December 16, 2017

Reaction to the Gospel Proclaimed Conference

The Gospel Proclaimed Conference was held in Chandler, AZ last week, hosted by Pastor Mike Sproul and Tri-Cities Baptist Church. The conference was a unique gathering of fundamentalist Baptists, representing several different groups among that group who do not see every issue identically. Thus this gathering held more interest than most. How would it go over? What would be the result? What good would it do?

We asked several attendees to give their personal opinions. These are the immediate reactions of these men; they are not representative of any organization or group they are affiliated with. We publish them for your interest.

Matt Recker, Heritage Baptist Church, New York, NY:

The Gospel Proclaimed Conference was advertised as “an historic gathering of independent Baptists.” We were called together to communicate with others regarding the practical challenges of faithfully communicating God’s truth in an ever changing world. As independent Baptist have experienced fracture and sometimes unease with others within our movement, this meeting brought together various college presidents, Mission board directors, and many pastors from around the nation to fellowship together in great matters of the faith in which we all agree.

Each speaker was tasked with a specific message beginning with “WHY?” Subjects included why are we a Baptist, a Pre-Tribulational and Pre-Millennialist, a Separatist, and others. This conference reinforced my faith as a dispensationalist by a great message on “Why Dispensationalism?” The session on “Why an Independent Congregationalist” sharpened my thinking on the importance of congregational government. I was moved to reignite practical soul winning in the message on “Why Salvation-Centered Missions.” The workshops were outstanding. By attending “Reaching Millennials” I am being led to reach out more intentionally to some of the college age millennials in our church body. Another workshop gave the historical background of our Baptist heritage and validated our goal in this meeting to call for unity among independent Baptists. Each message was well prepared and proclaimed with humility and compassion, meeting its objective. The final messages on separation and fulfilling the Great Commission convicted my soul as one speaker proclaimed, “If we are going to fulfill the Lord’s commission we must with equal passion evangelize the lost and disciple the saved. This will turn your world upside down!” Finally, the conference deepened my appreciation for the fellowship we can have with like-minded men who contend for the faith. I look forward to a follow-up to this conference in three years.

Greg Linscott, First Baptist Church, Marshall, MN

No conference is ever perfect… but I was very encouraged by how this one played out. It was a blessing to get representatives from various independent Baptist streams together, and to see evidences of relationships formed or being strengthened. Steve Pettit made the observation this week that in the past, it seemed like these various independent Baptist groups were like pieces of the same pie… distinct from one another, and some closer to each other than others, but all touching together at the points in the center. He likened today’s scenario to everyone’s pieces being on different plates. I think that The Gospel Proclaimed: Christ’s Timeless Truth in the 21st Century will help in getting those pieces back in the pan. Thanks, Mike Sproul, for your efforts, and for mobilizing the members of Tri-City Baptist Church to host this important and beneficial meeting.

In response to a question along these lines, “What’s the point of another conference?” Greg added:

I personally would say [the value of] this event was not just about content, any more than going to church is just about the preaching… This conference helped to network people (or strengthen those ties) between people who can advance things like missions efforts, or education, or even increase familiarity to help connect potential pastors with churches. Associations like the GARBC – General Association of Regular Baptist Churches or the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International, or alumni groups of schools help facilitate those things… but there does need to be cross-pollination between these generally like-minded groups. This conference began to address that need.

[Many pastors benefit] from [local] interaction [in local fellowship meetings]… If we all relied on local networking, would [ministry] look the same today? These relationships need some degree of maintenance and environments in which they are encouraged and nurtured. Conferences like this are certainly not the only way, but they do contribute to that kind of thing.

Don Johnson, Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC Canada

My observation is only partial since, due to my schedule, I was only able to attend the last half of the conference. All reports concerning the messages I missed were along the lines of “You should have heard ‘Preacher X’ yesterday!” It sounds like all the preaching was outstanding and the messages I heard were definitely well worth the time. I would encourage anyone who missed the conference to access the conference video and listen to some of the messages.

The conference brought together men from branches of the fundamental Baptist family who do not always cross paths. This connection is healthy. It is good to hear from these men. I particularly was blessed to see and hear a long-time friend, Jim Tillotson, now president of Faith Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Ankenny, Iowa. Many of my friends from other circles had their first introduction to him at this meeting. The Lord used him to build an unusually strong church in Edmonton, Alberta (my home town). It is very helpful for others to see and hear about both his current ministry and his former ministry. Much can be learned from men like Jim. There were others on the platform during this conference that I had not heard before. I can certainly profit from their ministry.

All that is to the good. However, with respect to networking across “party lines,” I think we all tend to congregate with our friends. My first thought was to look for and greet those I already knew. I was pleased to meet some with whom I’ve only had an online acquaintance (see Greg Linscott above), but I have to say the format allowed me to follow my natural inclinations too easily. Perhaps some workshops could be designed as panels with men from different groups leading so that interaction could be more purposeful. I don’t think you can force interaction, but perhaps means could be devised to facilitate it.

Finally, as an attempt to connect various groups within Baptist fundamentalism, I think the conference was a moderate success. There is talk of holding another such conference in three years. Time will tell if that effort will be successful. I wonder, however, if a conference simply for the sake of “getting together” is needful –- most of the organizations, schools, mission boards and fellowships represented have their own regular meetings and programs. Their meetings drive their ministries, designed to accomplish a specific ministry purpose. Can a more general “unity” conference accomplish much more than good feelings? Is it necessary to sponsor such a meeting on a recurring basis, or even as frequently as on a triennial schedule?

Having said that, I was blessed by the preaching and fellowship at this meeting and trust those who “tune in” late via internet streaming will share some of that blessing.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

Submit other comments here.