A created Dad

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This past Father’s Day I received some sweet hand written or orally dictated notes from my two boys thanking me for being their Dad. The “cards” included random and goofy snippets which I didn’t expect. I chortled. I really did.

Though I’ll not forget their sentiment, I’ll surely forget their verbiage before long.

I also got another card from a neighbor and this is what he wrote (in case the picture above isn’t clear).

You are a great father and a great father figure to me. Mrs Amy is like an Aunt to me. Happy Father’s Day. When one has not a good father, one must create one.

Let’s call him Billy. He’s a rising 5th grader and often comes over at our house a good bit during the week to shoot baskets with Connar, play baseball in the backyard with both, or swim with the family. I should also mention that he wakes himself up and gets a ride to church with my wife on most Sundays. At least he has for the last few months. His dad doesn’t live in this country, and so he resides with his grandmother, aunt, mom, and female cousin. No dudes.

When visiting his grandma in the hospital several weeks ago, she told me what I had already feared, “You’re the only adult male in his life.” Wow.

I’ll never be able to be his biological, or even his adoptive dad. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t be a father/mentor in some very real, loving, and influential way. And by God’s grace I/we have. Not because I’ve not been perfect, because Connar, Cade, and I have all had to apologize numbers of times.

This child’s story is not all that uncommon. In my neighborhood alone, we have relationships with several kids like him. Forget the cowboys, where have all the good dads gone?

If you’re a good dad, I know you’re busy parenting your own children. But can I simply propose that you take a little time and look around you to see if there is a kid at your church, on your baseball team, in your neighborhood, who might benefit from a relationship with another adult male? So many boys (and girls for that matter) have none. Zilch.

Take them fishing with your kids, invite them to do stuff or eat with your family. Do a devotion with them and your kids. You don’t have to do anything new, or create a whole new schedule, just bring him/her along with your kids.

You’re not Jesus, and your job isn’t to save them. And it isn’t to replace their biological father. But we are called throughout the scriptures to love the fatherless. Kids, both boys and girls, really do need loving, trustworthy, adult males in their lives. For the record they need adult females too (like my wife, the “aunt”-who spends much more time than I do with Billy) but this is a Father’s Day related post. As Billy writes, “When one has not a good father, one must create one.”

Might you be a “created” dad?

Believe me, it’s not one sided at all. Billy plays with my kids, and I believe that he has blessed us in just as many ways as we we have blessed him. He’s like another one of our boys, and he sits with our family at church.

Should the Lord grant me many more Father’s Days’, I think this one will be one of the most special.

Maybe God will grant you more “children” in this way too.

Just start by looking.

Don’t throw away your Tullian books

Churches will always face spiritual attacks because our enemy doesn’t want us here. Sometimes they will be physical and violent, and come from outside the church. Sadly, we saw that last week. Others, will come from inside the church through unfaithful teaching or moral failure from those who were actually set apart to lead.

Last night I got “the news” about Tullian Tchvidjian’s resignation at Coral Ridge. An affair. It was just sad. Apparently both spouses had affairs. Brutal.

How can anyone trust pastors? My wife asked that questions to me last night. There certainly are bad pastors out there. Shepherds who have been called to lead the flock and have led with an iron fist or with not at all. There are Charlatans, quacks, and racists.

How did this affair eventually (few affairs happen overnight) occur? What could have been done differently? This is not that kind of blog post. I’m sure there will be many posts, some helpful, some harmful, just as when Mark Driscoll resigned (though his was not due to sexual infidelity).

Here are 6 takeaways:

1.) All “individual” sins have communal consequences and we can be mad. If there’s one thing that the scriptures, Tullian’s affair, and Breaking Bad, all teach us, it’s that selfishness destroys others. Sin never makes good on its promise to liberate. Never. And that should make us angry. As George Seinfeld said, “These pretzels, are making me thirsty!” I’m thirsty for mega-church pastors to not HAVE to step down. And don’t pull out the platitude: “Don’t judge.” This behavior sucks, and sucks life from those whom they love/loved and those who love/loved them. Don’t feel guilty if you feel anger and disappointment.

2.) Anger at the sins of others, MUST lead to anger at our own sins. We are people of extremes, saying “Well, that could be me, so…” or “That couldn’t ever be happen to me, so…..” Let us learn from the parable of the Prodigal Sons, where anger emanated but didn’t penetrate the older brother’s own self-righteous heart. We need to ask, how have I been living selfishly? How do I not love my wife and kids? How do I need Jesus to forgive me today? What am I trusting in instead of Jesus today? If we’re not equally as angry at such pastors (I’m contextualizing for myself, for you it may be someone different), as we are at our own sins and shortcomings, then we’ve completely deceived ourselves into thinking that WE are responsible for our growth in grace. We’re not.

3.) Sadness needs to move us to turn to our Savior. In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus forgives a woman of ill repute. The more aware of our sins we are, the more aware and appreciative we become of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus is our sole righteousness, our solid rock. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. Let us hope in Him, cling to Him, ask that he convict us, empower us to slowly become less selfish, and be confident that the plethora of issues we have this side of heaven are only temporary.

4.) Don’t say you’ll pray for someone if you won’t.  I’ve got a number of people to pray in my congregation to pray for. So I’m not going to lie and say, “I’ll be praying for Tullian.” I’d like to, and hope I will, but I honestly can’t pray for everyone. But I do know that he has people who can point him and his wife to gospel, and maybe to marital reconciliation. And plenty of people praying for him as well. I’m pulling for him.

5.) Consequences. Most vocations are not lost due to affairs or divorces or other public moral failures. Pastorates, however, are. And we know that. It is more than just our vocations that are at stake though, it is the glory of Christ’s body that is shamed. By the way, the same goes for sexual behavior of church members. Stakes are very high, and so consequences are too. So Tullian needs to resign, repent, and rest. His life will never be the same, and we should all understand that. But let us also remember that God’s grace is so great that we never experience the full consequences, or even most of the consequences our sins deserve. I fail as a father, husband, pastor. I need to be more patient, pray more, trust more, listen more. I’m thankful my wife loves me, my kids do, and as far as I know, my church does. God has graciously limited the consequences of my sin and stupidity since I became a husband, pastor, and father. I’m pretty sure he’s limited your consequences as well.

6.) Don’t burn his books. Should I throw away my Tullian books? I actually have several of them, and used his commentary to help me preach through Jonah. Of course not! Some pastors I will forever refuse to read, like Confederate Flag supporting Doug Wilson, because I think they are ungracious and possibly racist. Even if they have something to say, someone else has probably already said it. While Tullian and I may not have been close friends had we been in the same presbytery, I would rather read someone who preaches grace, has experienced forgiveness, and who recognizes his failures. Even though he didn’t believe as fully as he should have the gospel he preaches WHEN he began the affair (none of us do by the way and that’s why we sin!), the gospel he preaches is nevertheless true. That doesn’t change anything because the gospel changes everything, regardless of the failures of its many preachers-like me. It does change people. Often times change comes much slower than we hope. But in the end, resting in Christ’s performance for us is the only way to live, rejoice, honor Jesus, and eventually look more like Him.

 

A theology of summer: Don’t check out

The dog days of summer are upon us. Like Alice Cooper prophesied, “School’s out for summer.” But the church isn’t. So what does that mean for me as a pastor, Harbor Community Church in particular, or for the Christian in general?

I remember being chastised by a visitor at a previous church because we didn’t offer Sunday School during the summer. We chose to give the teachers a break, instead of fulfill this lad’s desire to have a class the one week all summer he was in Bradenton. A no-brainer.

I’ve learned not to despise the dog days of summer but instead come to embrace them. They can become quite beneficial. Here’s my theology, if you will, of summer. I don’t know if John Piper has already trademarked the “Don’t waste your summer” so I’ll just stick with “A theology of summer”

Summer offers us some rest

95% of church involvement comes from volunteers, not paid staff. People need rest. The summer time can be quite the time of refreshment for those actively leading ministries. It can be a time where those who lead and serve slow down and catch their breath. They have time to reflect. They may have more time to read, spend time with family, neighbors, friends. We have a weekly Sabbath to do that, but sometimes it helps to have an extended period as well. When we can’t rest from our labors, we have a faith problem: we are trusting in our hard work to save us and others, not the Lord. Sometimes it is good to rest from our church activity, even when that activity is good. And since we are a church only a year old, I’d rather do less now so we can be affective later.

Summer still offers us weekly worship opportunities

Some churches will end up dropping down to one service because attendance will dictate that. Last summer, fortunately, we actually gained some folks. Some on my oversight committee were concerned (as was I) that having 50-60 in May would lead to 25-30 in the summer. Thankfully we never dipped below 50 and, like I mentioned, we actually saw some crockpot growth. Who knows what this summer will bring, but I pray we have another like last year.

So it is not in reaction to my experience at Harbor (if you are Harbor folk remember that!), but more out of a recognition of what is common to us all, that I would like to extend some encouragements and challenges.

The opposite error of faithless summer busyness is faithless lethargy. Or maybe faithless recreational busyness is a better term. More often than not the greater pitfall for the American church, especially those in places where outdoor activities are so accessible, is “checking out” for the summer.

Preparing for a vacation one Sunday, and then on vacation, then getting ready for another vacation there, then recovering from vacation, then thinking about vacation, then doing something local you couldn’t do on vacation…Before you know it, you haven’t been to worship Jesus with your brothers and sisters in the faith in a month or two. But this is not good. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a 1000 times:

25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”-Hebrews 10:25

If you think I’m writing intentionally about you, or have you in mind, you’re wrong. You’re so vain,  you probably think this blog post is about you. Sorry, I had to. If you have jet lag, got in really late the night before, had insomnia, I get it! Rest up please, I’m sure you need it.

As I said earlier, we’ve never seen people “check out for summer.” But please know that this is the trend of American Christianity. And as a pastor, it’s a trend I’d rather not see catch on in more churches.

I don’t want guilt giving or guilt attendance. Neither does Jesus. Instead, let’s simply examine our hearts. We ought to consider that our tendency is either toward ministry overwork and refusing to rest, or recreational overwork and refusing to put ourselves in the place where we can experience the One who offers rest. In reality, most of us think that we can find better rest than Jesus offers. I know I do.

But the gospel reminds us that Jesus’ burdens are easy and his yolk is light (Matt 11:28-30). So for your sake, put yourselves in the path of grace and rest. Don’t come to worship out of guilt. Come to worship Someone greater and bigger and more glorious than you, your plans, your job, even your family.  Then take a nap, go fishing or to the beach, or watch a baseball game, or visit someone in the hospital, etc….

Summer offers new fellowship and discipleship opportunities

Just because your community group or bible study doesn’t meet on a bi-monthly or weekly basis (to give hosts a break) during the summer, don’t let that short-circuit your discipleship process. Some of the best means of grace, alongside prayer, word, and sacraments are God’s people. God’s people are clearly another pathway to experience His grace and rest. Just because the calendar may be more open, don’t become lazy. Instead use some of your new free time to develop new or deepen old relationships. If your community group normally meets on a Sunday night, and has been now been put on pause, why not invite someone into your home or go out to eat after church? If you would normally see a church member at a bible study, and that study has ended, why should you stop there? Go out for lunch or coffee. Discipleship and fellowship can continue. You have more time in the summer, so use some of that time to invest in relationships. Some in our church are planning a kayak gathering. Harbor will have one or two fellowship opportunities all summer which then frees members up to do things like that. Let these relationships spur you on to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24).

Rest up. Develop new relationships. Put yourself in worship whenever you can. Seek fellowship with other church members. Continue reading your bible and praying.

Why? Not because Jesus will love you less if you don’t, but so that we can “see” Him more. And He’s worth it.

Have a restful and faithful summer!

 

The progression toward a mentoring culture

This past Mother’s Day, which can be quite hard for those who never had the chance to have children, I preached about spiritual mothering/fathering, aka mentoring. That is a privilege granted to all, and one in which we can all participate. Normally I’m a one passage man when it comes to preaching, but for this particular sermon I bounced around to a few passages.

Here’s what I mean by “mentoring:” a more mature (spiritually/experience/age) walking alongside to encourage, build up, challenge, bless, direct, and resource a less mature (spiritually/experience/age) person. It can consist of something as simple as spending time, asking questions, listening, answering, praying with and for, as well as sharing what worked and didn’t work. Sharing failures can often be just as helpful, if not more so, than sharing “what worked.”

Anyone can do that. If you have a pulse, you can be mentored. If you’ve had a pulse for longer than someone else, then its possible you could mentor someone in some way. You don’t need to find THE mentor to end all mentors or become THE mentor to end all mentors. Simply seek out the possibility to become one mentor among others or to find one mentor among others.

During my sermon prep time, I noticed the mentoring progression in Timothy’s life. The first step is just a recognition of need. Timothy had a very clear need for it, as his faith was passed down to him from his grandmother, to his mother, to him.

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.- II Timothy 1:5
Timothy didn’t have a dad instructing him in the faith. But Jesus never leaves his children as orphans. Not only does he give us His Spirit, he brings us into a family where we can have several dads.
And so Paul became his mentor, or spiritual dad (though I get not all mentoring is like a father-son relationship).
Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. I Cor 4:15-17
Even though we all have the Holy Spirit, we still need someone to imitate, learn from, walk with someone who has been there before. Paul did not say, “Well you guys have the Holy Spirit, so you probably don’t need any other direction.” Nope, we still need people! And so Paul sends Timothy “his son.” Everything passed down to him about how to live out one’s faith in the 1st century, he will now pass on to folks who really don’t have a clue. Because this new Corinthian church comprises very few mature believers, Paul has to bring in a “ringer.”
But a ringer is never the ideal nor is it the goal. The goal is to create a mentoring culture. Eventually Timothy becomes a pastor. How apropos that Paul would write these words to him. Who knows better the need for a mentor, the opportunity, the experience?
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure…Titus 2:3-5
Older ladies are to mentor the younger ladies. Same thing with the dudes (II Tim 2:2). Whenever this process is not dependent upon A person, you know that the Lord has created a mentoring culture. It is something people just do. Older seeking younger. Younger seeking older.
Getting to that point takes time. You’ve seen the progression. A need to be mentored. Then someone recognizes that need and capitalizes on the opportunity. Then the mentored person shares what he’s learned by mentoring multiple people. Then those people seek out others to pass it on.
Some programs work. Some don’t.
Organic is key, but organic doesn’t mean lack of oversight. Organic certainly doesn’t mean lack of intentionality.
Timothy was the perfect candidate to create a mentoring culture in his church. If you’ve benefited from someone sharing life with you, don’t wait. Take someone younger out to eat, fish, shop, etc… Who knows? Maybe you’ll click. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll find that the person is actually more mature than you! Good, then get them involved in the process. Maybe you simply become friends. That’s not bad either. But it only takes a few people who are intentional about seeking out younger and older to create a mentoring culture.
That’s what I dream Harbor Community Church will become.

Meandering Mentoring Thoughts from Dave Sturkey’s Celebration of Life

Yesterday I attended Dave Sturkey’s “Celebration of Life.” Dave was a mentor, fellow pastor, and friend. In fact, he was one of the reasons I got into church planting. He and I dreamed about me church planting one day, and finally he said, “Geoff, you just got to go the Assessment Center and see what they say.”

Several of his friends, former fellow P.C.A. pastors in Bradenton/Sarasota had the privilege of speaking at this celebration. I would have loved to share how Harbor would not be here if not for Dave’s relationship with me (and of course for my former Bradenton past0r Randy). But to have all of the people who wanted to be up front, who had something legitimate to share about Dave, would have made for an awfully long service!

A ton of people showed up. And I realized why. Dave had impacted a large number of people. Not just through his church but through his mentoring.

Several thoughts bounced around my cranium that day….

1.) I will probably never influence that number of people. I would love to do so. Could Harbor become a huge church? Hypothetically I guess it could, though I would much rather Harbor plant churches then get big. But there is a good chance I’ll never be a pastor of a 400-500 person church. I’m okay with that. But will my life mean something IF I don’t have 1000 people come to my funeral (I get that I won’t care at that point, so this is more hypothetically speaking)?

2.) Will I be okay if I never that influence that number of people? It is one thing to desire to impact others. To mentor them so that they can mentor and disciple others. If a pastor doesn’t desire that, he probably shouldn’t pastor. But could that desire to influence become an idol? Yep. What if God desires me to only mentor a few people, and perhaps not have as many people come to my funeral? Would I still have been faithful, but possibly had less tangible influence? Of course. If I’m not okay, then in the end, I’ve simply used people to make me feel important. That’s not love. That’s manipulation. The only way to steer clear of that is to regularly repent and believe in the gospel.

3.) Can the desire to influence that number of people be a sinful desire? Of course. Neitzche was right in his assessment-at least at some level-on morality. He argued that morality was nothing more than “good” people trying to control “bad” people. And sometimes that is incredibly accurate! Influence can be the same way. Sometimes our desire to influence people is nothing more than a desire to control them or make them look or think or act like us. Of course gospel-centered mentoring involves imitation, but ultimately points people to praise, rest in, and imitate Christ. We can desire influence as a way to control others or as a way to point them to our King.

4.) Even though I’ll probably never influence that number of people, I do want to influence more. I imagine you might want the same thing. Time spent loving, discipling, mentoring others is time well spent. I love mentoring/discipling people because people have mentored and discipled (going back to college) and coached me. Just spending time with one more person might give you the blessing of seeing them mentor/disciple/evangelize more than you. Larry mentored Dave, and that was quite the investment. Maybe you mentor/disciple will do way more things than you. And that would be fantastic!

5.) Consider mentoring people while doing what you/they already like to do. All of the guys whom he spent time with mentoring went hunting or fishing with him. I remember driving down to the Venice jetty with Dave to catch snook. I remember kingfishing with him. Don’t waste your hobbies. Use them to spend time with and mentor/disciple others. I actually need to fish more, which means I’ll need to wake up earlier for sermon prep! I get invitations every week. Sometimes with Christians, sometimes with non-Christians. But fishing, hunting, ________ with people is never wasted time.

I was the only Bradenton/Sarasota pastor who never cried in the pulpit. Now that I’m back in town, I don’t know that I’ll be able to continue the legacy handed down by Larry, Dave, and Randy. But if I do, I’ll know its okay. Dave did teach me that.

The Culture and Jesus’ Track Record

Now that we’ve officially had our one year anniversary celebration, I can catch my breath, reflect, and share a little bit more of my time at the Gospel Coalition conference. One evening, my seminary RTS, held a forum to answer the question of “How does the church move forward confidently in the gospel when the times seem so dark?” Or you could phrase it like this: what if the Culture Club (not so much the band but the common cultural consent) becomes more antagonistic toward the church?

The panel included several recognizable names (at least to me) and provided a helpful framework to think through this question.

1.) Church History-It has been just as a dark before, and the church made it through. We have a tendency to pridefully think we are living in unprecedented evil times, but Dr Mike Kruger explained that the church has been here before. In the 2nd century, the church was blasted for not being tolerant. They wouldn’t worship the pantheon of Roman gods, but claimed the God of the bible was not just one God among many they preferred to worship, but that He was in fact the one and only. People didn’t like that and considered Christians intolerant. Sound familiar? Folks at the time also didn’t like the Christian’s sexual ethic. Sound familiar? A monogamous relationship with one spouse? No temple prostitutes, homosexuality, or bath house excursions? Are you kidding me? Not a popular narrative. Yet Christians responded, “We share our food, but not our spouses.” So the charges of intolerance and restrictive sexuality have thrown at the church before. She came out okay.

2.) City of God and City of Man are not the same thing. A few centuries later, as the gospel spread and churches flourished, we saw the church enjoy not only accepted status, but in some ways, it became mainstream. In the early 300’s AD, Constantine declared Christianity legal (he did not make it the official Roman religion) and so, except for a short period, the persecution of the church by the Roman Empire became a thing of the past. For 100 years things looked good. And then the Fall of Rome came and went. The sacking of Rome in 410 AD started to sack folks’ faith. People freaked out left and right! Augustine said, “Whoah Nelly! Easy….” He reminded people in his City of God that the church is part of the City of God (Kingdom of God), not the City of Man. Civilizations will rise and fall. But God’s plan to see His church and His will advance in all spheres of life is not dependent upon a judge’s decision, or common cultural consent. Regardless of whether you think the Moral Majority and the Religious Right were a good or bad thing, the church will move forward just as it did pre and post-Constantine. The City of God is where the Church puts its hope. Euguene Peterson stated, “The church is a colony of heaven in a country of death.” We shouldn’t walk around feeling defeated. Work, pray, and petition for whatever change you feel needs to be made at the government level. But please don’t freak out, riot, or feel like the church has lost. It hasn’t and won’t. Read Revelation.

3.) Where God builds His church and sees it flourish is His prerogative. Europe has seen its heyday and now sees many empty churches. Of course there are new church plants and the gospel is going forth and churches revitalized. However, if you measure by church attendance, we’ve seen a decline. Now things may drastically turn the corner and they may once again become a great missionary sending area. But they may not. Will that happen in the United States? It could. It’s possible. I do think the church is still moving forward here in the States, though the mainline churches are in complete decline. But could there come a time when the Lord uses another area of the globe for explosive church growth? Of course, let’s not become prideful and think Jesus needs America. You could argue that he already has. South America is a hotspot. So is Africa. And how could you ignore China! China’s churches enjoy far less favorable status from the government, and yet that hasn’t stopped anything. Fortunately we are on the same team, so let’s rejoice with them.

4.) Churches may look different. If churches are afforded less freedom, then perhaps they will need to look and operate a bit differently? Will we be okay with that? Harbor Community Church currently meets in a gym. Maybe people will have to meet in houses, or in parks (we’ve done that), or on the water with boats (maybe one day Harbor will attempt that!)? I don’t know. But I do know that Jesus cares about His church and He’ll grow it where He wants. And models of church may by necessity-not simply by mission-change. If America becomes a church wasteland at some point, a la, parts of Europe, you can bet somewhere else it will be thriving like crazy. It has. It is. And who knows, maybe they’ll send missionaries back here and we’ll start it up again?

In Paul’s day, there were many foes of the church-at popular cultural level as well as government level. But time and time again, he points out that our main enemies are spiritual (Eph 6), and yet we serve a King who has paraded those same spiritual enemies through the streets in victory (Eph 1, 4). Let’s not develop an Us vs. Them mentality when it comes to our unbelieving friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

Jesus is on the throne. He’ll return one day. But there is work to be done now, so let us move forward confident not in our government or cultural consent, but in Christ.

He has a phenomenal track record.

Gospel Coalition 2015 experience

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I just got back from the Gospel Coalition 2015 gathering. The facebook page even highlighted one of my tweets as well as another Geoff. Sadly, they will hold their next conferences in Indianapolis, so this was my first and will most likely be my last. Here are a few random thoughts, for the few who may be interested.

1.) Encouraging. I believe I heard 6,000 folks attended the conference, as it was sold out the week prior. That’s quite a large number of people gathering together to hear sermons, go to workshops, and worship together. But not only did large numbers gather, those numbers came from all 50 states, and included 137 countries (and 26,000 followed on live stream). I could hear Aussies, Irishmen, Brasilians, Koreans, among the crowd. There were also translation headphones so that people could hear the speakers in Mandarin, Spanish, and some other languages. Conferences like this really refresh me as I see a plethora of pastors from a plethora of countries doing what I’m doing. I know I’m not alone, but it helps to see that I’m not alone in my commitment to the centrality of the gospel in all of ministry. It helps remind me that I’m not crazy or delusional, that the gospel is real, and that Jesus is really worthy. I know that, and I knew it before, but for some reason, I seem to know it more now. My faith is always mixed with percentage of unbelief. That’s why surrounding ourselves each week with people who believe the gospel, and supplementing it with conferences like these, can do so much for your soul when you struggle to believe the gospel.

2.) Good Preaching. We heard 9 sermons from 9 very different preachers starting in Deuteronomy and ending in Revelation. All preached what are called “expository” sermons, which seek to bring out what is already in the passage. Preachers look at the passage in context to discern the meaning of the passage in order to apply it today. This is different than “topical” preaching, different than making points that are not directly found in the text, and still different than picking several points and then finding various passages to prove them. I think expository preaching is the way to go. But we saw a variety of ways how to preach expository sermons. Some folks were very wooden in their presentation, literally going verse by verse without illustration or much application, and felt very much like a lecture, or simply re-writing a commentary. Tim Keller, as I expected, was my favorite. In my opinion, it takes a great skill to expound what is in the passage, why we need to hear it, show where you we can find your point, what happens if we believe, and yet do so without simply saying, “next verse we see….next verse we see……” I’m no doubt a Keller homer. However, Voddie Bauchum was just behind him as my 2nd favorite, and Ligon Duncan came in third with his exposition of Romans 8 and suffering. Solid.

3) Other-centered. We had the chance to pay 10 dollars for a bundle of 6 books (which were translated into various languages) that will be delivered to pastors in third world countries who have little or no access to the abundant resources we have here (and often take for granted). I wonder who will get my bundle of books? 1500 bundles were assembled, but it was sad that the women’s conference the previous year produced more with a smaller crowd. Hopefully more bundles were purchased after the challenge was issued by the founder DA Carson.

I missed my family (and church family-though one of my leaders came with me) way more than I had anticipated but am glad I went. To get what I got for 150 dollars (early registration) is amazing.

If you have the opportunity to attend a Gospel Coalition Conference, I highly recommend you do so. If not, you will still find an outstanding number of resources on their website.