It was yet another invitation to attend a conference on Reformed theology. My close friend, Rev. Bob Amon, was constantly encouraging me to take a closer look at the doctrines of grace, which Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and others believed. On numerous occasions, I told Bob that I had a firm grip on my faith and a satisfying relationship with Jesus, my Savior. There didn’t seem to be much value in reading the spiritual musings of a bunch of “dead white guys.”
Confidence in My Culture Did Not Lead to Conviction of Christ
I was the Chief Operations Officer and Associate Minister of one of the largest African American churches in our state. Surely there was nothing else I could be taught about Jesus, for I knew him. I’m a southerner by birth and raised predominately in Atlanta. Living in the Bible belt, in an African American family, leaves little room for atheistic or agnostic thoughts. Our very lives were surrounded by church events and fellowships. In fact, the church served as the center of our community. As I reflect upon this now, I see this was confidence in my culture, which never leads to a true conviction or commitment to Christ.
Meeting Jesus When I Thought I Already Knew Him
But Bob was relentless in sending email articles, giving brochures and sharing copies of Table Talk from Ligonier Ministries. In 2002, he invited me again to a conference held in Atlanta. It was sponsored by The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals called, “The Word: Getting It Right and Getting It Out.” This conference was specially aimed at African American pastors. And the speakers were all the people Bob had introduced me to through the materials—R.C. Sproul, Mark Dever, Ligon Ducan, Albert Molher and others.
Dr. Molher opened the one-hour Thursday session with an exposition of Romans 1-3. Words fail to describe my feeling during that hour as the truth of God’s Word rightly preached opened me up in ways like never before. With the skill of a heart surgeon, Dr. Molher took the Word and used it like a scalpel upon my heart. There were moments of great delight and great despair, as I came to understand the depth of my depravity and sin before a holy God.
When the sermon ended, I felt ashamed and naked before the hundreds of other attendees. Bob and some other minsters invited me to go to dinner with them, but I declined. I had to return to my room and search my Bible to see if Dr. Molher was correct in what he had shared. For if he was, then I was meeting Jesus, when I thought I already knew him.
Searching for Mitigation I Found Mercy Instead
For hours I toiled in the Scriptures, using my best commentaries. Tears soaked the pages of my biblical tools as I dug deeper to see if anything could mitigate what I had just heard. Bob came in after dinner and went promptly to bed sensing that something was happening in my spirit. I continued excavating God’s Word, not finding mitigation, but finding mercy the deeper I dug into Romans. Verses 9:14-18:
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Praise God I found his mercy that day. It was around 3 a.m. when I abruptly woke Bob to share with him. Though startled at first, he was gracious, smiled and quickly went back to sleep. So that one night, that one sermon, and that one preacher was used by God to change the direction of my ministry and I have not looked back.
My Passion Is to See This Happen in the Lives of Others
This encounter with God is the driving passion behind The Midwest Annual Reformation Conference (MARC 2014). This conference seeks to encourage and enlighten pastors and churches in the rediscovery of the apostolic teaching of the Bible, the orthodox doctrines of grace and to contend for the gospel, once for all delivered to the saints. We have a dual goal to reach African American pastors and churches in Indiana and it’s four bordering states. Our task is to remind this community of its Reformed heritage and historic roots among those who proclaim a pure gospel.
We are beginning this journey by presenting a conference that will define the distinctives of Reformed Theology and explain the “five points of Calvinism.” We are incredibly blessed to have three of the most sought after African American expositors coming to this inaugural conference – Rev. Anthony Carter, Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile and Rev. Ken Jones.
The conference is being held in Indianapolis, October 16-19, 2014. Registration is free! To register, go to newlife-indy.org and click on the MARC2014 tab. Register now as we are expecting this conference to fill up quickly. It’s my prayer that God will used this time to confirm or compel you into a deeper relationship with him.