I spent most of last week in London, attending the annual EMA gathering. I have attended this event for almost twenty years and find it very beneficial. Three helpful aspects of it that repeat themselves are (1) meeting other ministers that I seldom see anywhere else; (2) listening to sermons and addresses geared towards aspects of ministerial life today; and (3) being able to spend time each evening applying what I have heard to my own situation and trying to come up with a preaching programme for the next few months.
The set of addresses that helped me most were the morning studies on the life of Samson by Rupert Bentley Taylor. Not only did he show how Samson was a man of faith selected by God to lead his people, but he also opened up lots of ideas in my mind for me to pursue as possible preaching subjects. So I hope that my preaching in the months ahead will be changed.
In addition, I am still thinking about one of John Piper's addresses in which he considered the role of the Holy Spirit in helping his people pray about issues concerning which they have no information (in Romans 8: 26-27, the Spirit intercedes for them according to his knowledge of the secret will of God, and this intercession reveals itself in their groanings). I found Piper's explanation of the Spirit's intercession compelling. Until I heard that address, I would have said that, in my prayer life, I worry more over the things about which I have no information than I do over the items about which I have some or ample information. It seems to me, now, that my prayers for people and issues about which I have no information are well taken care of, and that I should regard such groanings as not merely an expression of perplexity but also as a divine provison of effective prayer. The fact is, I am in the dark regarding most of what is going on around me and within me (story of my life, I have to say), so it is liberating to discover that the Spirit uses his perfect knowledge to more than make up for my weaknesses. So I hope that my praying will have been changed.
I appreciated all the talks I heard. But the issue remains: as as consequence of attending another conference, will I confer better to others about God and will I confer better to God about others? Time will tell.