Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Gospel Coalition Unfolded

or something like unfolded. Basically, I'm just going to tell you about the week!

I have never been to a conference so jam-packed with events. There was a Pre-conference Conference, a Conference, and a Post-conference Conference. There were sessions during lunch breaks, and during dinner breaks. One session started at 7:30am, and the last sermon of the day finished at 9pm, with a concert to follow. Though we would have loved to soak in every bit offered, our bodies and minds simply couldn't. So we took some time to walk around Chicago, usually during lunch and dinner time, and stretch our legs and breathe in fresh air. We only ate at a chain restaurant once the entire trip, which is very exciting and big deal for us. :) We had yummy Rueben sandwiches at a real Chicago deli, thin crust pizza on Michigan Ave, toasted sandwiches at Potbelly's and Curry Chicken in China Town. We walked a lot, and talked while we walked, which was something we both enjoyed. Sure, we talk at home, but we enjoyed the opportunity to be with each other and share our hearts uninterrupted.

Daniel has, since I've known him, talked about church planting. He's especially been tugged recently to pursue it, so we attended a lot of the sessions geared toward that end. The first was part of the Pre-Conference Conference, titled "God-Given Growth: A Pre-Conference on Church Planting." Several pastors who had either church planted or revitalized an existing church shared their stories, and what God did to grow their churches significantly. They talked about the necessity of preaching - and not just preaching, but preaching God's Word. This is more important than strategy (good for my visionary, planner husband to hear :) ). They also talked about the fact that not every pastor is called to church planting, the difficulties of it, and the strengths necessary, and how then to determine if and when you are called. All good stuff to think about for us. Along those same lines a panel discussion on What a Local Church Should Look Like was helpful, too. But our favorite was the Post-Conference conference, Christ + City. More on what we learned from that in a later post, Lord willing.

We also listened to a panel discussion on what teaching Christ in the Old Testament has taught certain pastors. Alistar Begg, Mark Dever and Phil Ryken were part of this discussion.

"Corporate Worship" as the conference called it, was lead once a day by Keith and Kristyn Getty and their fabulous band. The song for the conference was By Faith. We sang a lot of other titles, too, including several from their latest CD Awake the Dawn (Which you can buy for $10 on their website, or for $13 at the Gospel Coalition.... hmmm). This was one of the best parts of the conference, honestly. The music is rich, the lyrics are powerful and Kristyn's voice is flawless. (And so loud I can't hear myself, which is great, too).

The Conference started with two sermons by Al Mohler and Tim Keller. When D.A. Carson came up on stage to announce Keller he said, "Now the next speaker is... Tim Keller." The entire room was silent. I think for a brief moment everyone stopped breathing! Carson gave us all a look and said, "Well, I think an good 'ooh-ooh-ooh!' could be said in a holy way!"

But, joking aside, Keller's sermon was the best we've heard. Daniel claims going to the conference just to hear that sermon would have been worth it. The text was Exodus 14 the climax of the Exodus account, where the Israelite's pass over the Red Sea on dry ground, and then the entire Egyptian army is swept up in a current, as the Lord folds the sea back together. Using the obvious slavery and bondage of the Israelites to depict our own slavery to sin, Keller used the "Getting Out" title to draw on our need for freedom. Ultimately this is freedom from sin and death. Keller pointed out, "If sin and death are conquered, all the rest of the mess is just like flea bites." Incredibly, in Exodus 14, God leads the Israelites out of Egypt, rescues them from slavery, kills their enemies, and THEN gives them the Law. Unlike any other religion, Christianity stands unique: There is not a process to be saved. Our works are not necessary to secure our freedom. "We are not saved by the quality of our faith, we are saved by the Object of our faith." and then, given the Law to obey, out of love, and not fear. That's freedom. That's grace. That's the Gospel.

Another highly enjoyed lecture was from Mark Driscoll on Spirit-Filled Ministry. He took us through the entire book of Luke and read every verse that speaks of the Holy Spirit. He then, in typical Driscoll style, "yelled at us because he loves us" for not letting the Holy Spirit work in our ministries by ignoring Satan, not living joyfully, focusing on what we're against rather than what we're for, and many other things. He ended with a convicting statement, "I don't care if you're preaching to the remnant. I don't care if your church is young. I don't care if you're going through a hard time! We cannot say the tomb is empty and be satisfied with fruitlessness." AMEN!

Carson got us Excited about Melchizedek, too. Hopefully more on that next weekend, for Easter.

We especially enjoyed a panel discussion on How to Teach Children and Youth the Gospel with Russel Moore, David Helm and Kimberly Thornbury. Great, great stuff! More on that later, too?

I hate long rambling posts with no pictures... sorry. I had hoped to snap away all week, but discovered my camera was missing Tuesday morning. Seems I left it in the O'Hare airport while waiting for Daniel Monday afternoon. I'm not really sure how it happened, but I've given it up as lost. The pictures on it from my weekend in Cleveland with my sister are what make me saddest. The camera is replaceable, the pictures are not. :(

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