Danny E. Olinger
On March 12, 2020, travel and events across the United States began to shut down because of the outbreak of COVID-19. This meant the cancellation of the Timothy Conference that was to start the next week for sixteen young men who had been nominated by sessions across the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). This was a hard blow, not only for the men who were going to attend, but also for the Committee on Christian Education that oversees the conference. The conference, with its aim of introducing gospel ministry in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church to young men ages sixteen to twenty-one, is annually one of the highlights for the CCE. Since its inauguration in 2008, more than two hundred men have attended the conference. Thirty have gone to study in a seminary, and fifteen have been ordained to gospel ministry in the OPC.
It was with rejoicing, then, that the CCE was able to hold the Timothy Conference again on April 20–23 in Escondido, California. Seventeen young men—including one who was originally to take part in the 2020 conference—from fifteen congregations in twelve different states participated. Joining the participants were CCE members David VanDrunen and Joel Fick, CCE General Secretary Danny Olinger, Timothy Conference coordinator Judy Alexander, and OPC ministers and speakers, David Crum, Christopher Hartshorn, Bryan Estelle, Zachary Keele, and John Fikkert.
On the first day, the students attended Dr. Estelle’s class on the prophetical books and were exposed to professor and students exegeting Isaiah 27 from the Hebrew text. Afterwards a Timothy Conference participant said that seeing and hearing the primary work on the Hebrew text was “inspiring,” a sentiment that other young men also shared.
Mr. Keele also stressed the importance of ministers learning the original languages of Greek and Hebrew in a talk with the young men. Memorably, he showed how the Greek text in Luke 8:38–39 reveals through its structure that Jesus is God. Mr. Crum, with thirty-nine years of missionary and pastoral experience, spoke on the topic of the office of minister. Dr. VanDrunen followed with a detailed explanation of the what and why of seminary education.
After these presentations, and a delicious lunch served by the members of Escondido OPC, everyone departed for a time of fellowship at the beach at Oceanside, California (see photo above). By this time, the bonds of fellowship among the recently gathered participants were already beginning to show. Laughter and conversations flowed as the young men enjoyed God’s creation. This fellowship continued with a return to the motel as many gathered in a room to sing psalms and hymns into the night.
The next day, everyone attended Dr. VanDrunen’s class on Reformed Confessions, the subject being chapters 17 and 18 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Mr. Fick then addressed the topic that the young men said they had the greatest interest in learning more about: discerning the call to the gospel ministry. Mr. Hartshorn, regional home missionary of the Presbytery of Southern California, then shared with the men helps and encouragements in preparing for ministry now. Mr. Fikkert introduced the Committee on Ministerial Care to the participants and also encouraged them with the importance of being a good listener. Mr. Olinger closed the session with a talk on the steps and examination process for becoming a minister in the OPC.
The group then departed for dinner and fellowship at the home of Gabriel and Erin Nave, members of Harvest OPC in San Marcos, California. In addition to many conversations sitting around the Nave’s patio, a rousing game of “Runaround” with Dr. A. Craig Troxel at the ping pong table also broke out. The night ended with a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the events of the past two days and for God’s blessing on the participants going forward.
Early Saturday morning, the first cars started to leave for the San Diego airport. Mr. Fick said, “I once again boarded the plane for home with thankfulness in my heart to the Lord for blessing our labors and praying that he would raise up from among these young men the next generation of faithful pastors for the OPC.” Dr. VanDrunen added, “We had a great group of young men who expressed serious interest in service to Christ and his church and who also developed a quick rapport with each other.”
Attendee Evan Wheat echoed Dr. VanDrunen’s comments about the fellowship: “On my trip to and from Escondido, I missed a flight, had a flight cancelled, and had a nap on the ground of the Phoenix airport. But I would experience all of those troubles again in a heartbeat if it meant being able to spend more time with the brothers in Christ I found at this year’s Timothy Conference!”
The author is general secretary of the Committee on Christian Education.
© 2022 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church