Three Reflections upon the Banner of Truth US Conference 2018

US_ministers_web_banner_2018_1As I pulled onto the historic Elizabethtown College campus in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, after my multi-day, 750+ mile journey, I was hit with an odd nervousness. I had signed up to attend the Banner of Truth conference on the mere knowledge of their reputation as a publishing company and the speakers who would set to address this gathering of pastors. I had no previous experience or companions to help me in this new environment, which led to a bit of aimless wandering as I sought directions towards registration and lodging.

At the end of my three day personal retreat at the Banner of Truth Conference, I walked away refreshed, encouraged and refocused on my calling to serve as a pastor. The three days included excellent preaching, reverent worship, new relationships and too many visits to the Banner of Truth bookstore.

I walked away with three personal reflections which highlighted the personal impact of this conference. These three reflections also serve as advertisements for others who are considering whether the Banner of Truth conference might be worth adding to their yearly calendar of conferences and seminars.

Preaching 

Banner of Truth is well known for its republication of classic Reformation and Protestant works. In a day of chronological snobbery and growing functional illiteracy, many classic Christian works which where treasured by the generations of the past are fading from memory. Banner of Truth is working to republish many of these works to ensure that they last for the generations to come.

Along the line of these classic works, the comment was regularly made by the conference speakers concerning the unique nature of this conference, which was a gathering of a particular group of people around a particular set of books. In the same stream of deep theological reflection and piercing pastoral application found in all of the Banner books, the preachers proclaimed the importance of the pastor as servants of Christ. Every message was gripping and pointed at the unique calling of the pastor as one who ministers in service to the church of Christ under Christ’s authority. The preachers examined the multiple perspectives on Scripture concerning the calling and requirements for serving as ministers.

There were two talks that I remember that particularly challenged and encouraged me: Alistair Begg’s second sermon of 1 Timothy 4 on Paul’s exhortation to Timothy and Dr. Mohler’s second sermon on John 15 on Jesus, his servant ministers and the world.

One can trust based upon the nature of the Banner books that the preaching will reflect the nature and depth of their published works at any conference one can attend.

Fellowship

The Banner of Truth conference has a different feel from many conferences pastors can attend today. Having attended conferences with over 10,000 attendees, it was quite different to see the first session gather with roughly 450 pastors. This greatly impacted the nature of the conference. Rather feeling like one individual in a sea of faces, I found myself regularly seeing and greeting the same people, whether in line for the salad bar or shoulder to shoulder looking at the newest Banner of Truth title. This led to many great interactions with different pastors and establishing new relationships with others in ministry. The conference intentionally focuses on helping pastors build relationships with others through shared boarding options, intentional breaks between talks and environments for fellowship instead of herding thousands of people in and out of large rooms and whisking away speakers to other engagements.

There was a unique unity in diversity at the conference. Everyone at the conference had a similar set of beliefs and convictions about ministry from the nature of the Banner of Truth books. Yet there was a great diversity in the education and denominational backgrounds with Presbyterians and Baptists from all across the country and the world. I was encouraged to see Baptist pastors serving in the Northeast area of the US and enjoyed meeting pastors from Ghana and Kenya who were preaching expositional sermons to their congregations and have been reading Banner of Truth books from before I was born. I established a great relationship with an older pastor who even encouragement me with the gift of a book and enjoyed discussing my theological heroes with a group of students and alumni from Westminster Theological Seminary.

The speakers even made themselves regularly available. They sat among the pastors under the preaching of the Word and were very approachable. One speaker made a passing comment which caught my attention which led a great extended interaction later that evening. In a day in which most pastors conferences are maxing out large facilities, it was encouraging and refreshing to be in an environment which supported relationships with other likeminded pastors across denominational lines.

Books

The bookstore was outright dangerous. Every title was discounted and first time visitors were granted the ability for a special “Book Room Tour” which culminated with a number of titles at steeply discounted prices. Every session began with at least three book recommendations, which meant many trips to the bookstore and many calls to my wife.

In discussing a few titles with one of the speakers, I made the mistake of ending our conversation by asking if the titles in my hands were good choices to reassure myself of the potential purchase.

“If they weren’t good books, they wouldn’t be out on the floor.”

Well said.

For anyone who is looking to build a theological library, it was very helpful to have the entire Banner of Truth catalog visible and available with the Banner of Truth staff floating around the bookstore to answer questions. First time guests will have the pleasure of the “Book Room Tour”, which lived up to the expectations set by the veteran Banner attenders concerning its discounts.

All in all, I left Pennsylvania rejuvenated and refocused for pastoral ministry. If you are looking for a pastors conference to attend with fantastic preaching, encouraging fellowship and excellent resources, I highly recommend marking your calendar for the next Banner of Truth Conference.


Jared Poulton (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church Dublin, in Dublin, GA. He is married to Kerry Poulton and they have two children, Riley and Oliver. Jared and Kerry are originally from South Carolina. You can follow Jared Poulton on twitter at @Jared_Poulton, or see his personal blog at @jspoulton.wordpress.com.

6 Thoughts For the Non-Traditional Seminary Student

photo-1521001873985-dbe43de9452eMany things about my seminary experience would fall into the category of “non-traditional.”

I remember receiving counsel at the beginning of my seminary education about starting slow.

“Consider three classes the equivalent of a full-time job.”

“If you are a full-time student, consider limiting your outside work to 25 hours a week.”

Well, the need to keep my full-time eligibility for my scholarships and to feed another hungry mouth who was born in my second semester threw my neat and clean, page-protected plan for seminary out the window.

Seminary for my family had its particular challenges. My wife and I moved to Louisville, KY to pursue a Master of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Fall of 2014. Three and a half years, 89 credit hours, two kids, two different full-time management jobs later I received my diploma.

My wife and I regularly make passing comments about how crazy the whole period was for our family and we are thankful that God sustained us through that exciting and challenging season. My busiest semester included 5 seminary classes, 40+ work weeks and the birth of our second child. It goes without saying that my wife is the MVP on my family’s roster.

Many people make comments about “principles for thriving in seminary”, such as the Gospel Coalition article “Your 4 Priorities in Seminary“. and I would heartily recommend a work such as “How to Stay a Christian in Seminary” by David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell. They all emphasize the priority of the local church, the family and a personal relationship with God, not just knowledge of Him.

But a non-traditional student, one who works a full-time or 30+ hour job and continues his or her education at a full-time or part-time pace, has their own particular challenges.

In addition to the great material that others have written about being successful in seminary, here are 6 thoughts I would recommend for the non-traditional seminary student:

Stretch your days, maximize time

Depending upon the type of job you work, if you are going to work full-time and study full-time at some point you are going to need an alarm clock.

The key to working full-time and studying full-time is efficiency; making the most of your time when you have time. For the 9-5er’s your study time is either nights, mornings or weekends. For the non-traditional worker such as the service industry, your study time is the inverse, either mornings, nights or weekends. But for anyone, get into the habit of setting that alarm clock and getting up early or staying up late and setting the alarm clock for work in the morning.

Everyone works differently and the needs of the family are different at different periods. While managing at Chick-fil-A, I ended up closing regularly and sometimes would accomplish assignments after an 11 pm close while my family was asleep. When I was with Starbucks, I got into the habit of waking up at either 4 or 5 am and studying before work or when the family got up for the day. If I had a later morning shift such as getting to work at 7 am, I would go in early and put in an hour of school before work.

Make sure to maximize the little seconds as well. Listening to lectures on drives, having Quizlet apps for language vocabulary, carrying a textbook or backpack with you wherever you go for that 20-minute lunch break, you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in the little moments of your day.

Get a calendar and plan ahead

Before every semester I would pull out my calendar and write out all of my assignments and due dates. Then I would go to my work and plan out as far in advance I could my work responsibilities and add my weekly schedule. Then factor in family events, birthdays and date nights. Then I would go back through and see where potential conflicts or busy periods might make school or work complicated and plan to work on assignments differently.

Different industries have different peak periods. For food service, Holidays were really busy times. There were many black Friday’s I was preparing for exams and finishing up papers. If you are in sales or customer service, ask your boss what periods are particularly busy and when you might be expected to work more than normal. Do you have a busy work period around a major project that you might need to start earlier?

Also make sure you communicate with your professors far in advance if you are going to have to miss class for a work responsibility. They appreciate the heads up and can help give you the same material ahead of time.

Build good relationships with your employers

Most bosses do not care if you are in school, but they care if you are a good worker. I know when I was at Southern, many businesses for better or for worse had preconceptions of the seminary student. Some thought they were great, others not so much.

Never use seminary as an excuse to be lazy or call out of a job responsibility. Your work is your responsibility and how you are providing for yourself. If you have a job, God has called you to do it, and it reflects more than just you as a worker. Many people today have bad notions of seminaries and churches because of students who were bad workers for the 2 years they were in town.

If anything, reflect what you are learning by striving to be a good worker. If you are in a pinch for an assignment or have a last-minute thing come up, your boss is going to be much more willing to work with you if you have significantly contributed to their success as a business rather than if they cannot trust you as a worker.

Be strategic about classes and professors 

Many students do not know about the many ways classes are offered by their schools. For the non-traditional student, say goodbye to the four classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. A great thing about Southern was the variety of classes they offered such as modular-hybrid, online, block and evening classes. Some classes are full-term, others are half-term. Some classes you only need to be “in-class” for two days. The key is to plan out classes which fit well with your work schedule.

I would stack two three-hour block classes on top of each other on a Thursday afternoon so that I could work an 8-hour opening shift and be in class for 6 hours.

One semester I took 2 modular courses, 1 block course, 1 online course, and 1 regular (Tuesday/Thursday) course.

Also for the particularly disciplined, see if you can test out of any classes for credit. I would not recommend this for most people, but as I was heading towards the end of seminary and needed to take Hebrew, I knew it was going to be impossible to make sure that I was in class every week twice a week. So I bought the book, got some flashcards and plowed through Introduction to Hebrew and passed the test. The next semester I took Modular Hebrew Syntax and Exegesis and passed with an A-.

Again I would not recommend that for everyone, but know your options.

Also, relationships with professors are very important during seminary for many reasons. Many non-traditional students are not able to build great relationships with professors because of the nature of online or hybrid courses. So if you have a professor that you like try to take the same professor for multiple classes or shoot for smaller classes. My favorite class was a Puritanism class with four people. I did not know every professor, but I tried to be intentional with a couple of them.

Take Good Notes on Everything

If you are a non-traditional student, you most likely are not going to have as much free-mental space to absorb the content as much as others. There are some days you are not going to be able to give your full attention to a lecture.

But the time in the classroom is not the end of the seminary education. Take notes that you can return to later. Take great notes on lectures, notes on books that you want to return to later, conversations with professors or fellow students. Use Onenote or Evernote. If there is an idea you want to pursue but do not have the time, write it down and return to it later. Have a running dialogue or conversation in your textbooks.

You might not be able to process it all now, but make sure you at least write it down in a way that you can access later. I have organized all of my notes on Onenote and return to things from lectures regularly. I have read back through notes and made connections I never made in the moment.

Commit to Serve in the Local Church 

There is an analogy somewhere of a glass jar with big rock and small rocks. If you make the big rocks the priority, the little rocks will fit. If you do not prioritize the big rocks, they will not fit.

A big big rock is the local church. After a long week, Sunday can feel like a deserved day of rest. Many students can hesitate to participate in church, let alone serve. But the best way to balance a seminary education is with service in the local church. Serving is one of the best ways to get to know others in your church as well.

Step out. Put your name on that sign up sheet and let others make commitments for you. I bet they are looking for another hand in the nursery.

When in seminary I played guitar at church and helped in the nursery. There were many times in which I groggily plumped on the floor and played with one-year olds. But putting my name on a list and having people sign me up forced me to make service a priority.

Also do not underestimate the service of attendance in the local church. Many seminary students can become discouraged in wanting to serve in pastoral ministry but not seeing any doors opening up for them. I remember once at my church a pastor made a comment thanking me for my service of attendance. I stopped and asked him what he meant. He responded by saying that it is a service and encouragement to other Christians, particularly the leaders, to see members faithfully participating and attending services and events sponsored by the church. Do not underestimate what your presence and participating means to others.


One of the things non-traditional students need to accept is that they are not going to have the same experience as the regular student. Many days I slumped into the back of a 2 pm class having already worked 9 hours and burning off twelve shots of espresso, staring down 7 hours of lectures. When others were off to spend free-time in the library, I was running to my car in the middle of a lecture to put out fires at my store (sometimes literally).

Non-traditional students can easily become discouraged in comparing themselves to others. Their experience looks different than the traditional student. Jealousy and comparison are close and ready to take over your mind as you drive home after a long day of work and school.

For the non-traditional student, I’ve been there. I understand. But, don’t be discouraged. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. You have been given today to accomplish the task in front of you, whether you are working, studying or with your family. Do your best, pray, be faithful.

Remember God is calling you to be who he created and designed you to be, not your ideal version of what a seminary student should look like. Don’t get caught up in needing to be a pastor one day or getting the best grade in the class or on what you are not able to do. Be who he has called you to be. Focus on what he has given you to accomplish today, in loving your family, working your job and the privilege studying his Word. Be the non-traditional student he has called you to be and let Him take care of the rest.


Jared Poulton (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church Dublin, in Dublin, GA. He is married to Kerry Poulton and they have two children, Riley and Oliver. Jared and Kerry are originally from South Carolina. You can follow Jared Poulton on twitter at @Jared_Poulton, or see his personal blog at @jspoulton.wordpress.com.

Book Review: Reformation Worship

9781948130219_1500x1000c“The recovery of the gospel in the Reformation was ultimately a worship war–a war against the idols, a war for the pure worship of God.” (49)

“Reformation Worship”, a new title compiled by Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey, presents a fresh look at the liturgies of the Reformation period. As the true gospel was recovered in the preaching and theology of the Reformers in the face of the Roman Catholic Church, the Reformers across Europe applied these truths practically in Christian worship services. On the eve of the Reformation, gathered worship displayed Catholic theology. Mass in latin, altars for the sacrifice of the mass, the priestly vestures; everything communicated to the people in practice the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church.

As these Reformed pastor-theologians began to challenge the teaching of the church, it was only a matter of time before the battle moved into the practice of the church.

This volume offers a fresh look at the liturgies of many of the Reformation churches of Europe from 1523 to 1586 as well as commentary from Reformation leaders such as Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Cranmer and Knox to their churches explaining the changes from Scripture in contrast to their previous Catholic masses. Many of these liturgies are new translations for the first time in English. The work also begins with three chapters from the editors which outline a simple theology and history of Christian Worship in one of the clearest and best presentations one will find.

From a personal perspective, this volume helped bridge the gap between some of my experience and knowledge of the Reformation period. I spent a few years worshipping in the Anglican tradition and fell in love with the richness of the forms and doctrine. Everything about gathered worship felt different from the non-denominational, Charismatic or contemporary services which I had grown up in. But that experience seemed to stem from a different stream of Christian history than the rest of the Evangelicalism to which I had been exposed. It was interesting to see in reading this volume that what the Anglican or high church traditions currently practice on Sunday mornings was universally practiced by all of the Reformation churches. It has only been through church history that their practices have changed into what you find today in many churches which believe what the Reformers believed but did not practice what they practiced on Sunday mornings. Even chronologically, since the European Reformations preceded the English Reformations and much of the impact upon the Anglican tradition comes from Marian exiles seeing Reformation worship in places like Geneva, Basel and Zurich, the Anglican liturgies are heavily indebted to their European cousins.

At this point, you might be wondering what value a book which translated a bunch of old church bulletins has for the average Christian today. Gathered worship is for the glorification of God in Christ, the building up of the saints and a public witness to the world. The Reformers recovered this vision for Biblical worship. But in particular, the Reformers add two (but definitely not limited to two!) unique perspectives which challenge the church today:

First, Gathered worship is the most formative mean of personal of corporate growth in the Christian life. The practice of regularly gathering on Sunday mornings, week after week, month after month, year after year, has an inevitable impact on the formation of who you are, what you believe and how you live. Particularly because of the Christian and God-ward nature of corporate worship in the preaching of the Word, the praise of God, the edification of the saints, the effectiveness of formation in a Biblical direction is based upon the elements (or absence of elements) of a church service. This work shows how the truths recovered in the Reformation express themselves in the gathered service for those who are looking for a new Reformation in our day.

Second, Nothing in the church service is adiaphora or indifferent. Nothing in the church service is a throw away. Whatever happens when the church gathers from architecture to songs to solos to dress to order of service to prayer to lack of prayer to giving to motions to reading, everything not only is formative but communicates what is true and what is valuable for that particular church.

The worst thing would be for our churches today to be filled with many things that we are communicating to each other and the the world that we find valuable that God in his word does not find valuable.

Do we value prayer? Do we value God’s Word?

The worship services of the Reformers, what they did, honestly make most of our churches, in comparison to their services, look spiritually anemic. They recovered a biblical vision for the whole of Christian life and presented this glorious vision for their parishioners every Sunday.

“While the recovery of the true gospel sparked liturgical reforms, it was in fact the weekly impact of these reformed liturgies that carried this gospel back to the people and sent shock waves across the churches of the European mainland and the Atlantic Isles.” (26)

Now, the size of this book is a bit intimidating, but the wealth of spiritual insight and potential longterm impact of these ideas being reintroduced to today’s churches is incalculable. Every pastor and Christian will glean deep insights from this work which by God’s grace will hopefully impact the worship of God in Gospel-proclaiming churches for ages to come until Christ returns.

Interested in this book? Click the Link Below!

Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present

I received this book from New Growth Press in exchange for my honest review. Feel Free to visit their website to see excellent Gospel-Centered resources: www.newgrowthpress.com


Jared Poulton (MDiv, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Pastor of Children and Families at First Baptist Church Dublin, in Dublin, GA. He is married to Kerry Poulton and they have two children, Riley and Oliver. Jared and Kerry are originally from South Carolina. You can follow Jared Poulton on twitter at @Jared_Poulton, or see his personal blog at @jspoulton.wordpress.com.

Part 3: The Theology of the Book of the Twelve and Daniel, a Thematic Approach

By Billy Doolittle

twelveSeeing the restoration of Israel in the book of the twelve changes the tone of the books as the Lord displays both wrath and mercy. Ground zero of Israel’s restoration is Jerusalem and Mount Zion.  The people of Jerusalem, as referred to in Daniel and the book of the twelve, is the nation of Israel and Judah (Dan 9:7; Zech 8:22; 9:9; 12:5, 8, 10; 13:1).  The Lord sits in Jerusalem and speaks from the city (Joel 3:16) and it will endure forever (Joel 3:20). The seventy sevens from Daniel 9 details the restoration which will take place after the desolator comes and destroys it.  After it is desolated, the Lord will restore the city and rebuild it. Israel’s disobedience to the Lord causes the city’s destruction (Micah 3:12).  Here in the city, many will come, and the Lord tells them to take their farming tools and beat them into weapons so that a war may wage on the city fronts (Joel 3:10).   Continue reading “Part 3: The Theology of the Book of the Twelve and Daniel, a Thematic Approach”

Part 2: Theology of the Book of the Twelve and Daniel, a Thematic Approach

day of the LordBy Billy Doolittle

The day of the Lord appears as a thick darkness that covers the whole land with no sun and no moon (Amos 5:18), as famine and thirst (Amos 8:9), as the Lord splitting the earth and melting the hills (Hab 3:16), and the day will be bitter and mighty men will cry, a unique day in which the sun will not shine nor will it be dark, and it will not be cold or hot, but it will only be known to the Lord (Zech 14:6).  The day will be filled with anguish, distress, ruin, devastation, gloom, and then the trumpets will blast, and a battle with presume (Zeph 1:14-15). The day will be full of devastation and a day will contain punishment against all those who did evil in the land and those oppressed Israel.   Continue reading “Part 2: Theology of the Book of the Twelve and Daniel, a Thematic Approach”