Fellowship is such a sweet grace of God on this earth. It is one of the reasons that makes Shepherds’ Conference so special. I’d like to focus this blog on the different “types” of fellowship I got to experience while at the conference. Regrettably, I did not take any pictures of these brothers because I was so busy enjoying our time together! Nonetheless, here are my joyful experiences of fellowship from the conference.
Fellowship with Local Church Members. First, I have to begin with the local church members who were able to make the drive out to GCC for the evening services. A few of our men were able to get off work early and drive out on both Wednesday night and Friday night. It is always a blessing to share an experience like Shepherds’ Conference with my fellow local church brethren.
Fellowship with Lifetime Friend(s). The phrase “lifetime friend” may be a misnomer, but I can’t really think of a better way to put it. At the conference, I was able to spend time with a brother that has been part of my spiritual life since my conversion. We had served together in two different local churches, but due to life circumstances are only able to see each other on occasion. This man is a spiritual giant in my eyes and I am blessed by the example he’s set before me. It has always been a blessing to spend time with him.
Fellowship with Sister Church Members. As part of a denomination, we had quite a few people at the conference that I see on a semi-regular basis because of our denominational affiliation. It is a blessing to see these brothers (and some sisters who came for the evening sessions) during the conference. The added sense of like-mindedness is encouraging for myself. It adds layers of discussion and deepens our relationship as we partner together for the sake of the gospel.
Fellowship with Other TMS Alumni. As a graduate of TMS, the Shepherds’ Conference can somewhat function as a reunion. Seminary was a special time in my life and the friendships I made while in seminary is one reason why it was so special. It was a blessing to catch up and see what the Lord is doing in their lives and ministry. Just a few years ago we were talking about writing papers and parsing verbs. Now, we catch up on family life and ministry. These brothers will always hold a special place in my life and I’m grateful for the Shepherds’ Conference because it brings us back together in a meaningful face-to-face relationship.
Fellowship with Like-Minded Brethren. There were several people I was privileged to meet solely because of the conference. I had heard of them and visited their churches when on vacation, but the conference allowed me to get to know these brothers on a more personal level. I was blessed to develop relationships with like-minded brothers who are faithfully ministering. The gospel is bigger than my local church, The Master’s Seminary, Grace Community Church, and any denomination. So, it’s always great to meet new people and develop friendships that are spiritually edifying.
The Context. One thing that needs to be said is the context of the conference. Shepherds’ Conference does such a great job providing the necessities for which this fellowship takes place. They provide breakfast, snacks (of all kinds), and lunch. There are countless examples of service with smiles that allowed the fellowship to take place. This allows conference attendees to simply focus on spending time with each other.
The Bottom Line. Granted, this may seem weird to “categorize” the fellowship, I think the bottom line and common denominator is love for Christ. Despite the different reasons we are connected, those reasons are entirely secondary to the gospel itself. The fellowship can only be so sweet because we are bound together by our love for Christ, His gospel, and His people.
As a Southern California local I look forward to this conference every year. I would encourage you to make time and save resources to attend. The preacher is great (but you can watch that online), the food is great, but the fellowship is so unique that it alone makes the conference worth the price of admission!