For the last several years it has been my privilege to attend the Evangelical Theological Society, a group of mostly like-minded individuals made up of professors, pastors, authors, theologians and laypeople alike. It is at this gathering that I am able to wade into the tides of theology in order to examine just what is occupying the great basin of Christian thought, what is percolating up from the deep, what is churning at the peripheries, and what has pressed its way from the banks of orthodoxy.
Most of what is found rests easy upon my soul; some is a little out there, some even provocative, some just as well done without. But, as the culture continues to impinge upon the Church it is necessary to grind things out. To rightly divide. To safeguard the sheep. So, some of that needs to happen at these events, but most is God-honoring, challenging fare to the building up the body. The encouragement is delivered through hundreds of papers and presentations, through personal engagement and through entities promoting their agendas in the Exhibition Hall. All in all, a great and stimulating experience.
Here’s my point: In its 71st year of existence some 2800 people came together to speak about God. From all around the world. 2800! A benchmark number thus far. And, these kinds of conferences are taking place all over the world.
In a world of charlatans, false shepherds and wolves, there are still many genuine shepherds who care for, and want to get it right. We do need to be aware, and actively engaged in protecting orthodoxy and the sheep. Tides do change, they ebb and flow. They need to be attended to, held in check, held in order; Heresies and false teaching need to be held at bay. There is a very real battle taking place between truth and lies. Theology needs to be moderated at the local church level, and at the greater level of the global church.
I can’t help but think of the councils of old, convened to parse out elements of Scripture, to define and refine the understanding of the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Though this modern-day convergence does not have the gravitas of those councils, nor the cohesiveness, it still serves in much the same spirit and capacity – to clarify, train, encourage, challenge and grow.
In Jeremiah 3:15 God said, “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” God was prophesying over His people Israel that at some point He would send people to instruct them according to the desire of His heart, not through the distorted lenses of darkened hearts. May I again apply that promise upon God’s people in Christ; God sent apostles to connect the dots from the prophets, and God continues to provide faithful evangelists and pastor-teachers to continue the task of instruction and edification – to the good of the flock, and the glory of God.
People still do care. Pray for the shepherds.
People are still coming to the Lord. Pray for the Church.
God’s not done yet. Give glory to Him for His mercy endures forever.