Some of my preaching and pastoral comrades have asked me over the past few days what has been my experience in Jacksonville on this past week at this recent preaching conference. While I am not a Preaching Conference Connoisseur, I can say I’ve had my share of the aforementioned. Hence, I wish to give my personal experience here.
With little kids, I’ve spent much of my time and resources in Florida, but this was my very first time in Jacksonville. Admittedly, I can be biased. I was introduced to H.B. Charles, Jr.’s preaching around in the year 2000. He and his brother, Kevin Willis, conducted a city-wide revival in my hometown and word quickly reached me in Dallas about both of these preaching giants. Around this same time, I was invited to preach at the Fairview Baptist Church, following Joe Carter, who had preached their youth revival for a number of years. H.B. is loved and adored at Fairview, preaching for years for their simultaneous revival in Oklahoma City. To say the least, whether in my hometown or at Fairview, I wanted to know who this guy was that people would either come up to me and ask if I knew him, or would say that there were some similarities between us both. Eventually, I heard him preach; and I was astounded by his amazing preaching gift and ability to proclaim God’s Word so clearly, freely and directly. At some point, the comparisons began to get on my nerves. First, I knew there was no way I was anywhere close to being a preacher of his caliber. Second, I insisted these folks were laughing at me behind my back. But over the past 7 or 8 years, those things don’t bother me; and I just absolutely love the ministry and person of Pastor H.B. Charles, Jr. As a consequence, I refused to miss this conference. I pastor a smaller congregation; and learned of the conference after I had budgeted for another conference that meets in July. I also had plans of attending Joel Gregory’s Proclaimer’s Place that meets each year in July. But when learning of the Cutting It Straight Expository Preaching Conference, I was already there. I was able to pull together my resources to attend the conference. It was just that important to me. And…I am glad I did!
The headquarter hotel for the conference was Omni Hotel, located in Downtown Jacksonville. Rates were fare. I’ve stayed at the Omni more times than I can can’t, including honeymoon; and know the quality of the ‘Omni Experience.’ While the service there was nothing to write home about, the presence of the Shiloh volunteers were outstanding! Their hospitality was second to none.
The conference began on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 around noon. Registration began that morning, where attendees were able to pick up their packets, badges and also go and receive their free resources for the day. These resources were supplied each day of the conference, and contained no less than 3 books as well as CD’s of the preaching of great expository messages. By day 2, if you paid pre-registration as I had, you had already received resources that exceeded your registration costs. I believe there was careful thought put into the registration process. I had no problems. The registration desk had to write me out a name tag; and asked me to return the next day for my printed label. When coming in the next day, it didn’t even cross my mind. However, a volunteer asked me to visit registration and my label was there for me. There was very close attention paid to detail the entire stay.
Let me jump to my favorite part… The conference itself. Pastor Charles was simply phenomenal as a host! From his greeting pastors and preachers around the campus, to his utilization of announcements, transparency, sharing, shaking hands, etc…. He was born to do this! If I am honest, the only thing I didn’t particularly care for was his leading the panel discussion on the final day. It wasn’t horrible; but I think it could have been handed off to someone else. So I guess that is my little critique.
All of the speakers were phenomenal. Ralph West was…..Ralph Douglas West! R. Albert Mohler gave a stellar lecture on the first day regarding expository preaching. His preaching seemed redundant and stale later that night, but I believe he did an okay job of reading and explaining the text. I am still fuzzy on his exhortation; but his exposition was clear to me. The second day of the conference, as well as the third and final, were on the cutting edge. The courses provided really dealt with preaching and the preacher. H.B. Charles, Jr. was in rare form; and Mac Brunson was simply epic. I finally had the opportunity to hear a new friend of mine, Romell Williams, who pastors the Lillydale Baptist Church in Chicago. I think his sermon, “The Ministry of Preaching” simply explained the what and why of preaching, and an exhortation to keep on proclaiming the gospel and Word of Christ. Maurice Watson was vintage.
Let me try to be clear: This was not a church-growth or pastor’s conference. This was a conference for the person who seeks to be an ‘expositor’ of God’s Word. Be that as it may, this conference encouraged me as a pastor to keep the main thing the main thing. Bryan Lorritts encouraged all ministers to live a life of integrity and demonstrate a character that pleases God, even behind closed doors. The time was well-spent in prayer, fellowship, meeting one another and training.
Pros: Price of Event, Strong Preaching, Insightful Sessions, Free Resources, Uplifting Worship Experiences, Free Lunches (on certain days), Experiencing the craft of preaching in a church setting, A strict emphasis on the Preaching craft, excellent Shiloh volunteers and staff who clearly have a heart for ministry, their pastor’s vision and the guest experience
Cons: Hotel commute (while this is a downside, I hope this does not change! I love being in the church environment), Conference ending on Friday evening…harder for travel. I didn’t particularly care for the fact that they didn’t have a book signing for Pastor Charles and his new book. Honestly, I wish I had more to say in this category, but I do not.
Additional Observations: This is not a conference that acknowledges women in preaching ministry. Respectively, while Pastor Charles’ views are clear, I don’t believe a woman should feel that she is not welcome. I think this conference would help all persons; but do not be taken aback by this. Be that as it may, there was a course conducted for minister’s wives; and I am told there are plans to expand this at the next conference.
The volunteer staff was just phenomenal. And hats off to all of the staff, including Nicole Clark, Daniel Beckwith, Marcellus March, Cameron Triggs and his wife and Joe Pace. These guys made it happen!
The conference is scheduled for next year already and you can register NOW. The dates on the website (cutstraight.org) are listed as September 23-25, 2015, but I believe the dates will be moved one day ahead to make those days Tuesday thru Thursday.
In short, the conference’s name simply describes the sum and scope of the conference.
I’d love to see in the future more interaction with ministers via social media during conference, and also adding maybe a course that walks through either dissecting a right/wrong sermon model as well as a possible course on the actual delivery of the sermon.
Final Note: In no way, did this conference look like it was a first for H.B. Charles, Jr., the staff, volunteers or the Shiloh Church. That aside, I’m glad to say I attended the first. And I suspect this is simply a sign of greater things to come!
If you attended the conference, I’d love to know your thoughts and experience. If you are a minister or a pastor, and have been blessed by the conference or wish to be an encouragement to the ministry of Pastor Charles or Shiloh, please visit his blog at http://www.hbcharlesjr.org and click ‘Contact HBC2’ and leave your encouragements there. Also, please take a moment to subscribe to my blog. Blessings!