A Special Gathering of Serious Joy


I attended my first Desiring God Conference for Pastors two decades ago with a group of pastors and students from my church in Illinois. The 2004 conference theme was Money, Ministry, and the Magnificence of Christ, with messages from John Piper, Randy Alcorn, Dwight Perry, and the late George Verwer. It was a time of God-centered worship, Bible-saturated messages, and soul-stirring fellowship with friends. I returned the next year for the 2005 conference (This is My Beloved Son!), and seven months later I moved to the Twin Cities to begin seminary studies at The Bethlehem Institute. I have attended nearly every subsequent Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, and over the years these gatherings have been a rich blessing to my soul and my ministry. Let me share with you seven reasons why I’m excited about the upcoming Serious Joy conference and why you should consider joining us at the Saint Paul RiverCentre January 29–31.

Focus: I love this year’s conference theme: I Will Build My Church: Christ’s Promise for His People. We need to be reminded that Christ is unshakably committed to His Church, which is not a building but a people saved by Jesus’s blood and set apart for His purposes. This theme is rooted in Christ’s undying promise in Matthew 16:18: “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Worship: Pastor Chuck Steddom and his team will once again lead us in powerful sessions of corporate worship. Our heads and hearts will be stirred as we sing glorious truths about our great God, for “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). We will also have an extended time of corporate prayer and worship on Tuesday afternoon for the Let the Nations Be Glad prayer gathering.

Exposition: Six plenary speakers will unfold the Bible’s foundational teaching about the Church and why it matters for us today. Here’s the lineup of messages:

  • Michael Reeves, The Lord of the Church
  • Lewis Guest, IV, The Nature of the Church
  • David Mathis, The Priority of the Church
  • John Piper, The Leaders of the Church
  • Jonathan Leeman, The Goodness of the Church
  • Steven Lee, The Mission of the Church

The conference host, Dr. Jared Compton, will also facilitate a panel discussion on Perseverance in the Church to offer biblical wisdom and practical counsel for weary pastors facing criticism, discouragement, and difficulties in their congregations.

Workshops: We have five outstanding workshop tracks on Monday afternoon of the conference, sponsored by some of our most trusted ministry partners. Attendees can choose from the following options:

  • Campus at the Conference: Biblical Theology for Preaching, sponsored by Bethlehem College and Seminary
  • Engaging the Global Church, sponsored by Training Leaders International
  • Planting and Revitalizing Churches, sponsored by Treasuring Christ Together Network
  • Preparing to Pastor Souls, sponsored by Desiring God
  • Pastoring Healthy Churches, sponsored by 9Marks

Fellowship: Each year I look forward to meaningful conversations with many old and new friends at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors. The Bible says that Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God (1 Samuel 23:16). I pray that sort of Godward soul-strengthening happens for hundreds of attendees as they intercede for one another in the prayer room, encourage each other over good meals, share stories from the trenches of ministry with fellow pastors, and sing side-by-side with like-minded believers.

Books: The good folks at Westminster Bookstore will once again run our conference bookstore, which will be stocked with a curated list of well-priced titles from many authors, including plenary speakers John Piper, Michael Reeves, Jonathan Leeman, and David Mathis. So leave plenty of room in your suitcase and take time to peruse the bookstore to pick up that new ESV Bible, Romans commentary, systematic theology, Puritan paperback, missionary biography, or book on Christian ministry.

Connections: Serious Joy is a great occasion to make new connections with representatives from Bethlehem College and Seminary, Crossway, and many other outstanding organizations who will be in the exhibit hall and would love to meet you.

Please pray for God’s favor on the upcoming Serious Joy: The 36th Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, and make plans to attend January 29–31. More details and registration information is available online.

Brian Tabb, Ph.D.
Interim President and Professor of Biblical Studies