Some will recall that I blogged about a pastors’ conference with pastor-theologian Steven Lawson in New England in early April 2009. Here’s a report from the organizer, Dave Ricard, the man who runs the New England Center for Expository Preaching, an internship program that brings interns to preach in a variety of New England churches over several months. The report is powerful and gives a sense of the challenges New England churches face in our day.
Before we get to the report, I should note that the program has been very successful. A number of interns have been placed in churches through it. If you’re interested in pastoring in New England, check out this program, which is accredited through Southern Seminary, Southeastern Seminary, and others and is fast becoming a premier seminary internship. Dave is a good friend, and he’s doing great work for our Lord.
Here’s his conference report (edifying and encouraging!):
“Dr. Lawson challenged the men gathered at Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, NH to continue preaching the Word of God faithfully and in context. However, more was happening on April 6-7, than just another echo of “Famine in the Land” and “The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards.” Famished pastors were being nourished with the Living Word of God for two days instead of boring statistics or latest craze. Dr. Lawson was feeding the men who feed the flocks of New England, from passages that most knew by heart, but needed to hear again.
He stated: “Spiritually, New England is a barren wasteland of churches, most seeking the latest pragmatic fad.” In this darkness Dr. Lawson stated that “the best thing a pastor can do for his church is to meet with a few men and weekly;” to avoid the postmodern, post-Christian, neo-pagan, ear tickling “churches” that refuse to talk about hell even though many of their membership may be headed in that direction.
In contrast to this, Pastor Wells of IPBC was thanked over and over again for hosting NECEP – 2009. One bi-vocational pastor who approached him, said with tears in his eyes, that he simply could not afford to go to a national conference; yet here was one in his own back yard. Meanwhile, another pastor, also in tears, stated that he could not remember the last time he held a new book in his hands last, as he stood with books and audio recordings donated by Dr. Dever, Mohler, Sproul, MacArthur, Anyabwile, and Piper in his hands.
What happened at IPBC was more than Dr. Lawson once again delivering superb sermons to a congregation. At IPBC he was delivering the “Expositors’ Institute” to expository preaching pastors representing SBC, CB, IB, PCA, PCUSA, OPC, CCCC, Methodist, and Nondenominational churches, on their own turf, in New England.
Dr. Lawson was equipping saints to “press on” in the heat of the battle; to “Preach the Word” and never give up. Then, immediately after the last session, a church in attendance decided by a New England Center for Expository Preaching intern as their new pastor.
Three pastors drove from northern Vermont on Sunday to hear Dr. Steve Lawson speak at NECEP, spending the night in a local hotel on Monday and Tuesday so they could hear both days. One wrote back a moment ago saying: “We were so blessed by the conference that our wives say that we came back as different men. We have not stopped talking about it all week.”
Praise God for ministries like NECEP and conferences like this one, which was not hugely publicized but nonetheless served many pastors of New England with excellence. Check out the NECEP website, and please, pray for it and for the churches of New England as they confront a thoroughly post-Christian culture with the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel of salvation.