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‘Not man’s wisdom that saves’ says Mark Stocker at Birmingham Conference 2019

June 2019 | by John Armstrong

Timothy Nelson and Mark Stocker
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Ebenezer Chapel in Old Hill, Birmingham hosted this year’s Birmingham conference. Approximately 90 people gathered in March to hear Timothy Nelson (Ballynahinch), Mark Stocker (Southampton) and Tom Yates (Devizes).

The conference is arranged by the committee behind the Christian Worship hymnbook. Pastor John Thackway provided us with a history of this hymnbook and its associated ministries: the conference, the young people’s summer camps and a new January retreat.

Mr Nelson spoke on godly leadership: its importance and character of servanthood, acknowledgement of divine sovereignty and readiness to suffer. Mr Nelson called on us to pray for leaders to be raised up and to carefully watch for men with leadership potential. He also expounded four charges which Paul gave to Timothy, his headings being: conflict, colleagues, character and communication.

Mr Stocker spoke on ‘Lessons from Corinth’. He showed how Paul directed his readers to the gospel message and method. God has deliberately chosen to use a message and method that the natural man despises, showing that it is not the wisdom of man that saves. Although our preaching manner is important, we must rely on the Word and the Spirit alone.

Mr Stocker also expounded 1 Corinthians 3:5-17. The church is likened to a field, and although God’s servants plant and water, it must be God who gives increase. The church is also a building, a temple for God. Although we cannot create it, we can influence its development. We must be careful not to build with wood, hay and stubble – seeking numbers rather than true conversions, for example.

On the Friday evening, Mr Yates preached on the dying thief. Having described the wonderful change that came over that man, he concluded with the question: which criminal are you like?

As in previous years, the men and women separated on the Friday afternoon. The men’s fellowship was led by Dewi Higham (Cardiff). A recent survey highlighted the biblical illiteracy of our generation, including among professing Christians. How should we respond? Points raised in the discussion included the need for compassion, winsomeness, doctrinal clarity and vital fellowship with God.

The ladies’ fellowship was led by Sue Stocker. She described the way God brought her to himself and has since led her.

The whole conference was most profitable and our thanks are due to the speakers, the catering team (who provided excellent meals) and our gracious God, from whom all blessings flow.

John Armstrong