This month I joined 10,000 others in attending the Together for the Gospel conference, a biennial conference held in Louisville, Kentucky, for pastors and church leaders who are committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Although I am still processing much of the event and attempting to prioritize which of the myriad of books to read, and when, here are a few of my reflections.
Separate from the sermons and breakout sessions, corporate worship through singing is a major aspect of the conference. However, this isn’t just your typical Christian concert with lights, smoke, electric guitars, drummers, and goatees galore-although there were quite a few bearded hipsters-rather, this was a group of 10,000, mostly men, singing theologically robust, gospel-centered, and Christ exalting hymns. All led by one man, Bob Kauflin, accompanied by a piano. Kauflin reflected on this year’s worship on his blog and stated, “It’s a unique experience,” humbly I’d say that’s quite a humble understatement from the worship leader. As I was standing in the massive conference center shoulder-to-shoulder with literally thousands of others, I could not help but to feel like I was experiencing an earthly foretaste of the heavenly worship in Revelation 7:9-10,
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
In addition to the sermons and corporate worship, another major aspect of the conference is the free book stall. Which, is more like a treasure chest of vetted resources. Imagine small islands of books by which you row your way through a sea of people to each new island of books, all of which is never ending. So, that might be a bit exaggerated but to give a better idea, I walked away with about 25 free hard copy books and some additional free e-books. I am truly grateful to T4G and their partners for providing such amazing resources. Their generosity in donating great resources to pastors and lay-people alike, many of whom probably can’t financially afford to go out and purchase all of those books themselves, shouldn’t go unnoticed. So, thank you T4G!
All of the sermons and panel discussions I had the pleasure to listen to were quite amazing. I came away with a notebook full of notes, enough quotes to write a book, edified in the Word of God, and further enlightened on the importance of the Protestant Reformation. Nevertheless, in an effort to synthesize what I appreciated most, here are three sermons/ panel discussions I highly recommend watching.
*Jensen is an Australian minister in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
In the discussion, Jensen most enlightened me to the specific differences between the Roman Catholic religion and the Protestant church. Often, it is easy to want to align with others who call themselves Christians, and that can be a good thing. This conference nonetheless is ecumenical, being composed of Southern Baptist, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Sovereign Grace Ministries. Yet, as Jensen notes, there are very clear and definite reasons for the Reformation from Roman Catholicism, chief among those reasons: justification by faith alone, the sovereignty of God, assurance of salvation, and the nature of conversion. Jensen touched on a few other topics including youth ministry, a short word study on faith, and the idea of calling the church building a sanctuary-which as you will see he is strongly against.
Dever preached on the necessity of endurance for the minister in a slow reformation. In our fast pace society and busy lives it is all too easy to place our desire for instant gratification on our ministry, yet as Dever reminds us this is not the norm, “Pastoring like parenting is urgent work, but it’s not quick work.” He continued with seasoned words of encouragement to remind those listening, particularly pastors, to trust in the complete sufficiency of scripture, as Christians we can and should share the Gospel but only the Holy Spirit can bring about faith. So, in the times of waiting find joy in the sufficiency of scripture. Pastor, lay-leader, and Christian would all be served well by listening to Dever’s sermon.
*Platt is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.
In light of the Reformers who gave their lives for the Church and the Gospel, Platt recounted multiple stories of Christians who were martyred for their faith. He exposed, what I was convicted by, and what I believe is too often present in the Church, a disconnect between our belief and our action. The martyrs weren’t killed simply because they believed in Christ, but because they proclaimed that belief. As Christians, we must not forget that we are not just witnesses, we are messengers; therefore Platt calls the church to hasten the return of the Lord and proclaim the gospel.
My reflections above are by no means an exhaustive list of the many great sermons and sessions T4G hosted. I have been to many conferences from across the Christian spectrum, and I can honestly say T4G was by far the most beneficial. Over the course of three days, I was freshly reminded of the robust heritage of the Protestant Reformation and spurred on to faithfulness by hearing from faithful brothers in Christ admonish us from faithful saints who have gone before.
If you have never attended T4G, I suggest you plan now for T4G 2018. All resources from T4G can be found here.