The preachers in the opening session of the 2022 IBSA Pastors Conference sounded similar notes, although organizers said it wasn’t planned that way. “We didn’t plan a one-two gut punch,” Vice President Jonathan Davis of Delta Church said, crediting God for the messages that both addressed the strains of ministry and restoration that can be found in Christ.
Pastors Shayne Robinson of Waterloo and Daniel Chung of Chicago both confessed personal trials and failures as robbing them of joy. Robinson told the pastors gathered at Metro Community Church in Edwardsville about a head injury that continues to affect his cognitive abilities. Contrasting his injury with Paul’s thorn on the flesh, “it felt like a violent amputation, not a thorn,” he said, affecting his ability to remember and preach and to relate to others.
“I couldn’t open the Bible and read, couldn’t turn on the lights. I spent months on disability, hiding in a dark basement,” Robinson said. “My identity as a man, my hopes and dreams—all gone.”
And yet, he was able to find blessing, and eventually joy.
“This injury was one of the greatest blessings in my life—a broken head, a shattered memory. When you feel God has taken everything away from you, you are walking in darkness, utterly insecure, in these moments God is saying what he said in Matt 11: ‘Come to me.’
Robinson described the rest he found and the restoration of joy.
The theme for the meeting is “Unspeakable Joy” from 1 Peter 1:8. Conference President Belafae Johnson of Mascoutah chose the theme in hopes that pastors tried by and tired of Covid would be encouraged.
The church planter from Chicago described the 15 months his church met online as especially difficult. “I felt like I had prayed the unpardonable prayer during Covid,” he said. “‘Would you just let the finances dry up, let the people walk away?’ because I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. ‘Lord take it away.’”
The church lost its rental location, but the people stayed, and Chung experienced a deeper reality: God doesn’t judge pastors by the metrics.
Citing the baptism of Jesus, when God declares Jesus to be his beloved Son, Chung said security comes from union with Christ. “There is nothing in this world like union with Christ, the more we can feel it, the happier we are,” he said, quoting Charles Spurgeon. God’s pleasure in us doesn’t come from what we do for him, “that little cherry on top.”
In launching Church of the Beloved, the first Chicago plant Chung was engaged in, “We asked, What is the hardest thing to do in the Christian life?’ To truly believe that we are the beloved of God because of Christ alone—because we could do nothing to add or subtract to it.”
In that realization, there is joy.
Between sermons and worship sessions, Davis was elected President of the 2023 IBSA Pastors Conference.
New Orleans pastor Fred Luter is on the line-up for tonight, along with pastor Cam Triggs of Orlando, formerly an associate of H.B. Charles. Luter’s son, Chip, will preach tomorrow, as will Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church of O’Fallon.