I often imagine the brothers heading to the Council of Nicaea in AD 325–the first “global” conference. The leaders of churches across the Roman Empire had never gathered. Some had traveled and met each other, but most hadn’t. They had heard much of the work of God in other towns and on other continents, but they had never physically seen the evidence of the extent of God’s work. It must have been an immense encouragement for them to gather in Nicaea and behold representatives of God’s work across the world.
For me, Together for the Gospel (T4G) is a little bit like that. I know God is at work across our nation and world, but to see it visibly manifested in a gathering of pastors/elders encourages me in ways that are difficult to express. Yes, the work of God advances with our without such gatherings, but T4G has been a blessing to me.
My shameless nostalgia arises from the fact that this is the last T4G. I was blessed to attend the first T4G back in 2006, and I am sad to see it go. (Here’s Mark Dever and Ligon Duncan discussing why it will be no mas, but I think we’ll see a similar event emerge in the years to come). Here are some of my reflections from the last T4G.
1. Fellowship with Faithful Brothers
The best part has always been the fellowship with faithful brothers. T4G days are filled with reunions with men through whom God has blessed me. It also affords a chance to get to know other brothers who will be a blessing in the future. Is that Andy Brown? These conversations are a spiritual balm to my soul, and I cannot overestimate their value.
2. The Need to Preach Justification
Kevin DeYoung gave an insightful talk on the continued need to preach justification by faith. Quoting Thomas McClain, he pointed out how despite the fact that our culture has rejected the concept of sin, people still struggle with “the strange persistence of guilt.” On the social media battlefield there is no adequate means of forgiveness; we only find that in the cross.
3. The Need for Simple Preaching
Alistair Begg’s sermon on 2 Corinthians 2:1-5 was a needed encouragement to preach the gospel with “studied simplicity.” His tone and shepherd’s heart are a model of faithful care for God’s church. People don’t need bells and whistles; we need Jesus.
4. The Need to Preach Sanctification
John Piper exhorted us from 1 Peter chapters 1-2 to make clear the effective connection between the sin-bearing work of Christ and the sin-killing work of the Christian. In short, justification must lead to sanctification. He encouraged us not to fear imperatives in the Bible, and to call our churches to see that he have died to sin to that we might live in righteousness by God’s grace and enabling.
These are just a few highlights for me, and I could mention so many more. Looking back on my experience at this and other T4G conferences I am confident that by God’s grace we will continue to advance his kingdom. We can stand together for the gospel with or without a conference.