04 April 2019

Reflections on TGC19

What a rich time.

A few thoughts, offered of course with the inescapably partial view of reality that we are all operating out of, and therefore needing to be filled out and supplemented with the thoughts of others...

1. The Gospel Coalition has to be one of the most striking examples of the Lord's care for his church in our generation. When leaders are asked about the state of the church today, the immediate reaction is often hand-wringing and lament. But TGC represents a wave of blessing and health and vitality and spiritual hunger and theological fidelity and evangelism fostering that is a big reason for celebration.

2. It's a particular pleasure, for me, to be there with my Crossway colleagues. I am just so proud of them. They are both humble and professional, instead of one or the other. They are not only colleagues but friends. How awful to do ministry alone. And we operate out of a deep well of shared theology and vision and commitments that makes our work together not only meaningful but fun.

3. Books. Books, books, books. I love books, and apparently so do other Christians. The swelling book lines in between sessions is itself a sign of spiritual health. Apparently people want to read, to grow, to learn. The day people come to conferences to hear sizzling preaching but don't care to take home books will be a sad day, if it ever comes. It isn't here yet.

4. Really appreciated Matt Boswell's leadership of the singing. That was one of my favorite things about the event. Don Carson on John 11 was rich indeed. Tim Keller on the new birth: typically insightful. Paul Tripp on suffering: deep wisdom. The best thing I heard all week was my dad's talk 'Pastor, Your Church Can Become Healthy Again.' I wish everyone at the conference could have heard it. Searching, deepening, eye-opening, emboldening.

5. One of the blessings of these conferences is to see friend-ministries we wouldn't otherwise--for me, talking to those representing Covenant Seminary, Rafiki Foundation, WTS, WTS Books, Christian Focus, Bethlehem Seminary, Third Mil, Indianapolis Theological Seminary--not to mention the many individual friends from seminary, grad school, etc one runs into. All these are impromptu conversations that have a way of bearing fruit as time passes; they're just as important, I find, as the planned meetings.

6. I'm grateful for denominations, including my own, and I'm glad to belong to one. But something isn't right if we evangelical denominations never come together. TGC provides that beautifully (as does T4G). I know something like TGC can't exercise church discipline, and that the leadership structure doesn't fit neatly onto what the New Testament prescribes for the local church, and so on--so what? It isn't trying to. It was conceived to provide an opportunity to come together around a theologically clear gospel of grace in a day of increasing fracturing. It's healthy to rally around the vital gospel doctrines we all revere deep in our hearts, even if that reverence clothes itself in denominationally distinct ways back home.

7. One final thought. I wonder what all of us who support TGC can do to consciously work against this great enterprise being quietly taken down by the flesh. Human nature being what it is, it seems to me virtually inevitable that an event such as this, with well-known speakers, and a big crowd, and a green room, and preachers quickly and quietly escorted around, provides a unique venue for venting the flesh, for schmoozing, for preening and parading--unless we deliberately fight against it. Left in neutral, we will slide toward worldliness; church history, the Bible, and honest self-knowledge all confirm this, unpleasant as the thought is.

What might God do if TGC and all of us went into an event like this with Francis Schaeffer's essay 'No Little People, No Little Places' emblazoned across our mental horizon? Schaeffer wrote:
The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God. There are no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people.
Later in the same book but in a different essay ('The Lord's Work in the Lord's Way'), Schaeffer reflected:
If we have the world's mentality of wanting the foremost place, we are not qualified for Christian leadership. This mentality can . . . fit us for being a big name among men, but it unfits us for real spiritual leadership. To the extent that we want power we are in the flesh, and the Holy Spirit has no part in us. Christ put a towel around Himself and washed His disciples' feet. We should ask ourselves from time to time, 'Whose feet am I washing?'
Schaeffer himself had learned this secret of walking in the Spirit rather than in the flesh, and he knew how imperceptibly and naturally we can slip from doing the Lord's work animated by the Spirit to doing the Lord's work animated by the flesh. His close associate Udo Middleman wrote of Schaeffer:
He was not slick. He revolted against false appearances of leadership, growth statistics, and any show, in which he saw the dangers of pretense, performance, and praise of men. He had been there and found it dishonest, dangerous, and finally condemning.
What a joy, an honor, to participate in and support TGC. Now, as we return home, may we celebrate a thousand blessings flowing from that great event and all that it represents, doing so with sober-minded realism about how quickly we can all slip into fleshly motivations, and with ongoing prayer, and with an insistence on spotlighting Christ himself in all we do and say and desire. If we don't, what began as gospel rallying 12 years ago will, in another 12, become one more venue for Christian fracturing, thus denying the very gospel that TGC came into existence to hold high.

8 comments:

Mathew Roberts said...

Thank you for the encouraging article Dane. Indeed, let's magnify the Lord for His work in and through TGC. Thank you and the Crossway staff for your diligent work to publish new works that strengthen Christ's church.

With love,

Matthew Roberts

Ray Ortlund said...

Thanks, dear son.

Dan Hallock said...

Great thoughts, Dane. I missed your dad's workshop, but hope they put it online. I heard that the panel for small churches was great too, with Don Carson making a surprise visit and adding some thoughts. Also, thanks for mentioning Schaeffer's article--I've never read it, but look forward to. Thanks for letting me sit on the comfy couches for a few minutes at the Crossway booth--it was great talking to you for a bit.

Tom Parker said...

I think I missed the part about humility.

David said...

Dane,
I appreciate the summary of the TG 19. It was good to meet you at Rafiki a couple weeks ago. I will certainly continue to send you pictures as we distribute Bibles in Kenya.

Anonymous said...

Thank you

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