Dear fellow shepherds of God's people,
For over 20 years, we have assumed the foundation of Christian Hedonism at the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. But we have never focused on it. Until now. I thought it was time. Our theme for 2010 is
The Pastor, the People, and the Pursuit of Joy
The Apostolic Aim of Pastoral Ministry
At least twice, the apostle Paul sums up the goal of his ministry in the joy of his people. First, to the Corinthians:
"Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy." (2 Corinthians 1:24)
Second, to the Philippians:
I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith." (Philippians 1:25)
The pastoral implications of being "workers for your joy" are huge. I am still trying to figure them out and work them out after 30 years at this church.
I am eager to have Sam Storms help me. Sam has written extensively on the place of joy in biblical theology and in the Christian life. Sam and I have both drunk deeply at the fountain of Jonathan Edwards. That's one reason why I resonate so deeply with Sam's insights. He will give 3 keynote addresses.
Sam is pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City and President of Enjoying God Ministries. He has served for over 30 years in the pastoral ministry and taught theology at Wheaton College for 4 years. He's been married to Ann for over 37 years and has two grown daughters and two grandsons.
My prayer is that the man God has made Sam to be, and the messages God will give us through him, will make us more and more into the kind of pastors who serve "with joy and not with groaning" (Hebrews 13:17).
I am deeply thankful that Eric Mason was willing to come and be a part of the conference this year. He is the co-founder and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia. He serves on the boards of the Acts 29 Network and Reach Life Ministries and is an adjunct professor at Biblical Theological Seminary.
When I invited him I said,
When I heard your message on the credibility of the church at Advance 09 [in Durham, NC], I took note especially of the ending where "glory in the church" was the focus. We wear the God-gear for the world to see and go out and buy it (Matthew 13:44, my addition). I wondered to myself, How does Eric relate the pursuit of maximum joy in God to that gear? And specifically, How does he do it in his context? How does the pursuit of joy in God relate in your context to the things people need and enjoy?
He said yes, and I told him to do whatever he thought would be helpful for pastors under this general theme. I expect to be helped.
Every year, because Jesus lays claim on all the peoples, we bend our focus toward the unreached nations of the world. To help us do that this year, Bob Blincoe will tackle the theme of joy in the context of world missions.
I wrote to him and said,
You are a risk-taker and are bold to call others to risk their lives, not in the hobbies of skydiving and hang-gliding and ropeless mountain climbing, but in the proclamation of the gospel. I have heard you speak, and I am eager for you to open your heart for the Muslim world for these brothers.
I am thrilled that he said yes.
Biography of C.S. Lewis
My part will be a biographical study of C.S. Lewis. There is no one quite like him. He does so much good and gets some things so wrong. But mainly I love him and owe him more than I can say. He is in the top 5 dead people who have shaped the way I see and respond to the world. His autobiography is called Surprised by Joy. Not surprisingly, his life is hugely relevant to the conference theme.
With a theme like the pursuit of joy, I expect our corporate worship to be profoundly rich with great reasons for gladness in God. There are not many sounds I love more than your voices singing at the pastors' conference. We will pray for each other. We will reconnect with friends. We will lug home kilos of discounted books. And we will, I pray, leave empowered to live for the glory of Christ in the progress and joy of the faith of our people.
Eager to see you and worship with you,