This may not sound all that unusual (for me), but my mind has been racing of late. And that, inevitably, leads to a great burden on and movement in my heart. By God’s unbelievable grace and allowance of technological creativity through His people, I have the opportunity to communicate and articulate that racing to you on what we call here a blog. I will do it the best I can, hopefully for God’s ultimate glory and your joy. I’m glad you're here.
In God’s perfect timing, I found myself at The Gospel Coalition conference this past week. I say perfect timing in one sense because it comes at a time when I am in the middle of, and offering challenges to, pretty significant questions and experiments within the church, both my own and that of the larger Body of Christ. And I needed confirmation, clarity, and conviction. I say perfect timing in another sense because, well, the conference was last week, and I was there. Thank you Mr. Obvious.
I won’t beat around the bush. This conference was primarily for young pastors. Part of my reason for going was simply to set the precedent that it shouldn’t be unusual for non-pastors, “laypeople” if you will, to attend such a thing. It is more than a hobby for me (though it is not less than that), and that shouldn’t be unusual, or cancel out any of my passion or commitment to my career. Another part of my reason for going was that I believe you can be pastoral in your life, and not be in full-time ministry. And an exposition of 2 Timothy, which is what this conference essentially was, is very helpful to that end. And yet another part of my reason for going had much to do with what is probably no secret: my theological convictions lean a certain way and I desired to get a first hand confirmation of that, and even more importantly, get it in the context of church, community, and instruction as to how it should flow from my life, and not just exist in my head.
It did not disappoint. You can listen to or watch select sessions at The Gospel Coalition website. Let me recommend a couple: all of them. If you appreciate and benefit from expositional preaching (which I hope you do!) – in other words teaching directly from the text of the Bible explaining what it says and means - than these messages will blow your mind. The diversity in style, yet consistency in the core, from all these experienced, anointed, and humble men are greatly helpful and deeply encouraging. Piper will woo you by his passion, Driscoll will woo you by his wit, Keller will woo you by his logic, Carson will woo you by his intellect, (among the others) and they will all amaze you at their consistency to Scripture, heart for God, and love for people. So yeah, check out all of them. I have consolidated my notes from each talk and could make them available to you per request – just comment here with your email address and I will send them to you.
A quick note to those who are not Christians who read this blog. First of all, thank you. The fact that you would pay attention to such talk on here is humbling, encouraging, and no small evidence of the Sovereignty of God, specifically in your life. You may wonder occasionally (and increasingly, if you stay tuned for the foreseeable future), why all this talk about the Gospel, the culture, the church, what is wrong, what is right. Who cares?
The reason is that we (I ) care about you. Really, really care about you. And that you don’t see the person and work of Jesus Christ as relevant, exciting, helpful, and above all, true, at this time breaks my heart and encourages my efforts to plead and pray for you without ceasing. All this talk of purity in the message and unity and flexibility in the methods is ultimately about making a true, lasting, and authentic impact on you and all people so that we can realize and experience the way God created us to live, which will always give glory to God, which is the whole point of the universe. Thanks for reading and know that I’m praying for sensitivity to the Spirit and receptivity to the Gospel in your mind and heart.
Here are quick summaries of the sessions:
We have to confront the idols in our world by discerning, exposing, and destroying them. Destroy them meaning as the ultimate focus of our lives, not altogether. They come in the personal (money, romance, children), religious (truth, gifts, morality), and cultural (reason, science, technology, family) variety. If there is something in your life you can't imagine living without, it is an idol, and it is taking the place of the God of the universe. In gospel-centered ministry, we must confront this in our culture as Paul did. --- Tim Keller
2 Timothy 1:1-12
Keep feeding the flame – the white hot flame – of God’s gift in you, namely, the unashamed courage to speak openly of Christ and suffer for the Gospel. This courage comes only from God’s power, which is possible only through His grace, which comes to you only through His Word. --- John Piper
2 Timothy 1:13-2:13
God calls us to faithful ministry, which is achieved through entrusting His Gospel to faithful men, to do faithful works, through the grace of a faithful Savior, demonstrating the absolute faithfulness of a faithful God. --- Phil Ryken
2 Timothy 2:14-26
Our churches are essentially filled with three types of people: Positives (who do gospel things in gospel ways for gospel reasons, bringing health, working for good, and being a blessing because they want the gospel to win); Negatives (who do ungospel things in ungospel ways for ungospel reasons, bringing sickness, division, and trouble because they want to win); and Neutrals (who are unsure, confused, fearful, and caught in the middle). God can use negatives for positive purposes, but He calls us to be constantly positive in gospel ways to win the neutrals and those not in the church. --- Mark Driscoll
2 Timothy 2:1-9
People will choose (and are choosing) to center their life around self, instead of God, leading to disastrous results. This choice and these results will not be isolated to the secular world, but will affect the church. But God is Sovereign and has written His name into every fabric of life, and will win in the end. In the meantime we have to correctly present Him to the world for them to see, know, and experience who He is, and we must do it with urgency, because we are in the last days. --- K. Edward Copeland
2 Timothy 3:10-4:5
Preach the Word. Jesus is present with His people through the proclamation of His Word. It is the voice and hand of God to sinful people, showing them the heart of God in Jesus Christ. They will only get this if we preach it. When we speak the Word of God, we not only speak about Jesus, or for Jesus, but as Jesus. --- Bryan Chapell
2 Timothy 4:6-22
Emphasize the finish line, not earthly satisfaction or ministry success; “Bring my books!” Not paying attention to other men’s brains shows that you have no brains yourself; Being faithful in gospel ministry doesn’t mean you won’t be left alone; Communicate love in a way as to build gospel community; The Lord will be with you and so will His grace. --- Ligon Duncan
1 Corinthians 9:19-23
We must show flexibility and accommodation as the messenger, not with the message, and once a persons believes, we must bring them into our position to do the same. In other words, when a Muslim becomes a Christian, he no longer is a Muslim, but a Christian. He should show flexibility in witnessing to other Muslims (speak their language, etc.), but he should not be flexible with the message itself, nor with his new status as a Christian. We can’t jeopardize the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus by our actions. If that means having a drink to show a non christian that our salvation is not in our behavior but in Jesus, so be it. - Don Carson
Gospel Centered Ministry in a New Christendom
Proclaim, and seek ways to make culturally accessible, the culturally distant message of the Cross. Uphold the uniqueness of Christ in a pluralistic world. Maintain an evangelistic passion and holistic living by keeping in front of people the stark reality of lostness and doing it with a motivation of love. --- Ajith Fernando
Ministering in a Church Hopping Society
We will not be faithful ministers of the Gospel if we don't teach that people need the local church to hold fast to the Gospel. They should see the good of the Gospel (God) in our churches and understand the connection between holding fast the Gospel and commitment to a local church. Church hoppers should be taught the truths of the biblical theology of the church (story of God's plan for a people); the systematic theology of the church (structure, necessary components); the necessity of the church in personal, spiritual growth; the necessity of the church in worship; and the necessity of the church in mission. --- Joshua Harris
This all does not even include the panel discussion. I don’t know how I could summarize that. It was breathtaking. And it doesn't include the other workshop I attended on the Gospel and Community, which was essentially a road map for how Christians should interact in politics, social issues, and the like. That outline was 7 pages. And it doesn't include the worship, which was deep, powerful, truth-packed hymns sung to contemporary music. I never realized the unique spiritual presence hearing mostly men's voices in worship - most churches you hear predominately women.
So, there you have it. Now it is like you went to the conference yourself at no charge. Consider it my gift to you. Yours to me can be your continued reading. Coming up: what is church and how should we do it? I have a smorgasbord of books I am going to try to read, and I will invite you to read some or all of them with me to sharpen and counter my thoughts. Or don't read them at all and be left with your ignorant, ill-informed perspectives.
Totally kidding. You know I welcome your comments and thoughts always.