2012 marks the 5th consecutive year that I’ve attended the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches (ARBCA) General Assembly. This year we are gathering in Chickopee, Massachusetts. I am thankful to be a pastor of an ARBCA member church, and I am grateful for the opportunity to not only partner with, but see other ARBCA pastors each year. As I think about what I’m most thankful for each year, 7 specific items come to mind:
1. Encouragement and Challenge
Every year, I am reminded how sinful I am, how gracious God is, how great a Savior I have, and how God has given us godly examples to follow. While we accomplish many wonderful things at our General Assembly, the best part of our gathering is the fellowship. I am always stirred up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25), and challenged to pursue godliness and righteousness more fervently. The fire for ministry needs to be stoked every now and then, and being around like-minded men whom I can only hope to be half as godly as, has a great way of making the coals burn brighter.
2. Reminders of our Global Task
One of the primary reasons Ephesus Church is associated with ARBCA is because of the opportunity it provides us to be involved in the global missionary task in a way that we are not able to do on our own. I am grateful for the opportunity to be reminded each year that we are responsible for bringing the gospel to the nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and hearing and seeing how that is being accomplished through the support of member churches.
3. Christ-Centered Preaching
Each day of the General Assembly is packed with devotions and sermons that are thoroughly Christ-Centered. I need the constant reminder that Christ is my righteousness, and I am thankful to hear faithful men preach the Word with passion and clarity. Every General Assembly I have attended has made me a better preacher. When I was learning to play jazz piano, every teacher I studied under reminded me, “Jazz is a language, and the only way to really learn it is to hear it regularly.” Preaching is a language, and if I want to do it well, I need to hear it often – and it certainly helps that it’s good!
4. Unhurried Prayer
I am reminded at each General Assembly that I am surrounded by faithful men of prayer. I am thankful for the extended times of prayer when we are able to join our hearts together in seeking the Lord for continued faithful ministry, perseverance, greater affections for Jesus, progress in our gospel spreading efforts, and a growing love and unity with one another.
5. Fraternal Unity
For now, I am officially the youngest pastor of an ARBCA member church at the ripe age of 30, but the men of the association consider me a peer, are genuinely interested in my ministry, and encourage me in incredible ways. It is not lost on me that many of these men were pastors before I was born, and their collective wisdom is a tremendous help. There is a unity among the ARBCA pastors that is rare, and I am grateful to be right in the middle of it. We are serious about the Lord and what He is doing to build His church, and we are serious about having a good time together – I laugh and weep during the GA more than most weeks of my life.
6. Hearing About God’s Work
Missionaries are busy, churches are being planted, and established churches are growing in faith and numbers. Christ is building His church around faithful preaching and serious worship all throughout the world (Matthew 16:18). The ARBCA General Assembly gives us opportunity to hear what God is doing in and through His church, and provides us the opportunity to hear directly from those who are in the middle of the work.
I can always count on Michael Gaydosh from Solid Ground Christian Books to have a large selection of reformed books at low prices. Pastors love books, and I’m no exception. I’m thankful for the availability of these wonderful resources.
(By: Nick Kennicott)