The eighth annual Grace Baptist Partnership conference was held in August at the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire. ‘I walked a mile with sorrow – lessons learned in the school of personal difficulty’ was the challenging title.
All Christians are called to walk with sorrow and those who addressed the conference all had personal experiences of sorrow. But essentially, and quite powerfully, each man focused not on his own story, but on the Word of God.
Ali McLachlan (Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Edinburgh) opened the meetings with a helpful contrast from Genesis between the complaints of Jacob and the testimony of Joseph.
In two addresses, Andrew Roycroft (Pastor of Millisle Baptist Church, County Down) expounded parts of 2 Corinthians, showing first the realities of Paul’s sufferings and then setting out how his service and suffering worked in his ministry. It was a great comfort to be pointed to the resurrection and reminded that Paul was ‘visibly damaged, but eternally renewed’.
Regan King (Pastor of The Angel Church, Islington) brought us three thoughtful answers on how we can ‘count it all joy’ (James 1:2) when suffering trials.
Wale Akinrogunde (Pastor of Grace Church Walthamstow) illustrated both fiscally and physically the sufferings of godly Job, a man standing as a powerful example to us through his thanksgiving amid troubles.
Barry King (Pastor of Dunstable Baptist Church) closed the conference with a clear exposition of Psalm 130. He urged us to remember and act upon three words from the psalm: cry, wait, hope. He connected these with the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2, also explaining how the man’s presenting need was not his most pressing need.
Perhaps the most memorable ministry was the two evening messages from Dr Robert Smith Jr (Beeson Divinity School, Alabama). Without notes and standing beside the lectern, the animated Dr Smith held the attention of many a weary attendee as he elaborated (from Psalms 42 and 43) on how we can move from mourning to morning.
He gave four reasons why we go into the depths and then gave three ways of getting out of the depths – moving from silence, to sighing, to singing.
Somehow, time was also found for food, fellowship, profound and joyful praise, a scratch choir performance and a football match. These three days were a true tonic to my weary soul. This is a conference with a difference. Listen to the recordings, and next year – come!