The Tradition of the Pastors Conference Speakers Dinner

The pastors’ conference has become a tradition in the Piper family. Back in the days when the conference was small enough to be held in the Bethlehem church building, the sons who were homeschooled loved to hang out there. It didn’t take them long to figure out who the pastors were that enjoyed talking with kids and playing basketball during break. Oh yes, and there were killer snacks.

The big family event during conference is Tuesday evening when the speakers and their wives are invited to dinner at our house before the evening session. We’ve done this since the very first conference, because we wanted to give the speakers one time during the conference when they could visit with each other.

As hostess, I expect to enjoy the conversations going various directions while I move between the kitchen and my place at the table. But the year of the first conference, J. I. Packer was at my end of the table and we realized we enjoy the same kind of mystery novels—mostly by British women. Many visitors enjoy going upstairs to see my husband’s study, but Dr. Packer was the first who asked to see my library. Whenever our paths cross since then, he tosses out the name of another mystery author I should look for.

It would have been hard for children to grasp what a privilege it is to visit at the table with teachers, preachers, pastors, and missionaries, many of them respected around the world.

One year Abraham and Barnabas asked Greg Livingstone which countries he’d visited. Greg told them he’d give them a dollar for every country they named that he hadn’t visited. He was pretty impressed with all the names they knew, including Western Sahara. By the end of the evening, Abraham (middle-school aged) was ready to follow Greg to Afghanistan. He was miffed when Greg told him to stay home a few more years and finish his education. Over the next year or two, the boys received random, miniscule installments of rupees, dirhams, piastres, dinars, etc. Unless they’ve pardoned his debt, I think Greg still owes them. Or maybe the devaluation of the dollar has erased the deficit.

Barnabas remembers one meal seasoned with the two Scottish accents of Iain Murray and Alistair Begg. And there are rumors that C. J. Mahaney shook the house with his foot-stomping laughter.

These days, Talitha is our last child living at home. Like her brothers before her, she begs to skip school during the conference. This year, I will pick her up midday on Wednesday in time to hear her daddy’s presentation about her Opa. But otherwise, she has to maximize the evenings for volunteering and socializing.

Greg Livingstone’s here again this year. Get ready for Tuesday evening, Greg. Make sure Talitha finishes her education before you recruit her. And watch your wallet.

Noël Piper (@noelpiper) is wife of John Piper, mother of five, and grandmother of twelve. She is author of Treasuring God in Our Traditions.