On Thursday, March 2, 2017, Cairn University held its fifth annual Church Leaders’ Conference, focusing on the theme of “Handling a Hard Calling.” Leaders of local congregations came for a time of edification, connection, and encouragement. The conference featured keynote speaker Eric Redmond, a pastor at Calvary Memorial Church and professor at Moody Bible Institute, who led the two main sessions, “Courage in Ministry” and “Embracing the Call.” In between these two sessions, the conference also featured three parallel, small-group sessions held in classrooms.
During the first main session, Pastor Eric Redmond spoke on the courage to preserve the integrity of ministry amidst challenges and hostility. “Ministry challenges you down to the very core of manhood,” Redmond said, “to the fibers of your soul, to the makeup of your very being, to the constant nature of your tasks, and to the emotional fatigue as you identify with hurting and sinning members. These can all weigh a pastor down.”
Drawing from Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 4, Redmond challenged the audience maintain courage in the face of hardship and arduous labor. First, he commissioned leaders to conserve the truth of the gospel in a society that seeks to harmonize it with the values of modern culture. He warned against drawing people into the church in ways that watered down the gospel message. Rather than using the number of conversions to measure the spiritual success of ministry, Redmond urged them to look to the glory of Christ when few conversions occur. “If you think you’re doing the converting, you will lose heart,” he stated.
Redmond then told the audience to look to the power of God for sustenance in their affliction. In 2 Corinthians 4:7–12, Paul uses figurative language to describe ministers as weak, ordinary jars of clay and God as the treasure within that possesses an “all-surpassing power that is not from us” (v. 7). Lastly, Redmond reminded the audience to focus on the reward of Christ, which will make all present suffering and labor worthwhile. Second Corinthians reads, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all” (4:16-17).
After Redmond concluded the first session, “Courage in Ministry,” attendees were able to more intimately connect and collaborate during parallel sessions lead by instructors and lunch break. Afterward, Pastor Redmond gave his second keynote, “Embracing the Call.” Redmond further continued on the theme of courage in the context of answering callings in undesirable settings. Using the story of Paul’s abandonment and imprisonment in 2 Timothy 4:9–18, Redmond emphasized that the Lord “stood by his [Paul’s] side and gave him the strength so that through him the message might be fully proclaimed” (v. 17). The conference finally ended with a Q&A panel. Church leaders left with an impactful recognition of God as their sustainer and helper.