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Greening_inlineJohn Greening, national representative for the GARBC, preached the final message of the 2015 conference on Friday morning. His title was “The Benediction-Driven Church.”

Benedictions are important. There’s a reason they are included in so many of the New Testament epistles. “They’re not simply a tack-on at the end of a book,” Greening says. “The benediction serves as a kind of thoughtful summary. It serves as a parting challenge and a statement of purpose.”

In the case of 1 Peter, the purpose of the entire book—and, hence, of the benediction—is to prepare believers for “reality Christianity.” Greening regards chapter 5 as “a readiness manual for the dilemmas of life situations. It readies us [ministers] and it’s meant to ready the people of our churches for those inevitable times that will come when they are faced, in the reality of everyday existence, with resistance. It is a disaster-relief readiness manual.”

When trial strikes and difficulty descends on the child of God, he is called to live in such a way that the glorious excellence of the living God is fully displayed in and through his response. This, in turn, opens the believer’s heart to receive the blessings of God, so that he can be perfected, established, strengthened, and settled in his faith (1 Pet. 5:10).

Of course, knowing the truth does not automatically eventuate in doing the truth. So both ministers and churches are called upon to actively internalize the dictates of this epistle—and, indeed, of the entire Bible. A church driven by and toward this Petrine benediction must start with exemplary leadership (5:1–4); thrives within a corporate church culture of responsiveness (5:5–7); guards against the Satan’s lion-like threats; and achieves God’s intended purpose for His people (5:10, 11). “Ultimately it’s all about a responsiveness to the Word of God,” Greening says. “And when there’s exemplary leadership and there are willing, responsive learners, that’s when you start getting ready for the realities of life.”