Probably my favorite statement about Biblical manhood comes from John Piper’s classic book, Desiring God:
A famous cigarette billboard pictures a curly-headed, bronze-faced, muscular macho with a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth. The sign says, “Where a man belongs.” That is a lie. Where a man belongs is at the bedside of his children, leading in devotion and prayer. Where a man belongs is leading his family to the house of God. Where a man belongs is up early and alone with God seeking vision and direction for the family.
Unfortunately, many men are ill equipped to engage in such a task. The problem is not even that they don’t want to engage in leading and shepherding the family; they just don’t know how.
If you are a man, and want to have a more vibrant spiritual life and be encouraged and equipped to be a more godly leader in your home to your wife and children (even grown children), may I make a suggestion? Consider attending with other men from GBC the Shepherds’ Conference this coming March. While the conference is designed ultimately for pastors and church leaders, as Jonathan Edwards noted, every man is the pastor and shepherd of his own family. So where better to learn how to lead a family than from those who lead a church well.
Now you may wonder, “We’ve sent men to this conference for several years. Why do we keep returning?” Here are a few reasons why it has become a “must” for me:
- Excellent preaching. The men you will hear preach (John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, Al Mohler, Tom Pennington, and others) are among the finest preachers in our country. But the value of the conference is more than just hearing another good sermon. It’s hearing their passion for Christ. It’s interacting with other men who have just heard the same message and are responding to conviction, encouragement, and challenge. Rarely will you hear so many challenging messages and have such a good opportunity to interact with others at a personal level about what you have just heard.
- Christ-exalting worship. You will not only hear worshipful sermons, but will also participate in worship by singing music that lifts up Christ’s name; you will hear others perform good music well; you will hear Scripture read with excellence; and you will pray corporately prayers that boldly go to the throne of grace.
- Encouraging fellowship. The value of the conference is not just what is provided at the conference, but the interaction with other men. You will engage with other men from other parts of the country who have the same heart for Christ that you have and that you are pursuing. You will get to know men in this church body much more significantly as you share meals and car rides and hotel rooms and airplane flights for several days. It will open doors of opportunity to pray with one another and encourage one another — in other words, real fellowship.
- Time with other men. The one primary impediment to deeper relationships is time. We don’t typically have (or don’t take) the time necessary to build into relationships. During this week, the one commodity you will have more than anything else is time to be with other men. And the relationships that are developed through the time spent together is generally one of the best parts of the conference.
- Stimulating books. Not only will they give you a stack of books to take home, but you will be exposed to many good books that will stimulate your heart to follow Christ.
So why do we keep returning to this conference? And why do we believe that it would be good for every man in this church body to attend? Because we believe it is one of the best means to initiating training with men and equipping them to lead their families out of the overflow of their own growing walk with and love for Jesus Christ.