Riding Shotgun at the Gospel Coalition NE Regional Conference

By God’s grace I was able to attend the The Gospel Coaltition regional conference this past weekend with our Worship Director Mike Ruel.  I thought I would provide you with a brief summary of the conference so you can know some of what runs through my mind and heart during a conference.

The conference theme was “The Gospel Shaped Life.”  The main speakers were Tim Keller, DA Carson, John Piper, and Stephen Um.  When I take the time to go to a conference I usually try to go one that will challenge me.  Keller, Carson, and Piper are three of my favorite scholars/pastors/teachers, so I was anticipating great things.  The Lord did not disappoint.

Pre-conference session with TIm Keller- The Gospel Shaped Ministry

In this session pastor Keller reminded us that we are already on the mission field.  The church must be a contrast community (different from world), a servant community (not just another power broker), a unified community (with other Christians, specifically other churches), a lay ministeringcommunity (people see themselves as ministry providers, not merely receivers), and a sufferingcommunity (persecution).  Here pastor Keller made a distinction.  Any community can be this kind of community.  The church most importantly must be a community of the Word.  He said, “Christianity is first of all a mesage that if believed leads to a new way of life.”  Amen.  I was very encouraged by this session.

Session 1 with Tim Keller- The Gospel Shaped Life

Pastor Keller reminded us that the gospel is news, not advice (a proclamation, not a prescription).  He spent some time defending the doctrine of sanctification by grace (that we progress in Christian growth by grace, not by works).  In this vein he was speaking on 2 Cor. 8:9 and how Paul uses Jesus as an example to motivate the Corinthians to give a financial gift.  At this point he delivered what was undoubtedly the quote of the conference: “Jesus didn’t tithe his blood.”  Boom.

Sessions 2 & 4 with John Piper- The Gospel Shaped Mind and Heart

Pastor John Piper had one main point which he developed over his two sessions.  He explained that the mind exists to serve the heart.  Specifically, the mind should feed the heart understanding of the truth so that the heart may love God more.  Put another way, “right thinking about God exists to produce right feelings for God.”  He gave 7 NT illustrations of this principle in action.  He used an extensive analogy where the mind feeds the heart fuel to stoke the fire of white hot passion for God.  It was an unforgettable image.  The heart is thus freed from the misery of guilt, fitted for whole new range of affections, and fulfiled by what is ultimately valuable: God himself.  These sessions were very encouraging.  We are not called to build smart Christians, but Christians that love God.  The relationship between our hearts and minds is crucial to understand in ministry.

Session 3 with DA Carson- The Gospel Shape of Scripture

Dr. Carson discussed how there are 20 or so major themes that run throughout the Bible where we can see the gospel shape or direction of the Word of God.  He chose here to simply elaborate on one: the kingdom of God.  He walked us through 2 Sam. 7 and the importance of the Davidic kingdom as it relates to the Messiah.  Then he blitzed through the OT and NT (mainly Matthew due to time) showing the development of kingdom in the Word.  This was my 2nd favorite session.  The kingdom motif is all about grace and the gospel- God’s rule is inseparable from the good news.

Session 5 with Stephen Um- The Gospel Shaped Community

I don’t know if it was just conference fatigue, but I struggled to really get into this message.  Pastor Um developed the idea that the church is moving from a fallen community to a restored community from 2 Corinthians 1-3.  

Session 6 with DA Carson-The Gospel Shaped Mission 

This was by far my favoriate session, but I’d like to give it some more space in its own post.  Dr. Carson preached on Rev. 12:1-17… so buckle up and check out the next post.

 

Ryan serves as the Senior Pastor of Green Pond Bible Chapel in Rockaway, New Jersey. He is married with four children.

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