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.