearly expected an earthly kingdom, even expressing such to Jesus himself. Jesus doesn’t attempt to correct their understanding, he replies to them as if the earthly kingdom is a given. We’ll have Dr. Harman’s message up on P&D as soon as it is available.
Myron Houghton: The Theology of the Kingdom
My first opportunity to hear Dr. Houghton. What a privilege! He is experiencing the troubles of age, using a walker to get to the platform, all in good humor. His message was simple, dealing with three theological issues concerning the kingdom. One: does “Kingdom of God” refer to a future, earthly kingdom? Two: are the Kingdom of heaven and Kingdom of God identical? and Three: does the term “Kingdom” ever refer to the present age in which God is working in and through the church? He mostly developed points one and three, but covered them all. I’ll let you listen to the audio to get his full message but his clear thinking and engaging preaching was helpful in bolstering my understanding of the theology.
Bob Jones III: The Kingdom in the New Testament
Dr. Bob gave us a comprehensive survey of the kingdom teaching that his disciples absorbed, beginning first with the announcement of the kingdom by John the Baptist and Christ himself, through the instructional material (offered mostly in Matthew and Luke) to the disciples, then their own advance of the kingdom in their preaching and teaching of the apostles. He closed in anticipation of the kingdom, looking forward to that glorious day when “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
I attended two out of a possible thirteen workshops. I’ll try to cover two more tomorrow.
Kevin Caldwell is a Michigan state trooper and pastor. He has an interesting background story, but his workshop wasn’t about his story but about Church Security. This is an issue that unfortunately must be addressed by churches today. We are thinking about things that we never used to have to cover in the past. I attended his introductory session where he raised the issue, listed possible factors in the lives of people that can lead to security issues in a church or other public gathering place. He offered practical suggestions for security. We hope to have more information from Kevin on P&D in the near future.
Bud Steadman is a good friend and the leader of the mission board I serve under. I attended his workshop on the history of Christian missions, “Understanding the Past, Looking to the Future”. The session was a brief survey of missions from the time of the Reformation to the present. As a subject of interest to me, I especially appreciated his session. There are errors that occurred in the past (and some still current in missions work) that hinder the effectiveness of missions. Further study of mission history would be a fruitful exercise for evaluating modern ministry.
The music and the spirit of this conference have been absolutely outstanding. Readers who weren’t able to attend this year ought to plan to attend the meeting next year. The time will be June 10-12, 2014, the location is TBA.
– Don Johnson