Courageous Churchmen/Ekklesia Conference Review

I love watching football. As a kid, my dad and I spent most Saturdays in the fall at football stadiums. It may’ve been warmer, cozier, and drier on the couch, but dad made sure we felt the rush of the grandstands. I’ll never forget those chilly Saturdays cheering from the top of my lungs, draped in a poncho, hotdog in hand.

Often, however, we can approach discipleship in the local church in a cheering-from-the-grandstands manner. The church leadership is down on the field, running plays, doing the discipling. Meanwhile, many of the congregants attend and cheer a bit from the bleachers. But Scripture teaches a different approach (cf. Eph. 4:11-16). Instead, the congregation is to function more like the players, while the church leadership function both as coaches and players who equip other players. Put another way, discipleship in the local church is an all-hands-on-deck approach.

Cultivating a culture of discipleship can be one of the greater needs we face in the church. For these reasons and more, Grace Immanuel Bible Church recently held the Courageous Churchmen and Ekklesia Conferences in Jupiter, Florida.

The week began with the Courageous Churchmen conference, primarily geared towards church leadership. Attenders were shepherded through the various levels of grit involved in motivating church members to embrace the call to disciple others. Jerry Wragg upacked both the need and hindrances to discipleship. Why is discipleship needed in our churches? What does this look like? And why do we struggle at times to effectively disciple? What are some common fears in discipleship? In what church setting will discipleship flourish? These questions were addressed with an insight and depth beyond the norm.

Panel discussions and Q and A were sandwiched between the teaching sessions to help attendees digest the material and fill out any gaps. Todd Murray then refreshed us with a conference concert, “Singing the Psalms.”

The Courageous Churchmen and Ekklesia conference hospitality deserves mentioning. As in previous years, the GIBC staff and volunteers took us in as their very own. I felt like I was coming home all week. GIBC opened the conference with a filet mignon and jumbo shrimp, sit-down dinner, which would’ve cost more than the price of the conference. Meals and fellowship breaks peppered the event, giving us time to connect with others and flesh out the conference content.

The ending of Courageous Churchmen then marked the beginning of the ninth annual Ekklesia Conference. Eight speakers poured themselves out over nine sessions, covering the topic of sanctification. I cannot do justice to these sessions in a brief blogpost. The speakers addressed the topic with a depth and diversity well-needed in light of the widespread error on the topic today.

Jerry Wragg opened the conference with sermon on the role of faith in sanctification. Much of the error on the topic occurs here. To rely on emotions is to hinder sanctification. “The sensuous Christian can only rise to the level of his feelings.” Emotions much not supersede trusting and obeying. This was one of those sermons where every few sentences deserved a selah.

Matt Waymeyer then walked us through the process of biblical change from Romans 12:1-2. A discussion on sanctification cannot be separated from the idea of worship. Sanctification happens as we offer, not part, but the whole of ourselves to God in worship.

Rick Holland carefully guided attendees through the tension between justification and sanctification. This is not something we should assume that everyone grasps. From James 2, he clarified the difference, lest we make a catastrophic error.

In session four, Paul Shirley preached a messaged titled, “Sanctified by Sermons.” What is the role of preaching in sanctification? In a day where we prefer flattering and unthreatening sermons, this is a helpful word. Sermons serve as a means of grace.

Next up was a very helpful panel discussion. Speakers opened up personally as to how they work through progressive sanctification, while bring much-needed clarity to the issue of faith and emotions.

Smedly Yates walked us through the glories of Romans 6. The sermons purpose was to expose people to all of the beauty and wonder in the passage.

Paul Lamey brought wonderful clarity to the role of the law in believers’ lives today. What is the purpose of the law? Why do Christians need it, if at all? Is it beneficial? If so, how? There has simply been too much error on this topic, and unnecessarily so. This sermon stands out as an exception.

Phil Johnson guided us through the role of grace in the believer’s life from Titus 2:14. What is grace supposed to do once we are saved?

Jon Anderson then dealt with the inextricable link between sanctification and justification. The faith that justifies will always be the faith that sanctifies. God is that good. And, this side of heaven, we never graduate from the faith that saves us. We proceed on in transformation until glory.

If couldn’t make it this year, the sessions are available here and here.They are well-worth a listen for both leaders and laymen alike. And if you have yet to attend the conference, stay tuned to the Courageous Churchmen and Ekklesia websites for news on next years’ events.



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